COEVOLVE: a design journey towards more inclusive and circular medical practices
28 Jun 2021
Master thesis by Jard van Lent
Watch the video learn about the project here.
The industry devoted to keeping us healthy is also one of the largest contributors to climate change: one of the greatest threats to our well-being. Medical devices and services are often designed in and for high-income countries. However, they are also used in low- and middle-income countries. Due to this mismatch of context, they are often not functioning properly in these emerging markets. This results in a lack of proper healthcare and a large (e-)waste problem in countries where the majority of the world’s population resides. This aforementioned situation asks for the next generation of medical practices: innovations targeting the large global need for healthcare. This thesis explores the three design domains Medical, Inclusive, and Circular Design simultaneously for the first time. The answer to the stated research question is found through an extensive exploratory literature review, many low- and high-fidelity prototypes, interviews, and test sessions. An iterative design process led to (1) creating a theoretical model that provides a structured, understandable, and descriptive design journey, and (2) a physical toolkit to offer a low-barrier, engaging and memorable usage of this model. The final concept is the COEVOLVE toolkit which includes the COEVOLVE approach. This approach provides grip on the process of redesigning a medical practice more inclusive and circular. The intrinsic value of a medical device/service increases by being beneficial to the planet and being prosperous to people. Likewise, the concept encourages designers in education to change their mindsets to tackle our future challenges. The developed theoretical model provides design students with a design process fulfilling their ambition to have an impact. It aids in exploring the different perspectives needed, creating awareness of the life cycle of a medical device/service, and finding opportunities that emerge to improve its circularity and inclusivity. Likewise, the model facilitates the exploration of trade-offs necessary to design a more inclusive and circular medical device/service, for a specific context of use.
The model was tested by facilitating two workshops with design students which confirmed the impact of the model. However, the participants of the workshop also expressed that simultaneously addressing the three design domains is perceived as overwhelming. Hence, its usage needs to be as understandable as possible and, to effectuate the mindset, memorable as well. Thus, the model was transformed into the COEVOLVE toolkit. This toolkit provides the next generation designers with a fun and collaborative way to engage with the complexity and uncertainty of designing medical practices more inclusive and circular. The toolkit consists of an understandable and engaging Design Guide and a series of canvases. Furthermore, it includes Inclusivity and Circularity Card Decks, which encourage new ideas in a homogeneously thinking group, and a Circled Map, a physical experience resembling the complexity of the COEVOLVE approach. The COEVOLVE toolkit, developed for modular usage globally, encourages dialogue and discussion. Multiple evaluation activities with design students and experts were conducted, and the outcome was clear: the impact of the model and the toolkit on its users can be guaranteed.
You can find the thesis report here.