I have a very Type A personality and I believe that my unique and effective design process would illustrate this. I like to thoroughly plan things before beginning to work on them and thus I would begin the design process by writing all of my steps out and then creating a prototype to fit these steps. If I realized that it was not possible, feasible, or reasonable to follow the process, I would adapt and change the written plan as I progressed through the project. Once I created my prototype to the best of my ability, I would have other people look at it so that there would be multiple sets of eyes focusing on it and looking for the mistakes that I would not notice. Afterwards, I would make adjustments based on other suggestions and finalize my model. I would keep the written process updated the entire time so I could do it over again following the process if need be.
I will validate my sweet potato cake (or other nutritional supplement if we decide to proceed with a different option) fully once I am on the ground in Sierra Leone. Our muffin is a prototype until we get to Sierra Leone and have children taste test it and until we experience the street markets in Sierra Leone and truly understand the cultural implications on our product. Once we have gotten critiques and made appropriate adjustments, we can update our product in whatever ways are necessary. For example, if the children have a specific complaint about the taste of the sweet potato cakes, we can try to adjust the recipe to make the product more appealing to them. If we notice that the sweet potato cakes are too expensive, we can try to make adjustments to lower the cost. Once we are on the ground working and have different input for our product, we will know that it is sufficient and fits well into the Sierra Leonean culture and markets. We have to make sure that it is understood and fits well within the context.
My philosophy of engagement has its roots in respect and meeting a community on their own level to interact. I believe that knowing your own strengths, weaknesses, and hesitations are important to interacting with any community. It is also important to note and acknowledge similarities and differences between you and the community you want to engage with. Acknowledging differences is a form of respect and will allow for more meaningful engagement. I plan on doing this in Sierra Leone in order to successfully implement our sweet potato cakes and get children interested in them. Meaningful engagement with a community also involves respecting them and not making them feel like victims to a problem going on around them. Engagement is empowering people to be in control of their lives and situations in order to better themselves. This will ne important in Sierra Leone as well. Child malnutrition is a crisis but we do not want the children to feel like helpless victims. We want to help them get the resources they need in order to reverse malnutrition, rather than just handing them a sweet potato cake and telling them that it is a cure all for their problem. It is important to give them the tools to help themselves as a form of respect and real community engagement. Another form of engagement and empowerment is making sure that communities feel like their voices are being heard, listened to, and understood. Ultimately, we are starting initiatives to help others and we want to make sure that they are being helped in the ways that they want to be helped. We do not want to force anything on anybody, as forcing somebody to do something or accept something would be disengagement.