Have you heard about Human-centered design? According to IDEO, a global design and innovation firm, a human-centered design is a process that “starts with the people you’re designing for and ends with new solutions that are tailor-made to suit their needs.”  Development practitioners often think they know what the issues are; however, when this assumption proves incorrect, whatever interventions they come up with would not work well. At the heart of the human-centered design is to build deep empathy with the people you are working with.

Utilizing this approach, UNPD Kosovo has been tackling the recurrent issues of waste management and illegal dumps in Municipality of Gjakova in Kosovo since November 2016. Funded by the Slovak Ministry of Finance via Transformative Governance and Finance Facility, this project, titled “Keep it Tidy,” aims to pilot a human-centered solution in Gjakova by engaging all the stakeholders in a joint identification of underlying causes of illegal dumps, formulating solutions and implementing them together with the stakeholders. This process involves not only the “usual suspects”, such as municipal officials and waste collection companies but also the citizens of Gjakova who are directly or indirectly affected by these issues.

The first stakeholder meeting was held in December 2016. Representatives from Municipality, the regional public waste collection company “Cabrati,” and civil society organizations, as well as concerned citizens participated in the meeting in order to jointly identify underlying causes of illegal dumps. We facilitated the discussion, from which the following causes were identified:

Obviously, it would be difficult to address all of these issues in the frame of this project, and therefore, we will select a few and use them as points of discussion for our second stakeholder meeting, which is scheduled to take place on 27 February. We also conducted a quantitative survey and are in the process of developing a sociological study that would enable us to confirm if these causes are representative of the wider population.

The second stakeholder meeting will be a venue for the stakeholders to discuss potential solutions for the identified issues. Again, UNDP will play a facilitator role in applying the human-centered design. If this approach proves to be successful, we are hoping to scale it up and roll out to other municipalities that face similar issues of waste management and illegal dumps. We are also exploring a possibility of crowdsourcing data from this project by developing a web-based as well as a mobile application from which citizens can report illegal dumps and other safety issues in the public. Collected data can be utilized to improve the provision and governance of public services.

We will keep you updated on our progress, so please stay tuned!