I have been struggling for the past few months to try and connect with a non-profit organization that would be able to help me with my research or with user testing. I was in touch with Aid to Artisans, Institute for International Social Development, Community Friendly Movement, and Dastkar; all of which have the same mission as my thesis, which is to better the lives of artisans in developing countries. Unfortunately however, none of the organizations were able to provide any assistance in terms of research- either because they had no knowledge of the bone craft or because they did not have time to work with students. Also, I was able to get direct access to the artisans through exporters that I was able to contact through my mother.
At the end of last semester, however, I thought that I had established connection with Community Friendly Movement (who have an office in New York as well as in Delhi) as they were willing to meet and speak with me, and also had access to bone artisans. Unfortunately however, when I went to visit them in Delhi, they were not able to provide any new information- I thought that although they may not be able to connect me with the artisans, they may be able to tell me about artisan communities and how they work with them and market their products internationally. I did not feel that there was a way in which I could incorporate them into my thesis, although they were interested in my project and were eager to help.
After my meeting with them, two things happened- 1. I thought that I should change the type of NFP I was trying to work with, and 2. I changed the direction of my thesis, so it seemed to make most sense to find a different NFP. I felt that I would have more luck with finding an NFP that would be able to help me with user testing, or one that deals with green materials. So I went searching for a different type of NFP...
I have contacted the following:
Earth Pledge, which partners with businesses, communities and government to accelerate the adoption of sustainable practices. I have not heard back from them.
Designer's Accord, which is a global coalition of designers, educators, researchers, engineers, and corporate leaders, working together to create positive environmental and social impact. They wrote back to me and told me to create a profile on their blog and share my thesis to get feedback, which is what I am in the process of doing.
Global Goods Partners, which is dedicated to alleviating poverty and promoting social justice by strengthening women-led development initiatives and creating access to the US market for marginalized communities in Asia, Africa, and the Americas. I have not heard back from them.
AFHny, which is a New York City based group of design professionals promoting socially responsible volunteerism through design advocacy, public education, and community action. They wrote back to me and directed me to Project H.
Project H is a charitable organization that supports, inspires, and delivers life-improving humanitarian product design solutions. I have not heard back from them.
And through Designer's Accord, I connected with Dominic Muren, a professor of Industrial Design at the University of Washington in Seattle. He is interested in design that is socially and environmentally conscious, and lectures about the subject. He also has a blog that discusses a new way of manufacturing that takes into account social and environmental practices. I spoke with him about my project, and he provided a lot of interesting feedback and things to think about. He has agreed to provide feedback and talk to me whenever I need it. So that is one concrete contact, but not part of a non-profit organization...
I emailed two people in the architecture department at Parsons, as per Shana's suggestion, to ask them about any NFPs that they may know of. I have not heard back from either of them.
I have also contacted Nidhi Srinivas, as he may know of some non-profit organizations that I will be able to work with. I have not heard back from him yet.
Anyone have any other suggestions??
A quick update of the approach I am taking with my thesis- instead of using the current skills of the artisans and simply creating a new product that is not already being made, I am trying to explore the material's potential to create something that the artisans are not used to making and did not think of doing. I want to explore how I could possibly manipulate the material to interact with light- so I am developing architectural panels.
To conduct user testing, I would like to speak with a company that makes green architectural materials as well as with architects, as I feel that they are most knowledgeable about what I am designing and will be able to provide helpful feedback- what works, what doesn't, how to market it, etc. I would like to speak with Material Connexion and Robin Reigi. In terms of architects, I would like to speak with Thomas Mckay (Dynamic Media instructor), and Josh Heitler (an architect I know through my mother's friend), and Matthew Hoey (Materials instructor). Also, i think it will be helpful to speak with design professionals who I am connecting with through Designer's Accord, a non-profit organization I mentioned above, to get feedback about the manufacturing system and distribution that I am designing.
In terms of how I will test the product- I think it is pretty simple- because I am trying to develop an architectural panel, what I need to test is whether it is successful in interacting with light and exploiting the raw material. In order to do this, I will show the above mentioned my design to get feedback and see how I can improve it. It will be more like a charrette than actually testing if something works.
Next steps: In the next two weeks, I will establish contact with the above mentioned user groups and schedule a time to meet with them to discuss my project. I will also continue to try and establish contact with the non-profit organizations that I mentioned above, and any others that I find by talking to people.