Tag Archives: colaroad

A lesson in co-design: why the walk to the river beats a trip to the well

The importance of doing things with people, rather to them or for them, has cropped up a few times in my recent posts … whether designing technology for a better later life,  re-inventing a knowledge hub, or re-learning the lessons of community architecture.

The general point is that users, customers, residents probably best know what they want – and even if they don’t at the start, then testing of developing your offering will provide insights you may not arrive at yourself.

However, what’s often needed to get across the idea of co-design or co-production is a really good story, and I’ve just found an excellent one from the Colalife team in Zambia – or rather from Claire Ward, the film-maker who has produce the ColaLife documentary, The Cola Road.

The story, clipped from the film, is about an international nonprofit organisation with good intentions, mothers who walk a long way from the village to get water, a well … and why obvious solutions may miss the point if you don’t ask.

Simon Berry says in introducing the film clip:

Claire Ward followed us in August 2012 as we prepared for the current trial. While she was here in Zambia she was joined by two colleagues: Guy Godfree and Tracy Levy.

The voice on the clip is Albert Saka from Keepers Zambia Foundation. Albert manages the community-based marketing in remote rural communities of Kalomo and Katete.

I do recommend reading about the Colalife story here, because it provide bigger lessons about developing solutions with people. It’s about how Simon and Jane Berry had the apparently simple idea of using the sophisticated distribution system of Coca Cola to deliver medicines to mothers and their children in remote villages. The story shows many time over how simple ideas may well be complicated to implement, and the best way to deal with the complexity is to work with the people who have the many parts of the solution.