Publishing & Appearances

Under 25 Summit Panel Discussion

Principal & Communications Lead Kevin Shane was part of a panel discussion on “Design for Social Impact” at the Under 25 Summit, India’s largest youth festival. Leaning on his experiences working in the development and humanitarian sectors, Kevin highlighted the key role of the design thinking process in driving both innovation and impact in the work Quicksand does.

Channel News Asia’s “Field Guide to Innovation”

Senior Design Researcher Rikta Krishnaswamy was featured in Channel News Asia’s premiere episode of the series “Field Guide to Innovation”. Along with our partners on the project, Rikta discussed our recent work in Cambodia to reduce the use of plastic bags in the country, whilst also advocating for a human-centered approach to designing new, innovative solutions to longstanding problems and challenges.

Scotland Design Sprint

Babitha recently participated in a design Sprint in the beautiful Scottish village of Anstruther on the Fife coast. The sprint was anchored by Mozilla Foundation and Prof. Jon Rogers of University of Dundee, to explore open IoT, especially in the rural context of this Scottish fishing village. 

The sprint brought together artists, technologists, makers, designers, researchers and others from all over the world for a week to simultaneously learn from fishermen, farmers and teens in the village and to then think of IoT products and stories that sought to build on this understanding. While most such endeavours tend to be focused around the same-ness of city living, the week in Anstruther yielded rich learnings for the whole group. It also provided an alternate way of thinking about innovation, in a slower, more deliberate, thoughtful manner that is an important counter-point to the pace and approach of hackathons. 

The sprint was also the third in a series of events that kicked off with the UnBox Caravan at NID in February 2016. 

To read more about some of the projects that emerged from this sprint + other events: https://github.com/openiotstudio 
A book that offers a glimpse of the week: https://issuu.com/tommyperman/docs/oiot-digitalbook/1

Boatcamp 2016: A Social Entrepreneurship Workshop at Sea

Building on our relationship after working together on our plastic bag project, Excess Baggage, Fondazione ACRA engaged Quicksand to facilitate one of the working groups on Boatcamp - a four-day workshop for budding social entrepreneurs. Boatcamp took place in the context of a cruise between Rome and Barcelona, and addressed the unique problems faced by eight business cases identified internationally from a diverse range of contexts. Fondazione ACRA - in association with OPES Impact Fund and Compagnia Di San Paulo - invited over 300 participants, established mentors and expert speakers in social entrepreneurship to innovate on the development of sustainable high-impact business models.

Quicksand was asked to facilitate the leadership of the groups addressing one of these eight business cases. We worked with social entrepreneur, Biko Evarist, to analyse the unique problems facing his business, Education and Entrepreneurship (E & E) - an educational organisation to support young people in rural Tanzania who had missed opportunities to continue their learning beyond the age of 13. Rishabh and Tom worked with Biko and their 34 allocated participants to study Biko's business case, deconstructing it collectively, identifying high-impact areas for improvement and reconstructing the business case as a compelling story attractive to potential funders.

In addressing the challenges facing E & E, the team were fortunate in being able to make use of the expertise of experts such as Jack Sim from the World Toilet Association and Martin Burt from Fundacion Paraguay. Following E & E's board meeting the day after returning to land, Biko reported that the company has received follow on funding to continue the expansion of their operation.

Brown Paper Bag Presentation, World Bank: Using Human Centered Design to Address Development Challenges

With international development facing increasingly complex challenges deeply dependent on a web of inter-connected issues pertaining to behavior change, technology and policy, approaching these problems with the right framework is essential for global development actors. Human Centered-Design is a tool that can help bring the human perspective to the design and planning of holistic, innovative programs focused on basic service delivery such as healthcare, sanitation or waste management. Ayush presented Human Centered Design as a tool to address some of the most pressing development challenges, pulling examples from healthcare, water and sanitation, and waste management. Case studies included rethinking sanitation services in urban slums in India, improving diagnostics for detecting malnutrition in the remote parts of war-torn South Sudan and reducing plastic bag waste in one of the fastest growing economies of the Indochina region, Cambodia. The presentation was followed by a discussion on the existing World Bank projects involving an innovation mandate in a variety of areas.

