Sunday, September 25, 2011

Implementing the Scheme – A Design opportunity

NID is appointed as a nodal agency by the Ministry of MSMEs, Government of India to successfully implement the Design Clinic Scheme for MSMEs throughout the country. I look at this responsibility and the project as a design opportunity and a creative exercise to scale up one of the successful design intervention models developed by the institute. This design intervention model, tested earlier by the institute with small scale industries and clusters is found to be more appropriate to the country’s large MSME sector that otherwise may not be able to afford design. Scaling up of this unique design intervention model will help benefit the large section of these industries. MSMEs in India constitute almost 94% of its industries. Successful implementation of the scheme would help provide the much needed competitive edge for these industries to survive in today’s global markets. This major project and the assignment is thus lot more than a mere administrative exercise to achieve the set targets.

Design forms one of the crucial element and a driving force for most business successes of today. Design primarily is defined as a systematic problem solving methodology. However, with the increasingly globalized and highly saturated markets of today, the role of design has now also expanded to include that of defining problems - understand user demands, their needs and aspirations – and identify new opportunity areas. Design as a professional activity is thus constantly reinventing and redefining its roles and responsibilities.

One would today, come across many local innovations, good practices developed by individuals/ groups to satisfy individual and/or community needs. Also one would find interesting and ingenious methods and models that may have successfully solved community/ group problems. The examples of these good practices or successful models could be available in variety of forms - may be in the form of good governance, new model of business / work practice, way of living, development of a self-sustained village, or may be in the form of a cooperative society/ model providing employment opportunities at the doorsteps. Replicating these local innovations, models and prototypes and importantly scaling them up to benefit larger section of the society is a major challenge and an emerging opportunity area.
The traditional role of design has been to transform the idea/ technology into marketable products and services. Thus, design focused largely on offering contextual solutions having mostly a single /specific user group / target segment or solution seeker and on the other side a specific producer/ client or a solution provider. Replicating or scaling up an innovation, good practice or a model, would demand their applications to different context and for variety of different stake holders. This would thus call for different approach and skill sets. The main challenge here would be to maintain effective implementation of the model/method, creation of easy and effective interface for various stakeholders, quality of its deliverables etc.

The design clinic scheme thus offers similar challenge to implement the identified design intervention model to 200 MSME clusters spread over around 17 industry sectors and though out the country. With the objective to create a platform for constant and continuous interaction amongst the MSME industries and the design fraternity of the country and thereby help develop long term relations between these stakeholders, the scheme is subdivide into its three main components that are Design Awareness Seminars, Design Awareness Programmes and Design Projects. While there have been similar successful design intervention models for the small scale industry sectors elsewhere in other countries, such as Design for District Model in Italy etc., the scheme launched here in India offers added challenges of successful implementation of all its three components.

One of the major challenge that the team faced in the beginning was to develop guidelines and formats that while standardize various steps and activities, provide enough flexibility to accommodate contextual needs and demands of the industry units, the clusters as well as the designers involved. Various medium and platforms to create awareness and generate interests have been constantly explored. Creating an effective channel of communication at all it’s various levels of implementation, and to its variety of different stakeholders throughout the country, is in itself one of the major design challenge. While the dedicated website provides platform for sharing information and experiences, the members of the implementation team from its regional centers are reaching out to the stakeholders and facilitate them to avail the benefits of the scheme.  Advisory committee and implementation panels comprising of experts, professionals and officials have been monitoring the scheme and based on the experiences gained from the field the scheme is constantly revised and refined.

Effective implementation of the scheme and thus scaling up of this unique design intervention model will certainly help create a sustainable design eco system and a major design movement in the country. The experiences and learnings gained from this project would be useful for development of similar successful platforms and methods at various levels of country’s economy and society. The knowledge gained from this exercise could be utilized for successful implementation; replication and/or scaling up of various different ideas, practices and models that already exist in the country. This will help the country effectively utilize its indigenous knowledge base, indigenous innovations, resources and skill sets for its economic and societal growth, one of the major directions emerging worldwide for any country to progress to innovation economy.

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