Ana Pantelic uses participatory design to create solutions.
When you meet, Dr. Ana Pantelic, a poised, inspiring young woman, it’s hard to picture her as an 11 year-old, standing on a street corner, exchanging currency on the black market. And yet, this very street-level experience in the informal economy is the source of her resilience, adaptability and empathy. She knows what it is like to go from solidly middle-class to living in uncertainty. This causes her to listen to the people she serves, in order to learn from them.
Ana grew up in the former Yugoslavia, feeling as if she were secure and safe. As ethnic tensions rose and war broke out, Ana’s grandparents initially took Ana and her sister to Florida. They shuttled back and forth between the United States and Serbia until major bombing began. She told me, “Growing up in the former Yugoslavia, where there was this sense of security…to suddenly be faced with the situation where the country is falling apart, changing names, people are hating each other…you have this resiliency that comes out of you unexpectedly.”
Ana was determined to find her own way. She set up gallery exhibitions where she sold her sister’s art at a commission. As an eleven year-old she was exchanging currency on the streets in order to make money on the black market. “That’s the reality of many people in the world, these informal economies are part of our daily lives.”
Fundación Capital Uses Participatory Design to Create Solutions
There are billions of people who are locked out of banking and financial systems. They lack the ability to use banking services that you and I take advantage of every day – savings, checking, debit cards and ATMs. Without banking, they cannot build their assets, and therefore remain stuck in a pattern of poverty. Fundación Capital breaks the pattern.
By using participatory design, the team at Fundación Capital learned about financial inequality. The poor need financial inclusion. But the needs do not stop there. The team realized that, once the poor have access to banking services, barriers still remain. Therefore, Fundación Capital’s services go far beyond mere banking services. To get people to use financial services, the products have to be tailored to their needs. They have to be accessible and affordable. Fundación Capital provides the tools and training that allows the poor to lift themselves out of poverty.
Participatory Design Quotes from Ana Pantelic
“What makes us unique is, we spend a lot of time getting to know what it’s like living in poverty.”
“When we have that agility to innovate, and to perhaps bring some new ideas to the table, that’s when we see a lot of change and a lot of empowerment happening. For us, doing so at scale is important.”
“For us, it’s about getting the poor access to the tools and services that they need.”
“I moved from Serbia to Colombia to start a project that everybody, whom I respected and who had more experience than I did in the field, told me it was a silly idea and it wasn’t going to work. Four and a half years later, it’s had more than 250,000 users, in five countries and has been integrated into public policies.”
“We were inspired by the experience of Sugata Mitra, the hole-in-the-wall experiment that he organized in India.”
“What we did was have the tablet circulating in the community.”
“As far as I know, this is the first time that anything like this has been attempted.”
“When you are passionate about what you do, and you find meaning in what you do, it’s never going to feel like a chore.”
“When I think of economic citizenship and empowerment, what we’re really seeing is this need for active participants rather than passive recipients.”
“The only thing that differentiates somebody born into wealth and somebody born into poverty is luck of the draw.”
“I think, an openness to listen to those voices, to support it when we can, to inject capital when it’s needed or to provide access to an internet connection…I think that’s where we’re going to see a lot of innovation coming.”
Social Entrepreneurship Resources:
- Fundación Capital: http://fundacioncapital.org
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FundacionCapital
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/FundaCapital
- Sugata Mitra’s Hole in the Wall experiment mentioned by Ana: http://www.ted.com/talks/sugata_mitra_shows_how_kids_teach_themselves
- Social Entrepreneur survey: http://tonyloyd.com/survey