Keys to performance in humanitarian design – first conference paper submitted!

My first conference paper has been submitted, to the International Social Innovation Research Conference at London South Bank University and the Nordcode Conference at Roskilde University. Please contact me if you would like me to e-mail you the full-lenght version:


Humanitarian design is an emerging and challenging field.  How will our designs best perform in the complex world of humanitarian aid, with its many logistic, political,
economic, geographic, social and environmental barriers? The hypothesis of this
paper is that Self-Reliance is the design target that will augment performance
in this field.

Definitions of design performance as well as for humanitarian design are suggested, followed by a list of issues relevant for sustainable and socially responsible design
performance in humanitarian settings. Current tendencies in humanitarian relief
operations are then elaborated upon in order to explain why a special focus
should be put on design of small-scale sustainable energy devices for rural
refugee camps in dry African regions. Existing practice and design theory in
the related fields of design for development are briefly discussed. It is then
argued that a focus on self-reliance will provide us with the best strategy for
balancing social, economic and ecological factors while mainstreaming
environment into humanitarian action. The final section discusses which factors
require further research.

Key words: Humanitarian Design, Design Performance,
Self-Reliance, Sustainability, Refugee Camps, Design for Development,
Appropriate Technology, Design Research, Environment, Technology Acceptance

About Brita Fladvad Nielsen

I'm a Postdoctoral researcher at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. My focus is on Smart Energy Communities in urban settings as well as design of energy-devices for emergency settings and design for humanitarian markets, especially for refugee camps in rural areas of Africa. I blog about my research approach Design Thinking on and about humanitarian design at . I am also a mother of a child who is deaf, and I blog about her language development on
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2 Responses to Keys to performance in humanitarian design – first conference paper submitted!

  1. Shannon Iafrate says:

    Hello Brita,

    Could you please email me your paper in its entirety? I am a grad student at Lawrence Technological University and have an interest in developing a thesis centered around humanitarian design. Currently I am looking for other writing and topic of exploration to start preparing a direction for my studies.

    Thank you,
    Shannon Iafrate

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