Workshop on Speculative Futures, Government and Policy Strategy Conference, Insitute of Design, IIT Chicago

The need for reform within governments and public institutions across the world has never been more acute. As the relationship between the governing and the governed gets re-balanced, governments are forced to think of new ways of delivering on services that are more responsive to an even more demanding electorate. This is especially true of emerging economies of South and South East Asia, where the scale of developmental challenges that beset nations, is grossly mismatched by the knowledge and capacities that public institutions have to address those. While Governments take stock of this widening gap between expectations and their capacity to deliver, other developments in the field of social innovation, technology and media point to new ways in which these challenges may be overcome.


Ayush hosted a workshop at the Strategy Conference to examine some pertinent challenges of our times whether it pertains to health, environment, financial inclusion, energy or food security. Participants were asked to reflect on a diverse set of issues and challenges from their respective contexts. Through an exercise of design fiction (modeled on Stuart Candy's Reverse Archaeoology and Time Machine), and taking inspiration from the opening session of the conference on trends shaping our societies today, the group arrived at speculative futures that demonstrate how potential solutions reposition and reimagine the role of governments vis-a-vis the general public.
SIX Summer School - Mumbai

Principal and Communications Lead Kevin Shane was part of an expert panel at the SIX Summer School in Mumbai which discussed innovation in the water and sanitation space, both in India and globally. Using Quicksand's work in the space, specifically the Potty Project and Project Sammaan, Kevin shared the challenges inherent in experimenting and innovating in a context fraught with challenges and one that affects billions of people around the world. The panel featured representatives from around the world, and stressed the need for collaboration across all stakeholders to develop solutions that are sustainable in the long-term and implementable in the short-term. An annual event, SIX Summer Schools bring together leading social innovation thinkers and practitioners from across the world to explore some of the key issues facing the field – such as scaling and innovation in crisis settings.

University of Chicago IIC Annual Workshop

Co-founder Ayush Chauhan spoke at the annual workshop of the University of Chicago Center in Delhi commemorating the graduating class of International Innovation Corps, a year long fellowship program that sends top student talent to work with Indian government on critical development problems. Ayush's panel was on Last Mile Connectivity focusing on how successfully piloted solutions and interventions can be effectively rolled out and adopted across the target audience.

Ayush led by saying that the design of good quality, sustainable pilots required program teams to champion the last mile - that moment of truth when all the careful deliberation on systems, policy and enabling institutions meets the consumer. Using Quicksand's work on the direct benefit transfers project and the urban sanitation project as examples, he demonstrated how an ostensibly powerful, transformative public policy begins to break down when no one champions the end-user.

After sharing a few observations from the two projects, Ayush spoke of the value of human centered design (HCD) as an approach to work through these very challenges, highlighting three core aspects of HCD:

- Understand end-user experience (to integrate people centered research as a part of one's personal repertoire of skills and tools and not relegate it to commissioned studies)

- Co-create solutions (learn to involve stakeholders early on from a wide spectrum of specializations no matter how ambiguous and unclear the problem may be at the moment)

- Make prototyping and testing a continuous part of the process (move it out of the domain of just pilots and make it a part of program scale up and implementation as well)
BonaResponds Podcast

Communications Lead and Business Head (U.S. Operations) Kevin Shane was the guest host of St. Bonaventure University's BonaResponds podcast. Kevin, a St. Bona alumnus, spoke about his experiences living and working overseas, his role in the innovative, design-led sanitation initiative Project Sammaan, and his activities supporting an upcoming cultural exchange program that will bring 20 college students from Haiti to the United States.

Listen to the full podcast here or download it for free via BonaResponds' channel on iTunes.
UnBox PopUp in London

After a bit of a breather post the festival in December 2014, UnBox got back into action with a PopUp event in London at the Institute of Contemporary Arts. With the support of the Arts and Humanities Research Council UK, UnBox brought together friends and partners in the UK. At a closed roundtable, AHRC and UnBox invited selected partners to discuss collaborative opportunities in the emerging cultural landscape of India. Diverse individuals and institutions came together for the discussions, moderated by UnBox advisor John Thackara and reaffirmed our belief in continuing to explore the vast landscape of multidisciplinary possibilities between the UK and India. Following this, a public showcase brought together several projects incubated at the UnBox Fellowships 2013 and the UnBox LABS 2014. This was followed by open discussions and conversations. The evening wound up in true UnBox style with food, drink and a showcase from BLOT!, of some of their recent projects, including the Medicine Corner.

