The Nigerian clay Pot-In-Pot Cooler uses evaporation from a layer of damp sand to keep produce fresh.
DESIGN FOR THE OTHER 90% at OCAD Professional Gallery (100 McCaul), to January 25. 416-977-6000. Rating: NNNN
Forget the designer goods you shopped for over the holidays. "Design" doesn't have to mean high-end items for the rich. New York's Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum has put together an inspiring touring show of objects that may not be pretty (though some are quite elegant) but improve life for poor people worldwide.
Current practitioners have learned from the failures of the appropriate technology movement of the 70s.That was the era when designers often took a top-down approach, deciding what was needed without consultation and offering gizmos as charity, with the result that recipients didn't feel a sense of ownership.
Appealing to the entrepreneurial skills of small farmers, the Africa-based KickStart Foundation operates on the principle of building dignity, not dependence.
Its inexpensive MoneyMaker products include an irrigation pump that generates immediate income that can be reinvested to expand the system, and a block press to make bricks from soil, allowing farmers to build permanent structures that serve as collateral for bank loans.
Originators of the Q Drum rolling water carrier are working on making it more affordable.
Health-focused projects include the Botswana-developed solar recharger for hearing aid batteries, the low-cost Jaipur prosthesis, the PermaNet insecticide-treated mosquito net and a variety of water filters, among them ceramic and colloidal silver family-sized units made in factories set up by Potters for Peace in many countries.
Initiatives like New Orleans's salvaged-wood Katrina Furniture Project and the Mad Housers hut for the homeless address First World poverty.
The movement is not without controversy: despite celebrity supporters, Nicholas Negroponte's One Laptop Per Child effort is criticized by some as another top-down project, and the South African creators of the ingenious Q Drum cylindrical rolling water carrier have yet to figure out how to make it affordable to those who need it, though its website touts it as low-cost.
All the many items crammed into OCAD's Professional Gallery have a fascinating story, imparting an important and heartening message of collective problem-solving.