I find IDEO’s goal to use their design thinking process to help innovators to create solutions for world problems a positive step. It helps people to do little things (prototypes) for their idea and lives to make a difference in the world. However, it is hard not to ignore the fact that other people and corporations don’t open innovate when it buckles down to the dollars and cents.
The global water crisis seems simple enough to solve: Dig wells in communities that don’t have one, and let the water flow. After all, the problem is not that there isn’t enough water on Earth, but more of a logistical challenge about how to move it from point A to point B. But in fact, providing safe drinking water to the 1 billion people who don’t have it presents a tangled knot of complex engineering, political, economic, scientific, and cultural challenges.
That’s exactly why the water issue is such a good fit for the big-picture thinkers that make up a new breed of humanitarians—designers. IDEO.org design fellows are currently working in Nepal and Ethiopia to create systems that can support people’s varied uses of water, from urban gardening in the slums of Addis Ababa to fluoride treatment plants in the Rift Valley. The goal is to take a “holistic and human centered approach to meeting people’s water needs,” organizers explain on the project website.