Text by Timm Donke, Marvin Kasper and George Wekesa
Some time has passed since the pilot group of the Design Networking Hub first met in Nairobi. Back then, everyone picked a topic that she/he was particularly interested in and formed smaller groups. George, Timm and Marvin decided to work on community value creation.
The idea of creating a value system through community-based platforms has been tried and tested in many fields and has proven to have the potential of creating resilient and self-sustaining communities. Our initiative is based on understanding what crafts are prevalent within Nairobi and providing opportunities for partnerships that would improve the outlook of skilled labourers working in the informal economy. As more and more buildings get built due to population increase, the need for other household components such as furniture is rising. Fewer people are taking up wood technical craft professions since this has been looked down upon as a lesser profession than white-collar jobs. Most skilled labourers learn on the job which might limit the range of services they can offer and can also present some inefficiencies in the production process.
A whole mindset shift needs to happen starting with the creation of more value for the work in a way that skilled labourers are eventually respected and earn a decent living. Getting to this point requires an element of training, quality assurance, and marketing. Understanding the existing workflows and finding ways to make marginal adjustments to improve efficiency is one of the first steps. For a longer-term approach, we would offer paid education as an incentive to learn and improve the abilities of skilled labourers. After the training, they would become part of a larger network of skilled labourers who would be able to manufacture products that would be marketed through the platform. The advantage of being part of the platform is that the workers get paid directly for their product as opposed to doing their marketing and selling. We aim to establish a mark of community-based quality which will improve the credibility of the products in external markets by showing how we add value to the community and its makers.
As part of the Design Networking Hub, a pilot group of five German and five Kenyan designers and architects has been selected with the intention of maximizing the user orientation of the information provided by the platform. During a project phase of about one year, the members have been working in small bilateral teams and jointly developing new product and business ideas or not-for-profit concepts in the fields of housing, social design and technology. A detailed overview of the selected participants can be found here.