Creative Capacity Building

Creative Capacity Building (CCB) is at the core of D-Lab's approach to international development and is central to our work at MIT and in the field.

The goal of CCB is to train participants to create or adapt technologies that will improve their lives and strengthen their communities. By distilling key elements of the design process into a hands-on curriculum that is accessible at any educational level, CCB presents a framework through which anyone can become an active creator of technology, not just a recipient or user of technology.

Creative Capacity Building suggests that the underlying principles of co-creation and crowd-sourcing-- typically applied to computer software development, corporate management, or high-end product design --can also be relevant to technology innovations aimed at ending poverty. This is only possible when the conditions exist for full participation in the entire design process by the people for whom these technologies are intended, which means investing in strategies that increase local capacity and support local innovation. At present, there are three main approaches to D-Lab's implementation of Creative Capacity Building: Village-level training; Community Innovation Centers; and the International Development Design Summit.


Village-Level Training

A multi-day, hands-on skills-building workshop that introduces the design process to community members, regardless of their educational background.

  • Participants work collaboratively to develop technologies to meet their needs and/or to generate income.
  • Groups expand their manufacturing capabilities by making tools that enable them to produce more technologies.
  • Participants, both male and female, are challenged to produce, repair and adapt technologies.
  • Group members begin to view technology as a vehicle for recalibrating gender-based workload imbalances.

Community Innovation Centers

An integrated workshop, demonstration site, training center, and retail shop for appropriate technologies in a centralized site, augmented by small, satellite workshops in surrounding villages. Each technology center aims to be a place where people can learn, make, buy and sell a:

  • Workshop where materials and tools to design and build projects are accessible
  • Demonstration site where different appropriate technologies are actively in use
  • Training center for ongoing CCB skills building and sector specific training
  • Business incubator to provide resources for entrepreneurs starting businesses based on livelihood technologies
  • Showcase where technologies are sold, including weekly or monthly markets where groups and individuals from surrounding communities can share ideas and sell their technologies

International Development Design Summit

An annual, multi-week, hands-on design experience that brings together students and teachers, economists and engineers, professors and pastors, masons and mechanics, doctors, welders, farmers, and community organizers from more than 20 countries to create technologies and enterprises that improve the lives of people living in poverty. Unlike most academic conferences, IDDS produces prototypes, not papers; all participants are taught basic design and venture principles through a curriculum that is much more extensive than the CCB curriculum, and then work in interdisciplinary teams on design challenges in agriculture, energy, health, WATSAN, and education. Special focus is placed on developing designs in partnership with local communities and on linking technologies to economically sustainable models. The CCB curriculum is a useful tool for IDDS organizers as they seek to engage a broad range of community members both during and after the summit so that projects are deeply informed by, and embedded in, local contexts. Wherever a summit is hosted, local community members are often invited to participate in 3-4 day CCB trainings in order to become familiar with the design process and, thereby, to be able to work more collaboratively with IDDS design teams. For more information about summits, please visit the IDDS website.