OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

Design and build self-sustainable human settlements in rural India

We develop holistic systems for building self-sustainable human settlement using design thinking tools.

Photo of Snigdha Jha
3 3

Written by

Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

India has experienced rapid growth in the last 2 decades and has quickly escalated to becoming the 5th largest economy in the world. With that said, it may seem that there is a plethora of opportunities for all the citizens of this diverse country, the inconvenient truth is that the majority of Indians who reside in the rural parts of the country are still struggling for the basic necessities of life. Some of the most critical issues that need urgent addressal in the rural part of India are, sustainable and smart utilization of available resources, availability of relevant education and generation of economic opportunities. Our approach to solving these issues is to use simple design thinking tools to connect the 5 basic elements of a human settlement which are Earth, Human, Shell, Society & Function to create a self-sustaining human settlement. We do an extensive research on the existing situations of each element of the human settlement independently and in correlation with the other elements at the grassroot levels to identify the pain points and scope of improvement to make the system more synergetic and robust. We delegate the execution of each solution for different areas of the human settlements to the appropriate experts and focus on supervision of correct implementation, community training and interaction for smooth introduction and acceptance of the new systems. After successfully establishing these new systems in the communities we observe the community for a minimum period of 2 years to guarantee the sustainability of the newly established system. Through this process we aim to achieve a self-sustainable community which is self-reliant in terms of resources, skill development and economic growth while being responsible and in harmony with its natural environment.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

The direct beneficiaries of our service will be all the members of the community we are working with. Our work will involve benefiting the members at every level such as providing or improving housing conditions, clean water availability, electricity, sanitation, education, skill development and economic opportunity identification and generation. Apart from the members of the community we work with, the indirect and long-term beneficiaries of our service will also be residents of the nearby and distant urban areas since this will control urban migration of rural residents.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

Building a self-sustainable community is more about cultivating a mindset than just providing solutions for existing problems. We want to achieve this by spending more time with the beneficiaries to understand their pain points with the existing conditions and help them accept the new systems through regular interaction and training until the system is thoroughly established. Community engagement is the most crucial part of introduction of any new solution to an existing problem and our major focus will be on designing systems which allow maximum involvement of the community or beneficiaries. Having worked extensively in the green tech industry and with people of diverse demographic and ethnography, community engagement was the biggest gap we observed in the sustainable establishment of a green technology in most communities. To bridge that gap our process will be equally focused on the acceptance of the solution by the community as it will be on provision of the right solutions

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Initial Design: I am exploring the idea, gathering the inspiration and information I need to test it with real users.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

We are a social enterprise with the primary intent of providing dignity, economic opportunity & empowerment through use of new, emerging, enabling and socially relevant technologies (whether sourced from India or overseas) aimed at creating a self-sustainable and inclusive society wherein every person has the right to a dignified living and the opportunity to be productive for self and the society.

Expertise in sector

  • 3-5 years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered company.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

Belonging to the Indian villages of Bihar, and having been a part of the urban migration bandwagon, the co-founders felt responsible in changing the perception and definition of Indian villages. With the better half of the population residing in rural India, the focus of development has to shift to these lands of untapped potential to eradicate disparity in growth and achieve a holistic and sustainable future for India.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

In the most ideal example of a human settlement, all the members of the community will live peacefully, respect their environment and contribute to the growth and development of the community with their unique set of skills. In a situation like this, all the three aspects of Planet, prosperity and peace will be bridged. With our model, we strive to attain harmony between humans and the environment by designing solutions which focuses on achieving the perfect balance in connecting people to themselves by realizing their potential and by providing them with a platform to exercise that potential, and also cultivate the sensitivity in people to utilize the natural resources available in a moderate but smart way. By achieving these two main objectives through our model we strive to bridge the gap between prosperity of humans and that of our beautiful planet.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

In order to create holistic and sustainable solution it is important to collaborate and involve existing benefactors of the community, therefore to establish a sustainable system in these communities we will work closely with the governing bodies of the communities and the local government of the area, taking their advice and support for smooth implementation of these solutions and systems. We will also involve experts from the relevant industrial and service backgrounds to implement the technical part of the solutions at the site while we will be involved more in the social implementation of the solution. Apart from the technical people involved in the execution of the solutions at the site, we will also involve members of the community(beneficiaries) after identification of their skill set in the execution of the different parts of the solution in order to instill a sense of ownership and responsibility.

Geographic Focus

India, for now.

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

The execution of this model in a village with 50-80 families will take about 30-36 months which will include the post execution phase of about 12 months. Our target will be to execute the model in about 20-24 months and observe the success of the model for about 12 months within the duration of this project.

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No

Attachments (1)


A sample of the systematic approach that will be followed in redesigning a human settlement to align with the objectives of our model. This sample is a generalized example of a village, however in the actual project the sub-elements and micro detailing of the system will be established after an extensive research of the project village and their specific requirements.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Shikha Dixit

Hi, Snigdha! Nice idea! I particularly liked the concept of observing the communities for sustainability after initial intervention. This is a critical gap with all implementation programs and I am happy that your approach includes an exit strategy.

I think you could increase the precision of your proposal by further specifying your geographic focus.
We have also made a submission for this competition. Since you have substantial experience with rural communities, could you please review our submission and give your valuable inputs.

Best Wishes,

Photo of Snigdha Jha

Hello Shikha! Thank you for your feedback. We are currently narrowing down our geographic focus to one particular area, post which I will be able to detail it out further in our proposal.
It is really motivating to see that there is so much good work happening in this sector of development. I will certainly go through your entry. It will be great to collaborate on certain projects in the future.


Photo of Shikha Dixit

Thank you, Snigdha!