The what, why, and how — Proposal Development

In the previous blog, I discussed my reasons for choosing mental health as my focus. But, mental health is a huge subject in itself. With so many opportunities in this area where none can be taken for granted, it was difficult for me to choose a very specific direction. So to narrow down my choices, I participated in an external project organized by the college. The project by Vuslat Foundation aimed to design a toolkit for all, to make generous listening to oneself, to others, and to nature a norm of human connectedness. This project was especially interesting for me because it talked not just about being good listeners in the presence of others but being a good listener for yourself. Another reason was that they defined listening as not being about ‘hearing’ (the use of auditory senses) but about engaging with your mind and heart, which made it all-inclusive. There were three sessions in total and the sessions involved finding ways to help people generously listen. They identified the listening barriers and divided us into three groups: education, youth, and everyday life. Over time, the areas of focus, age groups, design direction, etc. molded to specifics and several ideas emerged, however, something that really stood out for me was the talks around the importance of silence and the powerful connections it creates.

As defined by Krista Tippett, in one of her talks on the art of generous listening. “Listening is a basic social art where I think of social art as spiritual technology.” But with ‘silence’ in the room, how do we generously listen? Silence usually brings with it, awkwardness and uncomfortability where we are constantly trying to fill it. But what if we avoided that and embraced the silence? Since I was a child, I was always fascinated by the stories of ‘Sadhus’ traveling for days to reach a mountain and then just live there on their own in silence. I always thought of it as absurd but what if that was the simple solution to most of our problems? Listening requires practice. Just as our body needs to be trained to be healthy, our brain muscles also need to be trained for us to be generous listeners. What if all our minds needed was some time out to reflect and make better decisions? All these questions attracted me to this area of focus and with the help of the Vuslat foundation, I would like to work towards finding ways to help people embrace silence.

What are the next steps?

Our course leader introduced us to three frameworks of methodologies namely:

  1. Frayling’s framework: where he tried to understand research from the context of art and design. (Bernardo, 2017) He talked about three types of methods — research into the design (researching how to design), research through design (design is a part of the research), and research for design (research to inform the design) (Frayling, 1993)
  2. Cross’s framework: where he focused on the knowledge that resided in people (design epistemology), processes (design praxeology), and products (design phenomenology). Here, he talks about research on the basis of studying how designers interact with people, processes and products. (Cross, 1999)
  3. Fallman’s framework: which is more focused on interaction design research, including academic research (Design Studies), knowledge gained through practice-based approach or How might we (Design Practice) and knowledge gained through explorations or What if (Design Exploration) (Fallman, 2008)

Based on these, the design practice methodology described by Fallman in his framework would prove very useful for me to move forward. Since I aim to see the impact and not to explore or reflect, this approach would help me design, test, and develop the project quicker.

  1. The double diamond method would help me gain a thorough understanding of the subject and help me better organize the process through four stages: Discover (Primary/Secondary research), Define (Scope and focus), Develop (Brainstorming ideas) and Deliver (Testing and iterations).
  2. Since my project entirely focuses on humans and their behaviours, a participatory design method such as co-designing would increase the involvement of the stakeholders and amplify the voices of the participants.
  3. I would also like to use this opportunity to either participate in various programs as a participant and research through self-reflections or shadow experts to understand the processes. This would help me collect qualitative data and understand cultural experiences firsthand. It would also help me gain a deeper understanding of different roles, functions, limitations, etc.

A few days back I was also introduced to the GROW model by my mentor to set future goals. The 4 steps model helped me get a clear perspective about my plans and helped me look forward and reflect. I would like to use this model to help me do the same for my major project.

Since we are at the phase where we are still working towards our final direction, all these three approaches and methods together would make my research more holistic by helping me get a clear understanding of the people, practices, behaviours, etc. In the future, I might filter them down, but currently, a zoomed-out perspective could help me create a bigger and better picture.

References

Bernardo, F. (2017, Nov 14). Christopher Frayling’s “Research in Art and Design” review. Available at: https://franciscobernardo.medium.com/review-of-research-in-art-and-design-by-christopher-frayling-e1b971d8cf3 (Accessed: May 20, 2021)

Cross, N. (1999). Design research: A disciplined conversation. Design Issues, 15(2), 5–10. from http://design.open.ac.uk/cross/documents/DesignResearch.pdf

Fallman, D. (2008). The interaction design research triangle of design practice, design studies and design exploration. Design Issues, 24(3), 4–18.

Frayling, C. (1993). Research in art and design. RCA Research Papers, 1(1).

Talks at Google. (2019, Feb 20). The Art of Generous Listening: Krista Tippett. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J5W36VWNd9E&t=436s (Accessed: May 20, 2021)

Training Industry. (2019, Oct 3). The GROW Model for Coaching: Coaching Essentials and guide. Available at: https://trainingindustry.in/the-grow-model-for-coaching-coaching-essentials-and-guide/ (Accessed: May 20, 2021)