Our aim to work together with households is so important to us that we included it in our mission statement. In the section ‘Our way of thinking’ the idea of working with households was discussed in several places: under ‘household’, ‘culture’, ‘domestic practices’ and ‘together with’.
Nova’s Brickstar programme is a good example of our idea of working with households. When we started to develop a more efficient cook stove for wood use in rural areas, we took note of a large number of stoves that are produced and sold worldwide. After surveying the existing cook stoves we took six stoves that were representative of the most important available models, and asked a group of about twenty residents of Molati in the Limpopo province to use and evaluate the stoves. None of the stoves complied with their requirements. The group then started to think of the possibility to build a stove for themselves according to their own requirements, using materials that are locally available (e.g. cow dung, clay, salt and water) and skills that people use regularly to build their own homes. That is an important moment in co-creating a solution: when the residents “see” the idea of an improved stove as a possibility for themselves, so that they begin to design ways in which this idea could work in their own context. Once that happens, it is an indication to us that we are on the right track.
We designed the stove together, providing technical guidance from our side. Initially, five different prototypes of the locally built stove were installed in households, to be tested and developed towards a final prototype. In this way Nova and the households worked together to design a stove that became part of a domestic practice and so was well integrated into the dynamics of the local households. We also worked together to take this stove to scale.
The stove has been taken to more than 10 000 households, not by selling stoves as products, but through community projects where people were assisted to build their own stoves, and use them and maintain them on their own. Any given technical solution to a problem such as unsustainable wood use, that can also improve the quality of life of households, will only be used by residents when it functions within a domestic practice and has become part of the daily way of living. That can only be achieved if we, as people from outside the community, work with the households to design a tailor-made solution.