Case study: Affordable and clean energy (SDG7)

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


This chapter provides a case study analysis of the challenges associated with designing for humanitarian concerns regarding displaced populations and their energy requirements in the broadest sense. The case is situated in sub-Saharan Africa during a UK-funded Global Challenges research project titled Energy and Forced Displacement: A Qualitative Approach to Light, Heat and Power in Refugee Camps and involves designers, anthropologists and associated stakeholders. The goal of the project is to understand ways in which qualitative methods, analysis and insights regarding energy requirements of the displaced communities can inform future policy practices for access to energy and the procurement of intermediary devices necessary to convert it. In this chapter, service and system design approaches are considered through anthropological perspectives, whereby energy objects are brought into the frame of analysis. Strategies of adaptation are witnessed, associated with transitions at the local level through frugal and informal approaches to innovation by the displaced communities themselves. The case study focuses on a particular set of entangled intermediaries relating to heating and cooking: firewood, charcoal and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).

The case study highlights that potential approaches for product and service design solutions are numerous, but a particular tension exists inherent within the SDG7 phrasing itself: that access to energy should be affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern. Our case study highlights the complex sets of entangled circumstances which often result in generic design approaches which do not yet currently fulfil the logical condition of ‘and’ in SDG7. More often than not, compromises are involved as a result of these top-down approaches to humanitarian design practices, which result in affordable, reliable, sustainable or modern energy within these particular communities, leading to suboptimal solutions and propositions.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDesign for Global Challenges and Goals
EditorsEmmanuel Tsekleves, Rachel Cooper, Jak Spencer
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9781003099680
ISBN (Print)9780367568511
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2021

Publication series

NameDesign for Social Responsibility


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