Abstract: A new way of looking at an old problem can lead to extraordinary improvements in the manner a process or activity is carried out. In businesses, Lean management, Agile Methodology, Blue Ocean Strategy are the blend of frameworks and insights that have been making processes work in an innovative way. These are sometimes thought of as Social Technology.
Design thinking is one such social technology that has found its place in implementing projects in the healthcare industry, software industry, and social services. Design thinking is thought to be a problem-solving apparatus using the approach of the designer’s creativity and methods.
The case study brings in the design thinking approach in community services for the municipal garbage workers – Pourakarmikas, during the COVID-19 pandemic times. If there was another service along with healthcare and food that was working round the clock during the difficult times of the pandemic, it was the workers at the municipal corporation who kept streets clean.
Pourakarmika, without any hesitation and being fearless, approaches every household to collect the garbage or waste even in this challenging time. These households consisted of patients who were infected and quarantined or those who were suspected; they collected medical waste both from the household/clinics/hospitals; and products used or consumed by the suspected and confirmed patients.
With the government regulation, the pandemic situation created a challenging environment for the pourakarmika to perform their regular duties as commercial establishments such as eateries, hotels, restaurants, street vendors, food joints, etc., were not allowed to conduct their operations. As they say, an army marches on its stomach; the pourakarmika required timely food and nourishment to perform the responsibility as front-line warriors fighting a war on behalf of the society. However, due to the situation, this segment was hampered and deprived of breakfast.
The case study particularly brings to the forefront the design thinking approach used for providing the pourakarmikas with food (breakfast and lunch) at the right times when required.
1. The case is the first-hand work, taken up by the authors for the purpose mentioned. The problems and hurdles faced by them are narrated. How the Design Thinking approach helped the authors in re-looking at problems related to social relevance and how it was tackled to it iron it out.
2. The model of design thinking that the authors applied in the given practical circumstances. It demonstrates the social inclusiveness, collaborative effort, and recognition of stakeholder interest.
3. In several instances the systematic strategic decisions may not work, as the approach is towards decision making for a problem. But if it is approached from a design attitude that demands the inclusiveness of all the stakeholders, it will generate many alternatives than arriving at a decision. And that is what the authors did in this case.
4. The objectives of the case are to introduce the design thinking approach for decision-making and problem-solving. Further, to demonstrate that the design thinking approach can be applied for the social innovation and social responsibility project, where inclusiveness is the only mantra at all levels.