Design for enabling sustainable livelihoods in disadvantaged communities: A case study in Amphoe Phrapradaeng, Samut Prakran Province in Thailand

Peters, S 2011, Design for enabling sustainable livelihoods in disadvantaged communities: A case study in Amphoe Phrapradaeng, Samut Prakran Province in Thailand, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Media and Communication, RMIT University.


Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Design for enabling sustainable livelihoods in disadvantaged communities: A case study in Amphoe Phrapradaeng, Samut Prakran Province in Thailand
Author(s) Peters, S
Year 2011
Abstract This research study was an investigation into the contribution of communication designers as design researchers for enabling sustainability of livelihoods in a community. The objectives were to generate knowledge for the communication design field and also for communities which are seeking sustainable livelihoods. This investigation was guided by three main research questions: what strategies and tools communication designers as design researchers can use to enable themselves and a community to undertake a collaborative investigation; how design researchers use these strategies and tools to achieve research objectives; and what is the contribution of communication designers as design researchers in enabling a community to attain a sustainable livelihood.

This was a collaborative research project involving nineteen people with physical impairments who live in the Samut Prakran province in Thailand. This community was selected as a case study because this research evolved from my previous research which I completed with this group. The previous research marked a significant shift in focus of Thai research projects with this community because it aimed to work with the community to create new solutions to their problems. The solution from *my* previous project was no longer effective; therefore, this community was chosen as an intrinsic case study. Participatory Action Research (PAR) was employed as the research methodology because it allowed researchers and community representatives to have active role in the process. Human-Centred Design (HCD) and Sustainable Livelihood Approach (SLA) were employed as key approaches. The research was constructed around four main workshops targeting four successive stages: 1) reflecting on the previous research which was undertaken with this community in order to clarify the research problems and plan for the next stage; 2) recruiting participants and facilitating them to investigate their own situation and set the livelihood goals that they desired to attain; 3) enabling the participants to create and implement their own ideas to improve their situation; and 4) monitoring the participants as they implemented the project in their community and evaluating the effectiveness of the implementation.

This study had main research outcomes. Firstly, the participating community stated that they had achieved the livelihood goals that they desired. They also devised a complementary income-generating activity which enabled them to continue to improve their capabilities, earn income and reinforce their value in their community and reduce their vulnerability. Secondly, PAR integrated with HCD and combined with SLA were shown to be effective strategies and approaches because they facilitated the transfer of knowledge to the community participants, gave them both incentive and ownership of their ideas and actions, and enabled them to create and pursue their own solutions. These strategies and approaches were not new; however, their effectiveness depended on design researchers having the mindset and behaviour of agents of sustainable change which was a focus and eventual outcome of this study. Finally, the research also demonstrated the benefits of reorientation of the communication designers’ role from that of a solution provider to that of an agent of sustainable change.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Media and Communication
Keyword(s) Communication designers
human-centred design
sustainable livelihood approach
participatory action research
Thailand
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