Economic development as design: Insight and guidance through the PSI framework

Eswaran Subrahmanian, Claudia Eckert, Christopher Alan McMahon, Yoram Reich

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingArticle in proceedingsResearchpeer-review


    Economic development is aimed at improving the lives of people in the developing world, and needs to be carried out with design at its heart, but this has often not been the case. This paper first reviews dominant approaches to economic development including the use of subsidies or the creation of markets and demand and the testing of initiatives using randomized control trials. It then introduces ‘development engineering’ as a representative engineering design approach to engineering and technology in development before presenting the view that successful development needs to involve continual learning through innovation in context. The PSI (problem social institutional) framework is presented as a basis for guiding such development as a design activity, and its application is illustrated using examples from India of the unsuccessful introduction of new cooking stoves and then both successful and unsuccessful approaches to rural electrification. A 2-level approach to PSI is taken, in which the lower level represents daily operation of communities and the 2nd level represents the development project including addressing misalignments between the different PSI spaces and levels.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationProceedings of the 21st International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED 17) : Resource Sensitive Design, Design Research Applications and Case Studies
    EditorsAnja Maier, Stanko Škec, Harrison Kim, Michael Kokkolaras, Josef Oehmen, Georges Fadel, Filippo Salustri, Mike Van der Loos
    PublisherDesign Society
    Publication date2017
    ISBN (Electronic)978-1-904670-89-6
    Publication statusPublished - 2017
    Event21th International Conference on Engineering Design - The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
    Duration: 21 Aug 201725 Aug 2017


    Conference21th International Conference on Engineering Design
    LocationThe University of British Columbia
    Internet address


    • Design theory
    • Social responsibility
    • Participatory design
    • Economic development


    Dive into the research topics of 'Economic development as design: Insight and guidance through the PSI framework'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this