More Speakers at the next Pecha Kucha Night

This post has been pending for a while now, but I’ve been so busy actually speaking to and meeting with the speakers, that I haven’t had time to actually introduce them! So, without further ado, here are short introductions to a few more of the speakers at our second Pecha Kucha Night at the American Center. I have only spoken with all these people over the phone, and can’t wait to meet them, considering how excellent the conversations have been. All three of these speakers have been working in highly challenging areas and have come up with innovative new ways of addressing the challenge and empowering the community.

Ratnesh Yadav works in Patna, Bihar, as co-founder and COO of Husk Power Systems (HPS), a company that is working to bring electricity to some of India’s hardest to reach off-grid areas. HPS has developed a new kind of power plant that utilizes agricultural waste to produce electricity, and then distributes it to rural households and businesses using a micro-grid system. HPS is unique in that it is the only company in the world to manufacture the plant, produce the energy and then distribute it, completing the cycle. Moreover, they use the waste products from these plants to create more business opportunities. Besides this, there are a whole range of other business and social effects that are indirectly made possible as a result of this new power system. Ratnesh will be speaking on all this and much more in greater detail at the Pecha Kucha, definitely a treat not to be missed for those interested in development initiatives in rural India. And actually, given the recent collapses of two major power grids in India, it might even be worth exploring possibilities of using these new mini-grid systems in urban India as well.

The HPS Power Plant

Kunchok Dorjee is a physician who works with the Tibetan refugee community in Dharamsala, and has been working to eradicate tuberculosis, which has become rampant in the community. We spoke at length about the new, drug-resistant forms of TB that is making a comeback, and about the various community-driven initiatives that they’ve developed to counter its spread. He told me some heart-wrenching stories of some of his patients’ experiences with the disease as well as some far more positive ones of how community efforts can substantially contribute to its eradication. Kunchok will be speaking on his experiences working with the community, designing programs that make a difference, and his experience in empowering communities to take ownership of their own health and well being.

I also spoke to Kanupriya Harish, a project director and trustee at the Jal Bhagirathi Foundation, an NGO that works in severely drought-affected areas in Rajasthan. The region receives only 100-500 mm rainfall annually, and has a declining water table at a rate of 1-2 meters per year, or even more in some areas, meaning that the people living there even lack access to sufficient drinking water. The Thar desert, where the JBF works, is not only one of the most water scarce regions in the world, but also one of the most densely populated. As a project leader, Kanupriya works with communities on grassroots water management and recycling initiatives, reviving traditional methods of water conservation. She also works with several local government agencies to lead innovative water governance strategies in the area. She will be talking about her work and the various traditional and grassroots techniques for water management and conservation.

Once again, I came away from these conversations quite amazed with, and inspired by, the kinds of work that people are doing, as well as the massive potential to make an impact.

I have also been musing on the platform of Pecha Kucha as one for designers to showcase their work, and while I was initially unsure about how these speakers would fit that bill, I feel very differently now. Design has become so much more than what it used to be, in the sense that it has migrated away from its rather restricted definition of the pretty-ing of things, and the discourse of design worldwide has taken on a much wider definition – that of the deliberate and directed reconfiguration of things – as Aditya once put it, “that specifically human ability for intentional social or material change.” If we take this as our definition of design, then all these speakers are indubitably designers. Regardless, though, I can’t wait to hear them speak, to know more about their work, be inspired by their stories and have more conversations with them all, this time in person!

About Ayesha Vemuri

Ayesha Vemuri is responsible for thought leadership and outreach efforts at CKS. She has undergraduate degree in Visual Art from Reed College in Portland, Oregon, where she also studied such varied subjects as biology, literature and the humanities. At CKS, she is responsible for curating the Design Public blog, managing our various social media platforms, organizing Pecha Kucha Nights and contributing to the intellectual content of the Design Public Conclave and other CKS initiatives. Find her on twitter at @ayeshavemuri.
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