This dissertation collects principles and insights from various sources related to design for the developing world. These principles and insights form part of the foundation that can guide other engineers working in this area. The sources are the published literature, practitioners, non-governmental organizations, and our own field studies. From the engineering literature, we identified nine principles to guide engineers as they design poverty alleviating products for developing communities. Each principle is articulated, supporting literature is described, an in-depth example from the literature is given, followed by suggestions for how the principle can be applied to day-to-day engineering activities. Next, the work from engineering practitioners is studied. Information from various field reports was analyzed, a list of seven common pitfalls was derived, and the Design for the Developing World Canvas is introduced. This tool is similar to a Business Model Canvas, but it focuses on the product development process rather than the development of a business model. The Design for the Developing World Canvas can be used by design teams to facilitate discussions and make decisions that will allowthem to avoid the common pitfalls identified. A case study is then shared from a non-governmental organization called WHOlives.org about their experience with the Village Drill, a human-powered machine that digs boreholes for water wells. The case study outlines the development of the drill, a timeline of its implementation in 15 countries across three continents, specific values related to cashflows of the organization, and a conservative estimate of their impact in developing communities. A study of our original research conducting field studies using a technique called ethnography is then shared. This study was conducted in four countries on four continents and shows the impact of various conditions on the ability of the design team to collect information that is useful for making product development decisions. The conditions in this study include cultural familiarity, language fluency, gender and age of the respondent, information source type, use of prototypes, and others. The results can guide design teams as they make decisions about who to include on the design team, which projects to pursue, and how to conduct their own field studies. Lastly, conclusions related to design for the developing world are made based on the work presented and potential areas of future work are outlined.



College and Department

Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology; Mechanical Engineering



Date Submitted


Document Type





design for the developing world, engineering for global development, design principles, engineering principles, cross-border design ethnography, resource-poor customers