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Uganda 2014

Rethink Relief in Pader Uganda

In 2014, three years after the first workshop Rethink Relief took a turn and moved closer to the “users” of aid and technologies.  Rethink Relief brought together 33 participants from 16 countries in Pader, Uganda, to identify challenges and develop solutions that bridge the gap between short-term humanitarian relief and long-term sustainable development.

Map situating Pader in the north of Uganda

Pader belongs to the district of Gulu in Northern Uganda and it’s about 10 hours drive from Kampala through Lira. This region was devastated by a long war between the Lord Resistance Army and the government.

This war harmed many Acholi communities, disrupted families and their homes. After several years living in displaced camps the Acholi people could go back but faced a difficult return and resettlement as coming back meant facing the devastation and the past fears.

Our host, Caritas Gulu Archdiocese received all participants with a warm welcome and helped making this a great week!


We formed 5 teams, each with at least a design facilitator from the international organizers, an international participant, a local resident and a south sudanese refugee from Ayilo camp in the district of Adjumani, Northern Uganda cheap air max nike shoes. The teams were divided in the topics of agriculture, rainwater harvesting, cooking, preventive healthcare and lighting.

Holding Rethink Relief in Pader allowed for the unique participation of Ugandans who had lived in displaced camps during the civil war, as well as of South Sudanese refugees currently living in camps in northern Uganda.

The two weeks program included two panel on which guest speakers represented different perspectives about their experience with the war and peace process in Northern Uganda. A hands-on worshop to learn about design processes and the creatio of prototype.

The team worked in the TET center, an innovation center put together by the IDIN network.

At the end of the week the participant had a chance to present to Pader resident the ideas and project they came up with nike air max running. Look at the project section for some of the creations.

The participant then went to visit the Ayilo camp, guided by the locals participants.




MIT Mechanical EngineeringItu University in Pakistan



Boston MIT 2013

the second workshop was held in Boston, USA. This time the focus shifted to include innovation for communities of beneficiaries (rather than individuals or families) with the creation of public spaces that enhance people’s sense of ownership and care. Other concept briefs point to the need of designing systems, rather than standalone products in order to be adaptable and scalable.

Morning Design Exercice
Christiane Kokubo experience at Rethink Relief 2013

And there we were. It was the third day of MIT D-Lab’s Rethink Relief conference, almost 9:30 in the morning, an we were all sitting. In front of us on the table were 4 straws, a sheet of paper, some tape, scissors, three elastic bands, two clips and some blue clay. Amy Smith explained the morning activity and 20 people, from 15 different countries, showed that inspiration can come even before breakfast, before talking to each other or before feeling really awake. “You have 10 minutes to make something useful with what you have in front of you,” Amy said.

What a challenge! Especially when your creation goes to someone else, who will have another five minutes to improve it, before they pass it to the next person, and the next. At the end of the activity, everyone explained the original idea and what happened to it cheap air max 2016 lovers. My crane mobile was improved by three people, including Amy, and came back to my hands much nicer than I could have made it myself in 10 minutes.


This activity was just a small piece of our week of intense discussion and work during Rethink Relief, which took place from the 14th to the 20th of April. The week saw 20 participants from 15 countries and a wide variety of backgrounds sharing experiences, creativity and stories – contributing to find solutions and to improve ideas.

Our groups were Water, Health, Protection, Economic Empowerment, Education and Energy, each of them with three-four people. Every day, all day long, dialogues in English, Spanish, Hindi, Creole, Dutch, Portuguese, French and Italian could be heard in the room. We were a melting pot of designers, engineers, computer specialists and a journalist, all together thinking about relief solutions for emergency situations.


And how strange was it then, when on the second day of the conference, two bombs exploded 1.6 miles away, and we bore witness to an emergency situation unfolding in front of us? The day before, many of us had gone to the finish line of the Boston Marathon and, as good tourists, had taken pictures of that place that would be in all the world’s papers the next day.

Scared as we could be during the week, the work went on. We talked a lot, a lot, a lot. And then, we talked some more nike air max 90 on sale.  We laughed and made new good friends. We had participated in activities, we listened to experts, and we shared our own experiences. Our group defined what Protection meant for us, what solutions could lay in design, what kind of problem we were going to target, and what our mission statement was. The five other groups did the same.

We were anxious to talk about our work and accomplishments and to present our prototypes on Friday. And then, another emergency surprised us, now on this side of the Charles River. No subway, bus or taxi services were available. There was no possibility of going back to D-Lab. Authorities recommended that people did not leave their homes.

I am sure that it was a transforming week for everyone. After leaving D-Lab on Saturday afternoon and saying goodbye to our new friends, we all went back home full of ideas, projects, contacts and good feelings, rethought and relieved. Good things are to come.

Participants of Rethink Relief 2013

Participants from 22 nationalities
Participants from 22 nationalities




T.U. Delft 2011

hands2The first Rethink Relief Design summit was held in the Netherlands in TU Delft University in October 2011. It included staff from international organizations (Save the Children, MSF, Caritas), and many professional and student designers.

A hands-on event concept was created in which different stakeholders from the humanitarian aid and design fields would be given an opportunity to interact by sharing and learning with their experiences and to engage in the solution space by developing a holistic approach to technology that considers the transition from emergency response to post-disaster self-sufficiency.

The design process was then compressed and divided along five days as well as translated into knowledge that could be understood by non-designers. The participants had the opportunity to brainstorm and select specific projects matching their interest and were divided into multi-disciplinary teams that were guided through the design process cheap mens nike air max 1, from the initial problem framing through idea generation, experimentation, sketch modelling, concept selection and prototype fabrication. The organizers and external senior designers were invited to facilitate the work of the groups or provide any help when requested.

Impression from Rethink Relief 2011, by participant David Okello

It was October 2011 when I had the opportunity to attend the very first Rethink Relief conference in Delft, Netherlands. It all started with a “heads-on” panel discussion on the challenges of transition from relief to development and ended with “hands-on” design process during the last three days of the five-day conference.

Coming from a project management background, I was not sure if I would be relevant and make any contribution toward the technology design process when the session shifted from “heads-on” to “hands-on.” Our group was assigned to work on rainwater harvesting for the rural resettling community in northern Uganda. It was indeed an amazing process. I learned how systematic and iterative engineers are as they move through the design process and soon, I was as busy as any engineer at a lab.

What I took with me home from the conference is that technology design and innovation is a creation of the mind. And what one needs to develop technology is a creative mind that does not limit its thinking capacity. I also learned that many people normally limit their minds or underestimate their creative capacity and as a result, they convince themselves that “it is impossible,” yet they have the capacity to undo the impossibilities mens new balance 576. I also learned that once the thinking process is grounded to paper, pen, hammer, saws, and drills, the immediate results are prototypes and sooner or later, a technology is born!

Participants of Rethink Relief 2011