Future for Indo-Dutch Collaborations

Partners Avinash and Neha participated in a meeting with DutchCulture, centre for international cooperation, NL to discuss future collaborations around Unbox. The Unbox team shared emerging theme in India, which are ripe for creative collaboration. The visit also included meetings and discussions with creative studios such as Waag Society, AGA, TransArtists amongst others, the purpose of which was to start conversations on platforms and formats of collaboration on said themes. One of the key outcomes of the visit was the decision to hold an Unbox Pop-Up in Amsterdam in Sept-Oct this year, to bring together the Unbox team and Dutch creatives and cultural agencies to finalise formats for collaboration.

Tufts University: Archimedes Project

Kevin was a guest speaker at the Tufts University Ideation Lab as part of the Archimedes Project, a social enterprise that ideates, incubates, and launches sustainable, scalable social enterprises around the world that leverage existing novel technologies to improve access to clean water and sanitation, fighting associated waterborne disease. Kevin was featured as one of the sanitation experts and presented Quicksand's work on the Potty Project and Project Sammaan, converting Quicksand's real-world experiences into case studies to help ensure long-term sustainability and successful implementation of students' social ventures that emerge from the lab.

University of Chicago Sanitation Panel

Ayush participated in a panel discussion on "Integrating Design in WASH Projects" as part of a convening on " Clean India: Stimulating Behavior Change and Usage", hosted by University of Chicago Center New Delhi.

Sanitation is a complex social and developmental challenge to tackle, and a conversation about a transformational shift in the sector - making our cities and villages open defecation free - is not complete without addressing issues around infrastructure creation, technology, operations and maintenance, business model, communication, behavior change, political will, policy environment, and finally private and public sector capacities.

Ayush stressed the need for including the fundamental issue of design, whether it is the design of toilet building and technology, design of business models, or the design of a long term operating model, and the fact that the application of this core skill in making the experience of the end-user one that could prompt or support a behavior change is often compromised.

The 2015 Core77 Design Awards

Babitha was a Jury Team member in the Design for Social Impact category of the 2015 Core77 Design Awards, which honors the most innovative, creative and forward thinking design projects every year. The jury captain for Design for Social Impact was design thinking and sustainability expert John Thackara (Director, Doors of Perception), and he had Babitha on his team along with Gill Wildman (Co-founder and Principal at Plot London) and Dr. Mathilda Tham (Design Professor at Linnaeus University, Sweden).

The Core77 Design Awards (in its 5th year) is a celebration of excellence in all areas of design. The program enlists an international jury of design experts to honor those who present creative, innovative and forward-thinking designs across 14 traditional and progressive categories. Students and professionals alike are invited to enter their work so that established, as well as up-and-coming designers can gain visibility and recognition from the global design community. Winners of the Core77 Design Awards receive yearlong publicity across the Core77 network, a trophy, and free entrance to the 2015 Core77 Conference. Winners will be announced by June 2015.

The Goa Project

Quicksand's Shiraz Iqbal was invited to speak at The Goa Project, an "unconference" that included performance artists, filmmakers, entrepreneurs, businesspeople, hackers, activists, market researchers, and more. At one of the design sessions, Shiraz spoke about user-centered design, questioning the rationale behind having rigid inflexible processes in place for research and the popular persona fetish within the practice. The talk eventually evolved into a discussion about how humans are social creatures, and the way in which we use language to share experiences/ideas affects how we see and interpret the same; it became about how we close ourselves off to possibilities when we use language without considering the things that have not been said out loud.

News X Budget Special Panel Discussion

Quicksand's co-founder, Ayush Chauhan, was invited by NewsX, a national television broadcast channel, to speak on a panel on what the youth of the country can expect from Government of India's financial budget for 2015. Representing social entrepreneurs, Ayush spoke about how social change and development was still the biggest area of impact for India in the future and the largest mandate for steering it was still with the government. Reflecting on the current government's call to action to provide "maximum governance, minimum government", Ayush emphasized the need to create an enabling environment for the youth to engage with issues of governance and help drive innovation in this sector.

Seekh Workshop at MIT Institute of Design

Rikta Krishnaswamy, Design Researcher at Quicksand, was asked to participate at Seekh, a platform seeking to impart knowledge and experiences within and beyond the student's academic education at MIT Institute of Design, Pune. She led a day-long workshop on 'A Designer's Guide to People Watching' - a quick dive into practical and actionable tools that employ stories from everyday lives of people, to create design that is valuable and meaningful.

