Responsible Careers: Design for the Other 90%

If you are interested in responsible careers and you have a chance to go to Washington, DC, don't miss the 'Design for the Other 90%' exhibition that is currently taking place at the National Geographic Society Museum until September 6, 2010.

This exhibition, as well as its companion website, provides fascinating examples of responsible careers in design. Indeed, this exhibition provides incredible examples of innovative, cost-effective, and socially responsible solutions that aim at eliminating the daily challenges faced by 90% of the world population (or 5.8 Billion people) in the areas of access to water, shelter, food, healthcare, education, energy and affordable transportation.  Some solutions are designed and implemented in developing countries.  Other solutions also focus on challenges encountered by underprivileged populations in developed countries.

Let's review a few of these ingenious solutions:

Clean Water - LifeStraw: This straw filters and removes particles as small as 15 microns.  By doing so, the LifeStraw has been shown to eliminate the risk of a number of waterborne diseases such diarrhea, cholera and typhoid. Through its filter, the LifeStraw essentially turns virtually any surface water into drinkable water.  The LifeStraw is currently used in Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda and Pakistan.

Healthcare - Solar Aid:  A solar battery recharger for hearing aids, Solar Aid is a wonderful solution for older adults in both developing and developed countries.  Indeed, using solar energy to charge a hearing aid battery has a number of advantages over replacing a hearing aid's battery with a new one each time a battery dies.  Of course, it save money (once the investment in the machine is amortized).  In addition, this device considerably decreases the need for battery waste management, which given the toxic and harmful components found in batteries is a valuable benefit to our health and environment.

Affordable Transportation - Big Boda Bicycle:  Thanks to its long tail (a clever and low cost extension), this bike can carry passengers as well as several hundred pounds of materials.  This bike, similar to the cycle rickshaws popular in China and other Asian countries, has great potential in terms of providing affordable transportation in African countries.

Food Preservation - Pot-In-Pot Cooler:  Creating a cooler is as easy as nestling a smaller pot in a bigger pot, and filling the space in between the pots with sand an water.  Using this technology, farmers in Nigeria have been able to preserve tomatoes for 21 days (as opposed to 2-3 days without the pot-in-pot cooler).  Longer preservation leads to more opportunities to transport their crops and sell them, generating much needed additional income for small these farmers.  Given its basic component, this great design is a scalable solution that has since been used in Cameroon, Tchad, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Burkina Faso.

Clean Water/Affordable Transportation - Q Drum: This disk shaped water container facilitates clean water transportation.  By rolling this 75-liter container instead of lifting and carrying another type of container, millions of people around the world can benefit from this elegant solution to transport clean water from distant locations to their home.

In addition to featuring these solutions, the Design for the Other 90% website also provides an extensive array of lesson plans to facilitate classroom conversations about socially responsible design and social entrepreneurship for K-12 students.   These lesson plans include conversations around stories of social entrepreneurs, resources and tips on how to become an entrepreneur, as well as lessons focused on science and math frameworks successfully used to address social challenges.

Finally, the Design for the Other 90% also lists events and houses a blog that highlight relevant resources and news in the areas of socially responsible design and social entrepreneurship.  Overall the Design for the Other 90% exhibition and its website are valuable resources to find out more about responsible careers in design and in social entrepreneurship.

Photo Credit.