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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Design devices for human development: A capabilities approach in Kenya and Uganda

Lambe, Fiona; Osborne, Matthew; Ran, Ylva; Dehmel, Naira; Holmlid, Stefan


Despite progress in recent decades, many crucial challenges to the eradication of extreme poverty remain intractable. Development interventions often fail to deliver sustained, transformational outcomes to households and communities. The field of design has demonstrated its capacity to deliver designed artifacts that enhance the livelihoods and well-being of people living in resource poor communities, but it remains unclear how its tools can contribute to interventions seeking multidimensional and transformational development outcomes. We present insights from two case studies, conducted in Kenya and Uganda, where a service design approach was applied to the design of two development interventions: a clean cookstove and fuel system, and an innovative insurance product to help farmers cope with climate variability. In both cases, experience mapping, archetype construction, and prototyping served to reveal individual needs, capacities, and values, and enabled the translation of this information into design features for the interventions. Using Amartya Sen’s capabilities approach as an ex post analytical frame, we show how these devices could guide designers seeking to deliver transformational development outcomes when co-designing services that aim for environmental sustainability and social well-being among low-income communities.

Published in

She Ji: the Journal of Design, Economics and Innovation
2022, volume: 8, number: 2, pages: 217-243

Authors' information

Lambe, Fiona
Linköping University
Osborne, Matthew
Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI)
Ran, Ylva
Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI)
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Energy and Technology
Dehmel, Naira
King's College London (KCL)
Holmlid, Stefan
Linköping University

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG1 No poverty

UKÄ Subject classification

Human Working Science
Human Geography

Publication Identifiers


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