Issues affecting design-orientated micro-enterprises in under developed countries: a Zimbabwean example

Ballance, Mark P. (2008) Issues affecting design-orientated micro-enterprises in under developed countries: a Zimbabwean example. (MA(R) thesis), Kingston University, .


This thesis draws its examples and conclusions from a four month participatory research project that was carried out with artisan micro-enterprises operating on the lowest level of poverty in Zimbabwe, early 2007. Before that field study was carried out the focus of this research project was almost entirely on the role of design alongside the skills, materials and techniques already possessed by artisans living in poverty in Zimbabwe. However, had this initial project plan been strictly kept the project would have been unsatisfying both as a research project and for the participants in the study. This is because on the ground it became imperative to adapt this study into a more holistic look at all of the issues I encountered. This was partially because of the conditions in Zimbabwe, and partially because the four participating artisan groups were living and operating on such a low level of poverty. Although there are many organisations aimed at improving the self-sustainability of artisans living in poverty, with approaches ranging between individual "championed" efforts, such as the Mogalakwena Craft Art centre to wide ranging, but targeted efforts that address many artisan groups, such as the AT A's project in Ghana, it became apparent that for various reasons the support available for this study was to an extent, inappropriate or beyond the means of the participants, and as a result needed to be adapted and appropriated to suit their specific needs. The need to expand and appropriate this current support for artisans and subsequently the aims on the original project has led to the examination of several more appropriate aims: Importantly the identification of all the issues that were important to the artisan micro-enterprises that I worked with in this study will be examined, as well as some of the solutions that were instigated on the ground in Zimbabwe. These issues are not just design related issues, as was first thought, but also issues relating to basic business and self-promotion as well. Importantly, using a comparative study carried out in South Africa this thesis will also examine which of these issues are unique to specific groups and which are generically felt by all artisans operating in poverty and therefore which could have the potential to be generically addressed in the future.

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