Together with urban youth from worker settlements we co-designed the concept of Water Rituals. Firstly by understanding how youth makes use of mobile technology. Second we researched the significance of water from various perspectives and conducted design sessions. Third we conducted water labs by collecting water samples from the community to measure the quality of water in their communities.
Water Rituals intends to empower young women, by enabling them to be in charge of water-related tasks and also retrieve reliable information about water health, safety and hygiene. This vital information gives them the ability to safeguard their family and community health and change them from water carriers to water managers. Researching, adapting, testing, documenting and communicating complex water-health information in an accessible way, impacts young women and their family health; it can improve their socio- economic position, as they have the skills and knowledge to provide safe water. Developing an audiovisual environment in which water-health content is communicated in simple, attractive formats opens up the possibility of a healthier life for millions of people.
The aim of Water Rituals is, to co-research and -design with young women practitioners, an audiovisual environment (open source) and water-health content (open content) for a mobile platform targeting (semi)-illiterate people. The content consists of traditional purifying methods based on indigenous knowledge such as filtration using cloth, clay vessels, and local roots and nuts. Goal is to revive this indigenous knowledge for health and hygiene purposes through Water Rituals and bring these affordable environment-friendly purifying methods back into urban society.
By setting up a self-sustainable model, the young practitioners will be trained as water managers and service providers of safe water, by not only promoting and demonstrating the Water Rituals app, but they will also be encouraged to set up small businesses. The young women practitioners will also be trained in making DIY spectrometers and environment-friendly, indigenous, low-cost methods to treat water, such as using terracotta pots as filters, building solar cookers, applying the solar water disinfection (SODIS) method. They can sell these self-made spectrometers and filters to the community, and offer to filter the water for a small fee to households with limited time, providing them with a sustainable source of income.
Moreover these low-cost filters will be sold via the app, which are made by these women. This way people will not only receive reliable water-health information, but also have access to tangible water purifying methods and filters, reducing risks for falling ill, improving water security for marginalized communities and eventually leading to an healthier life.
Furthermore we will incorporate the other findings from our collaborative research into the project, and increase the functionalities of Water Rituals:
- A smart-phone with an add-on for a water tester will be incorporated;
- The water transporters will be tracked by GPS, such that community members will be able to see the whereabouts of the water tanker;
- Young women will function as knowledge managers in the community, providing reliable water-health information (promoting and demonstrating the app), selling cheap water filters, and delivering treated water (for those who do not have time to treat water themselves);
- Finally it is important that citizens can voice their concerns when water facilities and services are not functioning properly, using text-services and social media, they can alert water authorities.
This will have a significant impact on the quality of water services on various levels. It will give households and community members insight about the quality of the water they are consuming. Next the water transporters will be reached and become more alert about their delivery services. Young women will be able to change into knowledge managers and entrepreneurs. Finally by adding functionalities that enable citizens to give feedback to water authorities, increases visibility of water problems more publicly, leading to hopefully better services due to public pressure.
Over the past three decades Ankur, Society for Alternatives in Education's way of working in six of Delhi's workers' settlements has proven to be successful, through its network of colleagues and collaborators. Ankur works with thousands of people living in workers' settlements, and despite the tough conditions of their surroundings, they are capable of creating, designing, manufacturing, and commercializing all kinds of goods. Most importantly we constantly involve and recognize the people in the workers' settlements as knowledge developers, as makers, entrepreneurs, innovators, writers, specialists, and experts of survival. We use various creative research methodologies, by actively involving youth. Methodologies applied are digital storytelling and writing, dialogues, mapping, interviewing key stakeholders in the community, and exhibitions.
We have a multidisciplinary team consisting of Ankur, Society for Alternatives in Education (tactical media, young women, content creation), Prof. Anil Gupta (grassroots innovation, indigenous knowledge, sustainable technology, water, Indian Institute of Management), Dr. Neera Agnimitra (environmental health, women empowerment, Delhi School for Social Work), Shradha Jain (game/visual artist), Afaina de Jong (spatial design, marketing, promotion), Dr. Caroline Nevejan (design of socio-technical systems, TUDelft), Iris Douma (interaction designer, design researcher), and Pollinize (social design, creative research & innovative technology) have their own specialized knowledge, gained through years of working experience in their specific field. Pooling our specific expertise enables us to develop Water Rituals. Most importantly, we use people-centered design approaches: young women are actively involved in research and design, which leads to developing new skills, creating ownership, responsibility and involvement among the end-users, which is of equal importance.
Evaluation and scaling
The women water managers will be asked to keep us updated about its working, effects and usage in their respective localities. Also Ankur's local coordinators will be asked to follow up on the reach and impact of Water Rituals.
Once this pilot is proven successful, we can replicate this model and scale up to other parts of India and expand to other parts of the world. Water Rituals offers many possibilities since it is open for use and adaptation to the local needs and requirements, potentially reaching millions of people, via various water organizations working across the globe.