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Visioning Alternative Futures

Following our research phase, we design and prototype solutions with the given groups. To think through designs which are functional and replicable, we use disciplinary frames from human-centred design, systems-strengthening, process design, and anthropology. We believe in centering users during our design process, however we also understand the users within their different contexts. For instance, when creating interventions with women in rural communities, we first take into account their worldview and which influencers are of significance to them. We then use this understanding to design interventions or solutions which can influence these factors. Further, we take into account the impact that individual-directed solutions can have upon other facets of community existence. While we may be designing solutions directed at particular issues, we remain cognizant of the impact this can have on allied concerns for both individuals within the community as well as those surrounding them.

We work with communities which are on the margins of mainstream development - their vulnerabilities are influenced by both position i.e. gender, age, caste, class, as well as by location, i.e. the surrounding context within which these groups are located. Bearing in mind the multifaceted issues faced by these groups, and the complexity in addressing any problem which we work with, we take an end-to-end approach to addressing any challenge which we identify with them. 

We believe that the communities with whom we work have an inherently deep understanding of the issues they face and have already designed context-specific solutions. However in many cases, their traditional strategies have become incompatible with external market forces. Through our research, we uncover community innovations and strengths in order to build a shared understanding of the problems which they want to solve. Instead of pushing an idea or innovation upon a new group, our research first understands their motivations and aspirations, and then uses underlying strengths to achieve these goals. Through a deeper understanding of the relational cultures which we inhabit, we move from fitting people into planned frames of ‘empowerment’ or ‘development’; instead our research phase focuses across divisions of gender, caste, and class to understand what moves people and how we can enable better futures for them. 

Our Process

What do we keep in mind?

Wherever our ideas take root, we want to shed our preconceived notions and begin a new - evolving and growing in the directions to which these ideas lead us. 

Commonplace is a group of researchers and designers working in the space of social development, with a shared vision of community-owned futures. We bring together diverse ideas, disciplines and backgrounds to enable a richer imagination of the ways in which we can think about futures. Through bringing together our interdisciplinary strengths in design and research we want to spark ideas which go beyond a mainstream imaginary. We are constantly trying to carve communal spaces in which free exchange of information and resources is the norm, whether it be between the ‘researchers’, the ‘researched’ or the ‘client’. 


We believe, that with the right support, we can create developmental models which are truly self-sustaining; models which are able to thrive in the absence of external stimuli or governance. To achieve this, we embed ourselves in the regions where we work and build solutions integrated with our target groups from the start. We begin from an understanding of the ecosystems in which we find ourselves, and move towards identifying and enhancing transferable strengths. Our team consists of ethnographers and anthropologists who are able to take cultural contexts as a beginning point, within which they weave the programs on which we want to work, for e.g. instead of going in with predetermined curriculums or modules to generate ‘awareness’ regarding issues of relevance, we first seek to understand what goals are relevant to the groups with whom we work and how our programmes can support them with attaining these goals. 

We value objectivity within our subjective contexts, and seek to deliver solutions which are both workable and replicable. 

We want to ensure translation of research findings into actionable outputs

We seek to remain true to our research objectives even when we encounter real world constraints

We are building innovative ways of validating solution designs before investing in piloting 

We measure value being generated through a design process without being guided solely by intuition

We want to undertake the impossible task of leveraging research to shift power dynamics

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