Development Through Design

Wednesday, 1 March 2017 - 12:00pm to 1:20pm


The new Trudeau government has made a tonal shift in Canada’s international development policies. However, not unlike many governments in the overdeveloped world, Canadian policies are still used to export and embed neoliberal rationales perpetuating global inequalities that development policies are supposed to right. Mah and Rivers suggest how design and social science, together, can advance a more progressive international development agenda. They do this by highlighting their ongoing Democratic Crèche project. This sustainable development project entails the prototyping of two early childhood development (ECD) centres, or daycare centres, in South African townships. Beyond the realization of physical structures that enhance children’s wellbeing, the project ultimately demonstrates the difference made when social design is used “to do” and “to study” development in alternative and critically engaged ways. “Alternative” and “critical,” here, necessitate development policies and projects emanating as much from townships as Global North capitals.  


Kai Wood Mah is a registered architect, design historian, and professor. Patrick Lynn Rivers is a political scientist and professor at a leading school of art and design. Together, they co-direct Afield, a design research practice bringing comparative interdisciplinary perspective to contemporary social issues.