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    Entries in studio d (2)

    Thursday
    Jul312014

    Credit, Technology, and the Rural Myanmar Dream

    "There's no denying that access to credit can improve people's lives, and yet too much credit, or the wrong kind of credit, can put families in an unending cycle of debt." Renowned designer Jan Chipchase spoke these words Tuesday night during a presentation at Yangon gallery, TS1, where Proximity Designs, Studio D, and Visa unveiled the results of an 8-week project to design a culturally specific loan for rural Myanmar households. 

    We knew going into the project that the challenge we’d chosen was rich in complexity. Indeed, developing mechanisms to help families break from the burden of debt cycles is by no means straightforward.

    We started off by spending two months conducting over 200 interviews to gain an understanding of financial conditions in rural Myanmar, which has experienced five decades of near complete isolation and exclusion from formal banking services. We learned that a range of inventive, informal systems fill this void. Some, such as monastery lending groups, are convenient, culturally relevant, and help unite communities, but too often informal loans charge interests upwards of 10% a month. In the agriculture based rural economy, families often need money outside of harvest time, and the only way they can get it is by agreeing to these harsh interest rates (for the full report, download "Afford Two, Eat One").

    Proximity Designs, Studio D, and Visa presented the rural loan Proximity will begin testing early 2015

    This past Tuesday, more than 100 people packed into TS1 to engage in a conversation about rural finance in Myanmar. Jan Chipchase from Studio D and Su Mon from Proximity walked guests through our process and end product: a prototype loan that supports families where one or more members travel seasonally in search of work, because there are no jobs available locally in the villages. Helping alleviate rural debt by offering people a loan isn’t the most intuitive solution, but in contrast to high-interest informal loans, Proximity will offer affordable credit. The loan will also alleviate the stress on both the family members who stay behind and await remittances, and on the family members who must cover travel costs and living expenses while they search for work.

    The space was opened for a conversation with fellow social enterprises, financial organizations, and the broader community on the feasibility of mobile money in Myanmar, how to build trust with rural customers, along with the potential for technology to bridge the infrastructural setbacks that rural households face. It was the kind of evening that sparks innovative ideas and that inspires us to continue thinking of new ways to financially empower our rural customers. 

    If you attended the event, here is a condensed version of Tuesday night's slides.

     

    Monday
    Jul212014

    Where a project lives and breathes

    Pop-up studio in Kalaw. Photo courtesy of Jan Chipchase 

    It’s hard to be inspired in an uninspiring setting. Which is why, when seeking to do to top-notch research and design work with the folks at Studio D, we set up a pop-up studio to enable the creative juices to flow.

    A what? Think about it: a dynamic, varied workspace tailored exclusively for a particular project. Instead of retreating into some sterile hotel every night, imagine working in a cabin up in the hills of Kalaw or in a family home in North Dagon. Pop-up studios are set up in places that are rich in personality and that allow teams to be closer to the the people whose lives they are trying to affect.

    The aim is to tailor a space so that it lends itself to creative work, one with lots of natural light and varied work settings both indoors and outdoors.  No wall is taboo at a pop-up studio, and by using the space itself for ideation and brainstorming, teams can come up with dynamic solutions while remaining aware of what each member is working on. Because every day's data is synthesized into short insights on the walls, teams get just the right amount of exposure to promote creativity, without getting bogged down under massive amounts of notes. On a tour of our most recent pop-up studio, set up with Studio D to develop financial inclusion services for rural Myanmar, visitors are able to follow the trail of diagrams and notes throughout the two-story house and physically see the thinking processes that led the team to the final prototype service we’ll be developing in the coming months.

    Essentially, a pop-up studio is the place where a project lives and breathes. Everything in that space is about the project. Too often, inspiration can’t be confined to the hours between 9 and 5, so one of the main benefits of a pop-up studio is establishing a space where inspiration is welcomed 24/7. It naturally lends itself to informal meetings and to a casual community living atmosphere that makes work processes enjoyable and playful.

    Our team de-briefs in Kalaw. Photo courtesy of Jan Chipchase

    With the advent of open offices, we’ve seen companies gain ever more awareness of how the space in which people work affects the quality and creativity of that work. The pop-up studio brings the dynamism of the most successful open offices to any place in the world. It’s a cost-effective way to spark creativity and to help a team live and breathe a project for its duration, which might, we admit, get intense at times, unless the projects are also motivating. In the words of Studio D's Lauren Serota

    “the work we’re doing is really fun, so it’s good to be living in it.”

    We’ll readily admit we’re a little geeky at Proximity (and we think our partners at Studio D agree), because we’ve totally embraced this opportunity to live amidst the ideas we’ve been cooking up for the past 6 weeks. 

    If you want to find out what they are, join us on July 29th at TS1 in Yangon for an open studio event about our most recent service design work with Studio D.

    And to read more about pop-up studios, check out  Jan Chipchase’s booklet on the subject. 

     

    Studio D members brainstorming in North Dagon. Photo by Claudia Sofia Sosa