Collaborative Grain Storage System (CGSS) : Cultivating flood resilience and well-being through circular economy

Project Synopsis:

With an intention to design to cultivate well-being through circular economy, this project frames a holistic design thinking on circular economic principles, ideates design-for-circular-economy method cards for idea generation, and engages into design intervention through a six phase design process to develop a system of collaborative grain storage and service for the annually flood prone communities of the Brahmaputra valley in the state of Assam, India.

The proceedings of this project can be treated as a case study for engaging into social design projects with holistic design thinking as its foundation. The project also inherently brings forward the life and days of the annually flood prone communities of Assam, India, who experience extreme vulnerability, threatening a sustainable lifestyle and scope for socio-economic development.

This project aims to explore how circular economy and circular economic principles can facilitate design to cultivate well-being in the society, more than merely creating revenue by managing and optimizing the waste streams of a process or a system. To explore, contextualize and develop the same, the project studies the current lifestyle patterns and scenarios of the annually flood-prone communities of Assam, in India, and conceptualizes a social entrepreneurial model of Collaborative Grain Storage System (CGSS) to facilitate flood resilience along with social and household well-being.

The villages in the Brahmaputra Valley of Assam experience floods, annually, that leads to basic need deprivation, impoverishment, weakness and extreme social, physiological and cognitive vulnerability to all the affected families. The Joint Needs Assessment Report1 for Assam Floods 2017, issued by IAG Assam post second instance of floods in July 2017, reported that 17, 43,119 populations across 26 districts were affected and 86,223.19 hectares of crop area were destroyed. The report further stated that analysis of the sector on food security and livelihood has shown that 56% of the affected people have food availability for less than a week and 34% of the people have reported availability of food for a period of 1-3 weeks, making over 90% of the affected people without access to food after three weeks.

Being exposed to annual threat of unavailability of basic resources— food, drinkable water, energy, housing, sanitation and mobility, the flood prone communities, in the absence of adequate and permanent flood resilience systems, have been dependent on external aid for relief and rehabilitation. This dependency has reduced the overall desire and capability for self-reliance and the community’s overall resilience to cope with such situations of emergency.

This project maps and conceptualizes a systemic design intervention framework to cultivate desirability for change, counter behavioural dilemmas and integrate circular economic principles as the basis for facilitating designing of an ecosystem of well-being. The designed system of CGSS is intended to facilitate self-reliance and enhance social sustainability of the local communities, by preserving crop seeds and grain stock for emergency scenarios as well as regular times, incentivizing shared-consumption and promoting shift-to-renewable-energy for agro-processing needs through service models, and introducing digitization of transactions to facilitate informed decision making along with mitigating speculative and prevalent issues of corruption.

Section A compiles the concepts of holistic design thinking, design for circular economy and design for well-being to generate an overall understanding of the envisioned system. Section B studies the physical, social and behavioural problems, and compiled various contextual opportunities for circular economic design intervention for the flood prone communities. A framework for systemic design intervention was further created for cultivating an ecosystem of well-being living for the communities. Section C develops a social entrepreneurial model of Collaborative Grain Storage System to facilitate self-reliance and enhance social sustainability of the community, by preserving seed and grain stock for emergency scenarios as well as regular times, providing informed best-price channels for grain sale and buy, and promoting shift-to-renewable-energy for agro-processing needs through service models. The system also introduces a digital platform – CGSS Customer Portal, to aid informed decision making by monitoring transactions and plan the consumption of produced farm stock for maximizing revenue that can be earned, as well as maintain household well-being by stocking optimal grain stock for consumption.

Combining four directions of DfCE (Design for Circular Economy) – namely preservation of capital stock, visualization through digitization, and promotion of shift-to-renewables and collaborative behaviour, CE intends to create a self sustainable well-being ecosystem that appreciates both individual and societal well-being by creating local livelihood opportunities, household wealth, safe environment and prevent wastage or loss of harvested farm produce.

Success of this project would create a regenerative and resilient village that is well-aware, socially sustainable and proactive to and appreciative of local innovations.

CE design has enormous potentials. Effective implementation of CE behaviour today in terms of collaborative / shared services that generate higher numbers of livelihood opportunities and effective user experiences, and adaptation of renewable energy sources that reflect visibly on household expenditures, within the contextual constraints will make India evolve to a more resource effective system.

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