In pursuit of inclusion

For our theory class this week, we read articles on the subjects of poverty and social entrepreneurship. Some of the readings have similar views as it relates to profitability, both for stakeholders and shareholders, that can be gained from investing either capital or labor in social business. Others views showcase the importance of reconsidering our pace of ubiquitous computing so we can stop and think how we can continue permeating our world with technology, without alienating a single person in the process.

Both of these are areas in which design research could have an important role: creating empathy with our end users, designing not only for them but with them, and by identifying unjust equilibriums or problem opportunity spaces. Our final goal being to take action to bring those ideas to reality.

As usual, for our assignment, we had to create a cohesive story that incorporates all of the author’s points of view. This time, I created the character of Leo. This is his story:

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Leo is a laborer who goes to work every day to the city of Dreams from the outskirts. He normally works a few odd jobs that allow him to feed his family of 5. He depends on this job to sustain them as they barely make ends meet.

One Monday, arriving at the city of Dreams – which he needs to cross to get to his place of work, he stumbles onto the usual great door entrance. But this time, there’s a tube with lots of letters placed at the side and arrows pointing at it, indicating some sort of action. Leo can’t read, he dropped out of school at 6 – so it’s hard for him to tell exactly what he needs to do, but no opening door means there’s a problem. Among the confusion, he then proceeds to observe a very well-dressed man that goes through the door by tapping the screen a few times.

 

“Write down your credentials” – the screen said, but Leo wouldn’t be able to know this.

 

We have begun to challenge some of the assumptions HCI makes about the relationship between people in technology. – Le Dantec

Before entering, Leo attempts to ask the man if he was doing something wrong. But, with a look a disdain, the businessman immediately dismisses him by giving him a few coins.

For decades, corporate executives at the world’s largest companies have thought of poor people as powerless and desperately in need of handouts. – CK Prahalad

Confused, Leo starts asking more people for help, as he would like to cross the door, his family literally depends on this job to eat, he can’t go back with a straight face – but everyone looks at him and keep walking their way.

Leo decides to spend the few coins he received from the businessman and buy a phone to call his boss. He tries to dial his boss’s phone number, but he can’t manage to remember it – all of the stress, keeps him thinking about his kids, his wife, their health needs, their education needs, the possibility that he just lost his job, and all of the needs that he fights to sustain daily. He starts feeling powerless and thinking that he will never be able to make ends meet.

“People in situation of poverty have a harder time at making decisions due to the number of economic trade-offs that are involved in their situation” – Dean Spears

Suddenly, Sophie shows up. Sophie is a design researcher, her work is to find problem areas in society that are worth to solve and that will improve human well being. She doesn’t seem surprised to see Leo there, looking like he’s wandering around – she has seen this happen multiple times throughout the day.

Sophie calls out for a co-creation session, and invites all of the people she saw struggling with the security implementation. This is how Sophie – the designer – turns into the social entrepreneur, by focusing on problem finding (unjust equilibrium) instead of jumping straight to problem solving without deeply clarifying what other underlying problem areas might there be in this unjust equilibrium.

“The reason that the entrepreneur sees this condition as an opportunity to create something new, while so many others see it as an inconvenience to be tolerated stems from the unique set of personal characteristics he or she brings to the situation – inspiration, creativity, direct action, courage, and fortitude. These characteristics are fundamental to the process of innovation.” – Martin & Osborne

 

The story of The pursuit of inclusion tries to imply that cities should be planned both from an urban design and a technology perspective, for the integration of those people that have been left behind while the technological revolution continued to thrive and spread into metropolitan cities. It is big cities that tend to have the biggest presence of people experiencing homelessness and poorness. I believe it is our goal as designers and potential change makers to put an effort at calling out unjust equilibriums. Doing this would allow us to reach a balance in society.