Design as a Vehicle for Social Change

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At Anchal, we believe that creative problem solving and interdisciplinary collaboration are at the root of all good design and that good design can be a vehicle for social change.

But what do we mean when we say “design?”

Design thinking can be applied to a textile composition as well as an organization’s entire operational strategy. We address social injustice through creativity and recognize the need for innovative, economically-oriented solutions to tackle seemingly intractable issues like the commercial sex trade.

Both Devon and I (Anchal’s co-founders) were trained as landscape architects and we can easily interpret the world through landscape systems. Landscape systems have many parts – one element never tells the full story and must be considered in the context of the whole system to be fully understood and remedied. For example, water systems need to be understood in relationship to buildings, topography and plant material when considering the consequences of flooding.

Our understanding of systems can be directly applied to social systems found within our artisans’ communities as well. Some of the layers comprising the existing social systems in these communities are poverty, limited education, social stigma, isolation, compromised health and diminished self worth. Anchal’s strategy uses design to confront each layer head on with a holistic solution. We illustrate this process below: by using a design toolkit we can address each layer with a particular tool which leads to a healthier overall system. One instance is the job training “tool” being used to address the layer of poverty.

So, though we’re trained as landscape architects we’re applying the same approach to social systems as we would to landscape systems. By offering economic alternatives rich in self expression and rooted in community, we’re helping women rediscover their worth, potential and creativity. An artisan in Ajmer describes her experience here:

‘Working as a prostitute is the most humiliating and exploitative profession in the world. I died every day when I had to sustain that way. Now, with this quilt-making, I feel a new respect for myself.’

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