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What is the best thing designers can do to help the relief effort and rebuilding programme in Haiti?

Provide thinking, not things. Haiti’s urgent problems need inventive solutions using available materials and scarce resources. Spontaneous design is already happening there as people design solutions (big and small) to the immediate challenges of basic living. But longer term, Haiti needs creative minds to get involved in the design of a better society. Design thinking needs to inspire better systems, processes, infrastructures and relationships. The brief: make it fair, sustainable, and rewarding for the people who live there. Haiti is a call to arms for the design community everywhere.

Steve Potts, Director, SHM

Now that the urgent task of recovery and relief is underway, attention must turn to the construction of permanent, earthquake-resistant settlements. This is when architects and engineers can be more useful, and the focus must be in ensuring that non-governmental organisations with knowledge of conditions on the ground are given the best design intelligence and logistical advice possible to promote a sustainable recovery.

Sunand Prasad, Senior partner, Penoyre & Prasad

The underlying tragedy is what design could have done before the disaster. Certainly, designers with organisations such as Architecture for Humanity will help with the redevelopment, but design thinking needs to be applied before earthquakes, tsunamis and terrorist strikes occur. We are good at developing people-centred future scenarios that mitigate risk, so let’s see that same capability applied to the infrastructure, systems, governments and contingency plans necessary to keep us all safer in the first place.

Richard Eisermann, Strategic director, Prospect

Haiti was near-invisible before the crisis, and help will be needed long after the TV crews have gone home. Designers can work with non-governmental organisations to maintain international awareness. With such a fragile infrastructure, co-ordination of aid is a big challenge. Design thinking can help create effective processes and spot opportunities. Informing and involving people is crucial – to find out what people want to know and package it in language and formats that make sense.

Lydia Thornley, Design consultant
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