St. Bonaventure University Alumnus Lecture on Global Citizenship

Quicksand's Communications Lead and Business Head (U.S. Operations) Kevin Shane led a videoconference with students at his alma mater St. Bonaventure University on global citizenship, specifically the importance of understanding the impact a global economy has on all participants. Through the use of specific case studies and his experiences living and working in different international contexts, the focus was to explore the notion of ethical production (and consumption) in real-world settings.

WISE Learner’s Voice Workshop on Leadership and Communication (Doha, Qatar)

The Yale World Fellows program was invited by Qatar Foundation to conduct a week long workshop on global leadership and communication for young change makers selected as part of its fellowship program - WISE Learner's Voice. As a Yale World Fellow from 2012, Ayush joined a team of five other colleagues from Yale to facilitate an intense, hands-on workshop for around 30 aspiring social entrepreneurs in Doha, Qatar. The workshop focused on issues around leadership, team-work, inter cultural communications, ideation, brainstorming and collaboration. Part experiential, part theory, the Yale World Fellows became a sounding board for the young fellows to bounce of their ideas, anxieties and aspirations.

Urban Sanitation Strategy Development Forum

Quicksand's Kevin Shane was invited to participate in a state-level ideation session to help Housing & Urban Development Department in India's Odisha develop a septage strategy for small and medium size cities and towns. The session was chaired by the H&UD Commissioner and featured sanitation practitioners from organizations such as the World Bank's Water and Sanitation Programme, Sulabh International, Japan International Cooperation Agency, Practical Action, as well as senior-level government officials from the state's Water Supply & Sewerage Board and Public Health Department. The group developed a list of practical, yet innovative approaches that will be piloted in several cities across Odisha.

Design x Design

The Design x Design roundtable is an ongoing, open forum hosted by Alliance Francaise, New Delhi for sharing of ideas, experiences and opinions about topical design issues. The fifth roundtable of Design X Design explored the linkages between design and governance. Quicksand co-founder, director Ayush Chauhan was invited to the panel titled 'Designer Sarkar' - Design of governance and the governance of design, alongside Jagan Shah (National Institute for Urban Affairs), Paromita Roy (Unified Traffic and Transport Infrastructure Center), Yamini Aiyer (Center for Policy Research) and Madhav Raman (Anagram Architects).

Design Thinking Workshop

In collaboration with fuelfor, a Singapore based design and innovation consultancy, Quicksand anchored a 5-day workshop on design thinking for professionals from the healthcare industry in Singapore. This workshop was part of Design Singapore's flagship initiative called DTIA (Design Thinking and Innovation Academy) - a program to develop design-driven innovation capabilities in private and public sectors for productivity, competitiveness and sustainable growth. Quicksand led a team from Welch Allyn, a global medical equipment company, to apply these skills in envisioning a new pre-screening eye care service for the elderly in Singapore.

DIY at CSM/RCA London

As part of Social Design Talks hosted by Central Saint Martins and Royal College of Art, London, Quicksand along with our partners STBY, London and client Nesta, was invited to share the experience of researching and designing Development Impact and You - a toolkit to help people working in development to invent, adopt or adapt ideas that can deliver better results. The talk focused on a collaborative approach to research, development and design – which included co-design and international user testing across four continents.

Reinvent the Toilet Fair (Delhi)

In the second edition of the fair (the first was in Seattle in August 2012), more than 700 participants from about 47 countries gathered to discuss how to bring safe sanitation to the 2.5 billion people who lack access to it. The fair in India was co-hosted by the Government of India's Department of Biotechnology and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, with the support of India's Ministry of Urban Development, and it showcased innovative products and approaches from various Gates Foundation grantees from across the world that aim to bring safe, affordable and sustainable sanitation to those who need it most.

The fair showcased prototypes from several of the research grantees of the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge, where innovative approaches are being used for the safe and sustainable management of human waste. In addition to these there were also several other projects from other investment areas of the Gates Foundation's Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Program – Urban Sanitation Markets, Building Demand for Sanitation, Policy & Advocacy, Monitoring & Evaluation. As part of this, Project Sammaan was also showcased at the fair by Quicksand.

Bihar Innovation Forum

Quicksand co-founder and director, Ayush Chauhan, was invited to be a part of the jury panel to select the winning innovations at Bihar Innovation Forum - a platform set up jointly by Bihar Rural Livelihoods Society and Bihar State Innovations Council to identify and support grassroot innovators from across the state in areas like agriculture, livestock, farming, horticulture etc. Out of a total of 1700+ grassroot innovations selected, 173 were shortlisted and 5 winners were eventually selected by the jury. The eventual aim of the platform is to codify these innovations and help entrepreneurs take them to scale through government supported programs.

