More than 1.4 billion people around the world live in abject poverty with income below $1.25 per day. Sanitation, potable water, clean energy services, communication and other infrastructures are not available for these populations. Often “development” is considered as the provision of these services to the communities that need them through technology implementations. However, this ignores the applicability and appropriateness of the technology as well as the desires of the community.
Though well intended, development projects and provisions of technological solutions have suffered dismal failure rates. In light of that, this class explores the concepts of development and technology from a community perspective. We examine ways that systems thinking can have transformative potential by having those who will use the technologies take a self-determined path to achieve positive outcomes.
The class teaches students about available technologies and encourages the active critique and redesign of these technologies in light of community feedback. It also provides strategies for listening and empathizing with communities to define areas of need and engage in system-based solutions for those needs. It challenges the students to view Community Sustainable Development not as something to be done to communities, but as participation in a process with communities.