Increasingly there is a design impulse to “solve” problems for communities in India, especially through technological imaginations and interventions imported from elsewhere that are often irrelevant and unsuited to their context. As public goods, such as education, heritage, health care, and the like, in India shift from ideals of social equity to profit-making, designers engaged in “development” face an important question about their role in the change-making process, with ethical and political implications.
In response to this question, we describe our efforts as a newly formed collective, Design Beku, which emerged from our desire to explore if and how technology and design can be decolonial, local, and ethical. Informed by cross-disciplinary theoretical and methodological underpinnings, we present a series of autoethnographic accounts by the collective’s founding members, woven together to describe our experiences, influences, learnings, and reflections on the life of the collective so far. Through articulating the commonalities and differences across our projects, we highlight how co-design becomes for us a care-in-practice, an onto-epistemology enabling us to align with local matters of concern to collaboratively evolve systemic solutions, enabled by but not led by technology. We believe the most powerful critique and challenge to the fascism of corporate and politically motivated technological regimes is by responding through community-centric design practice. We hope that our experiences and reflections will find resonance with other practitioners working within the larger context of the themes articulated by the call for this special issue.