Grand Challenges Explorations

Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE), an extension of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, supports hundreds of scientists and early-stage research projects by funding innovative ideas that could lead to new vaccines, diagnostics, drugs, and other technologies having potential for great social impact. As of Fall 2013, the foundation has committed over $130 million in funding support to various projects. By virtue of its continued work in the sanitation sector since 2010, Quicksand has been invited to be on the jury for three successive rounds of sanitation related GCE proposals in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

SuSana Expert Discussion on Urban Sanitation

The Sustainable Sanitation Alliance (SuSanA) is an open international alliance with members who share a common vision on sustainable sanitation and are dedicated to understanding viable and sustainable sanitation solutions. As part of its efforts to afford more visibility and create opportunities for collaboration amongst sanitation practitioners around the world, SuSanA hosts webinars with select experts and an invited audience. Quicksand was invited for a webinar on “Innovative sanitation solutions for urban areas" to share its work in urban community toilets.

Papanek Symposium

Quicksand was invited to the Papanek Symposium in 2013 to present and talk about the challenges of attempting to provide 'design solutions' for social challenges in the real world. The symposium brought together international experts from China, Europe, India, Singapore, and the US, to examine the social and political imperative of design in emerging economies. Quicksand partner Babitha George touched upon learnings from extensive work in urban sanitation and talked about challenges in working with the government, in large scale solutions that impact lives of the poor as well as the importance of listening to and understanding from users.

Project Sammaan at Yale University

The Yale University School of Management Integrated Curriculum teaches management by drawing on the complexities of real business challenges to inform broad-reaching discussion and analysis. Project Sammaan was selected as on of the case studies due to its uniqueness as a design-driven, innovative initiative: in scope, its inherent challenges, the number of stakeholders involved, the scale of the sanitation crisis in India, and more. Quicksand communications lead and senior project manager of Sammaan, Kevin Shane, arranged and filmed interviews with all project stakeholders throughout India, facilitated interactions with various government officials in the pilot cities of Bhubaneswar and Cuttack, and led visits to slums to accommodate interactions with community members who will benefit from the Sammaan facilities.

Alumnus Lecture at St. Bonaventure University’s School of Business

The St. Bonaventure University School of Business, in conjunction with the non-profit organization BonaResponds, hosts a lecture series featuring alumni using their degrees in foreign settings and in contexts supporting social development and change. Quicksand communication lead and senior project manager Kevin Shane was invited to speak via video conference to several hundred students about his experience living and working in India, generally, and the sanitation crisis and Project Sammaan's role in addressing it, specifically. Kevin has been asked to deliver another guest lecture in 2014, as well as to participate in a program in 2015 seeking to inspire students to apply their education and skills in new and different contexts.

FES at Yale University

Science to Solutions class at the School of Forestry and Environmental Sciences, Yale University helps students explore the different approaches to understanding and managing complex environmental problems - starting with problem definition and clarity, moving onto the choice of technical, policy, social and other management tools and processes available to address the challenge. Quicksand co-founder, director, Ayush Chauhan, was invited to deliver a guest lecture using the urban community sanitation project, Project Sammaan, as the backdrop. The integrated, systems oriented approach in the project provided a critical reflection point for students as it pertains to sanitation and its environmental impact.

Reinvent the Toilet Fair (Seattle)

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation hosted a two-day Reinvent the Toilet Fair at the foundation's headquarters in Seattle, Washington that brought together participants and grantees from 29 countries, including researchers, designers, investors, advocates, and representatives, working on innovative approaches to sanitation. Quicksand presented Project Sammaan, a prototyping-at-scale sanitation initiative seeking to reimagine and improve the community sanitation ecosystem in India's urban slums through various hardware and software design innovations. Project collateral, artefacts from India's slums, and even a video game were developed, curated, and shared with attendees and sanitation practitioners from around the world over the two-day event.

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WSH) Gender Convening

Quicksand was invited to a workshop on Gender and Sanitation in Washington DC to contribute to an evolving research agenda at the Foundation which lies at the intersection of gender and sanitation services. Drawing from its extensive design research studies on community sanitation in urban slums in India, Quicksand's co­founder, Ayush Chauhan, presented some key learnings and implications for gender sensitive design of communal toilet facilities.