Development interventions often fail to deliver sustained, transformational outcomes to households and communities. The field of design has demonstrated its capacity to deliver designed artifacts  that enhance the livelihoods and well-being of people living in resource poor communities, but it remains unclear how its tools can contribute to interventions seeking multidimensional and transformational development outcomes.

The authors present insights from two case studies, conducted in Kenya and Uganda, where a service design approach was applied to the design of two development interventions: a clean cookstove and fuel system, and an innovative insurance product to help farmers cope with climate variability.

In both cases, experience mapping, archetype construction, and prototyping served to reveal individual needs, capacities, and values, and enabled the translation of this information into design features for the interventions. Using Amartya Sen’s capabilities approach as an ex post analytical frame, the authors show how these devices could guide designers seeking to deliver transformational development outcomes when co-designing services that aim for environmental sustainability and social well-being among low-income communities.

  • A capabilities frame can enhance the design of multidimensional poverty reducing measures.
  • Archetypes, prototypes, and experience mapping are design devices that can support capabilities framing.
  • These design devices capture and translate local complexity and diverse needs.
  • These design devices can, thus, facilitate local participation in development planning.