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India Switzerland Social Innovation Camp: questioning designers' impact on social innovation

The EPFL+ECAL Lab runs and supports various academic programmes and educational courses. Among others, INSSINC, an interdisciplinary workshop combining engineering, design and social science competencies to address social innovation challenges in Bangalore, India.

India is going to be a home to one-fourth of the world’s population

The country faces huge challenges: the unplanned growth of cities, pressure on environmental resources, access to drinking water, sanitation, education, and medical care. India’s long and rich tradition in social entrepreneurship provides a fantastic place to explore existing and potential social innovations. In partnership with SELCO Foundation and swissnex India, INSSINC has enabled participants to tackle complex societal challenges from the bottom-up starting from the communities’ needs in order to create holistic and scalable solutions that address the complex needs the communities face on the ground.

Yoann Douillet, from EPFL+ECAL Lab and Sarra Ben Bader making a field visit to conduct a needs assessment in a migrants camp

Breaking a top-down technology-driven paradigm

Designing successful solutions for social issues cannot be made remotely over the night, with a top-down approach. Embracing so many cultural, social and economic constraints is a very powerful but challenging human-centered design experience. Going back to the beneficiaries to demonstrate and test prototypes enable participants to validate/invalidate their assumptions. Eventually, building a better understanding of the problem statement. Integrating designers in the staff, from the beginning, helps to tackle open-ended project-based learning experience with the proper design framework and staff to support and guide participants all along the process.

Marius Aeberli, Designer & Head of Education at EPFL+ECAL Lab making a debrief with teams and SELCO staff

Designers’ impact: covering the whole innovation spectrum 

Three research assistants from the MAS in Design Research for Digital Innovation have joined this pilot project. With students from engineering, social sciences and product design from EPFL, UNIL and ECAL, they have worked on two different problem statements, identified by SELCO Foundation. Two teams have worked on improving housing conditions of migrants communities (Transitional FanDouble Layer Housing). The two other teams have worked on modular solutions for scaling up integrated energy centers (Crate Charge, Solar Mini-Kiosk). These projects offer the opportunity to the designers to work on a different innovation context, facing other needs and constraints. Complementing the digital innovation that the EPFL+ECAL Lab usually focuses on, they open up a wider horizon and give a chance to practice human-centered design in a different environment. Finally, working with a local partner ensures to stay rooted in reality with an applied methodology for concrete solutions.

Margaux Charvolin, from EPFL+ECAL Lab is designing a modular shelf for an integrated energy center

Hélène Portier, from EPFL+ECAL Lab is designing one of the service component of a modular integrated energy center

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You can find more information about the program and the projects visiting INSSINC website
The Indian Switzerland Social Innovation Camp has been co-founded by EPFL - College of Humanities, EPFL+ECAL Lab and EPFL - Tech4Impact