The primary research in Melghat for this project was conducted in two phases because of the COVID-19 circumstance. The pre-pandemic phase was exploratory and aimed at getting an overview of Melghat, the people, the place and the culture. It was about building the foundation for the project, getting familiar with the participants and understanding the culture of the co-creators. This understanding is essential for making a good design research plan and creating relevant generative toolkits. The Contexts of Creativity Framework from Convivial Toolbox was used as a guide to prepare and plan for cultural connection experiences.
There were a lot of trials which were done to conduct remote research during the initial period of COVID-19. Although due to poor connectivity, lack of digital infrastructure, lack of trust as it wasn’t face to face were some of the reasons why it didn’t work in this particular context.
The second phase however which happened during the pandemic focused on co-creating futures and provocating the participants during the act of co-creation. It was conducted using generative research toolbox. Although I started of with ready made design toolkits, over time I customised methods and tools for co-designing. The same toolkits with a little more customisation were used to trigger conversation around the future, provocating the participants towards hopeful futures. A lot of iterative cycles took place between the back and forth from collecting data to triggering a provocation.
MAHAN Trust played an important role in conducting the research. A normal day during the field research looked like this:
Waking up early, having a breakfast and getting ready by 7:30. Trilok Doifode, the UMANG Supervisor and I used to leave the MAHAN campus by 8. We would then visit the villages to conduct the workshops/interviews/ other preplanned activities. By 2:00 pm we used to return back to the campus except for the later days. These journeys used to be filled wonderful with bike rides, chai, aloo wada, and wonderful conversations with the people we met. The later half of the day was used to analyse the data collected and reflect back. Although the discussions grew richer over time it wasn’t easy to open up the people I was working with. Working with the NGO had its advantages but initially it was difficult to gather data as I was associated to MAHAN. During the second phase of research as there was a lot of work and very less time. The research and the further process had a very organic form with a set of points that needed to be covered. Combination of say, make and do techniques were used to gather data.