Case study: Decent work and economic growth (SDG8): The use of creative product design to generate employment opportunities through materials-driven supply chains

Mark Evans, Timothy Whitehead, Lilac Osanjo, Mugumbya Gamaliel, Dudy Wiyancoko, Gülay Hasdogan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Published conference outputChapter


The contribution of design to an export economy is well recognised and can have a significant impact on balance of trade. Whilst many low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) have economies that are supported by the export of raw materials or primary agricultural resources, adding value to sustainable indigenous materials through innovative design-led product development remains an untapped source of wealth generation. This chapter reports on a Research Council UK (RCUK) Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) project (AH/P006191/1) to explore the application of creative product design in support of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by increasing opportunities for wealth generation and employment. This involved the identification of sustainable indigenous materials in LMICs, some of which may be regarded as unusual and unfamiliar, with the potential to be used in the manufacture of high-value consumer goods for the export market. By creating markets for the materials, supply chains are required to meet increase in demand for their production and processing plus associated manufacturing, distribution and sales. The project involved close collaboration with academics in Uganda, Kenya, Turkey and Indonesia through data collection and meetings in the UK and these four countries. These activities identified 18 primary sustainable indigenous materials, including banana fibre, bark cloth and Nile perch leather. A five-day co-design workshop, held in the UK and attended by the collaborating academics, resulted in a materials/product knowledge framework that was subsequently translated into a design tool that featured 39 innovative product opportunities to inspire and support stakeholders (materials suppliers, manufacturers, designers, entrepreneurs, government agencies) in the use of sustainable indigenous materials for the manufacture of export products. The project concluded with the dissemination of outcomes and resources as: A website with an overview of the project and all 39 product concepts that could be searched by materials or manufacturing strategy ( A credit-card-size fold-out Thinking Materials design tool that translated the knowledge framework into a portable, low-cost, accessible and visually compelling resource for all stakeholders (project video: A portable exhibition used to launch the project and outcomes to stakeholders in Uganda, Kenya, Indonesia and Turkey. A letter introducing the project and its outcomes plus the fold-out Thinking Materials design tool posted to a key contact in every LMIC (total 146) on the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) List.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDesign for Global Challenges and Goals
EditorsEmmanuel Tsekleves, Rachel Cooper, Jak Spencer
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9781000356700
ISBN (Print)9780367568511
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2021


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