Community-led development in rural Myanmar
Our client’s executive group were tired of token, “business-as-usual” efforts in aid and community development, and wanted to use design research methods to better understand the communities they wished to help.
We spent a week living with and talking to locals in Ainggyi village, Sagaing State, about their daily lives, focusing on the broad themes of Health, Education, Water, and Micro Finance.
Responding to the context
We designed a week-long research project to understand and report on the challenges of daily life in a village in rural Myanmar. Over the course of 3 days we conducted around 40 interviews with individuals, families, and community groups. We toured a rural village, including its medical building and primary school, and spent time understanding the everyday practices of families around the themes of health, education, water and energy use.
To do this, we worked with a translator and a team of local fixers.
Rather than planning a rigid structure for the research beforehand, we worked in a responsive and reflexive way, planning the following days activities based on the findings of the proceeding day, updating our approach as we learnt more.
We took thousands of photographs and hours of video, and used this to quickly analyse and report on findings.
Presenting to ministers
Within a week of starting the project, we had produced a printed report that was presented to ministers of the new Myanmar government. It incorporated ethnographic vignettes and rich documentary material that communicated the complexities and challenges of life in the village. We made sure it was both an accurate summary of the research and a generative tool that could inspire new programs and policy directions.
Our research documented both immediate and long-term possibilities in a broad number of areas, including health, energy, education, water and micro-finance. It also reported on the rapid rate of technical change the country is experiencing in the post-military landscape, particularly the globally unprecedented proliferation and uptake of smart-phones. Since our involvement, our client has been working closely with ministries in Myanmar to design targeted aid and development programs that use these insights.
A number of programs will be tested in the community in the near future.
The value of exploring
Our client trusted us to investigate and report on the cultural and technical contexts of rural Myanmar in a way that would inspire new action. The research helped our client imagine new approaches to community development that were grounded in the lived realities of life in the region.