Why we must study People and (in) their context?
People are often not very good at verbalizing about what they want. This is the most agreed upon point about ethnographic inquiry work. To gain in-depth understanding of consumption models, decision making drivers, influences and kinks in the day to day, we went in the field to analyse the problem from multiple users’ perspectives.
Why learning from people is a two-way street?
Our field research covered four cities (Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Rahim Yar Khan, and Lahore) and provided us with a realistic picture of plastics use, behavioral, and habitual consumption models, and problems due to (at the time) recent ban on plastic bags by the Federal Government of Pakistan. We started our field research by asking vendors regarding the ban on plastic bags.
We observed, for example: Vendors selling daily products (milk and yogurt), meat and the likes, cannot replace plastic bags with the suggested alternative like fabric bags. They lose business to counterparts who still use plastic bags if customers forget to bring their own bags or containers.
Our Insight: End user to be involved in policy making process as well as design of alternative materials.
Why we brought designers, start-ups and citizens to build solutions for plastic waste?
To activate a community of practice to solve complex problems, we brought designers, start-ups, academics, innovators, environmentalists, private sector, engineers, social scientists, activists, architects, juggaris to a maker space for a weekend, where they converted different types and degrees of plastic waste material.
For example: one team built a prototype that turns plastic waste to green gas using solar thermal mechanics.
Our Insight: encouraging cross-disciplinary collaboration results in unobvious use of material and new solutions. for example the green gas apparatus which can have possible applications in various spaces such as cooking, heating, small engines etc.,
Intelligence for systemic transformation to answer the ‘why’
Intelligence from the ethnographic work is a step to ensure buy-in, longevity, and co-creation. In parallel to our consultative sessions with Unilever and ECCU— where, resisting the assumption that we already ‘know’ the problem well— we mapped the issue through a series of stakeholders’ consultation sessions capturing the voice of local citizens.
We used the power of mapping and visualizing the current system, used the intelligence of the collective, applied the futures lens to acknowledge contingencies, and ran baselines to gather data (on waste production, generation, and handling, and information about the informal sector). We believe that, simultaneously used, these are strong markers for systemic work, and forging partnerships. This also brough to surface gaps, opportunities, and friends of our portfolio.