China-Bangladesh Cooperation: Using “Design-Thinking” for Urban Solutions

Sep 26, 2014

Bangladesh delegation actively participating in a design-thinking workshop at UNDP, led by Zeroth Lab

A week long initiative called the China-Bangladesh Urban Solutions Lab kicked off at the UN compound on September 22nd. The Lab came about as a result of a meeting on solutions to reduce urban poverty between China and a number of other developing countries in October 2013.  At that meeting, a number of Bangladeshi participants expressed interest in a particular Chinese model of provision of health, education, legal, housing, “hukou” and other types of essential services to urban dwellers called a “One Stop Centre”. UNDP China followed up on this request, and thus, a delegation from Bangladesh, three city mayors and one CEO, arrived in Beijing to examine these centres in more depth and assess how applicable they could be to the Bangladeshi context.

Mr. Md Nazmul Haque, Mayor of Naogaon municipality, Mr. Eckramul Hoque, Mayor of Mymenshing city, and Mr. Sultan Mahmud, Chief Executive Officer of Gazipur City Corporations participated in a series of workshops and on-the-ground site visits. An organization called “Zeroth Lab” supported the visit by introducing the visitors and Chinese counterparts to “design-thinking”.

Design-thinking is a highly interactive process of “building up” ideas. Zeroth helped the mayors and Chinese counterparts to examine different stages in the process of creating a new policy or solution to urban poverty like setting key priorities, service analysis, and assessment of transferability. This helped frame the problems the majors wanted to address, and helped them ask the right questions to work out how they could possibly reconstruct the one-stop centre to fit Bangladesh’s own context.

The head of the Bangladesh delegation, Mr. Sultan Mahmud, began by shining a light on the developmental problems of his home country. He said “it is an undying fact that all over the country, all over the world, three things are pernicious to mankind. They are poverty, disease and disaster. [Bangladesh] strives to get permanent relief from the first of the three – that is, how to combat poverty.”  

Later, for instance, the Bangladeshi delegation visited the One-Stop Urban Centre in Tongzhou district which has been established to provide assistance and services to local migrant workers. The Bangladeshi delegation were impressed with the very wide and impressive variety of services the Tongzhou Centre offered. But the centres could only accommodate 30 people a day. The mayors said they are often confronted with 3000 people a day in Bangladesh. They were keen to examine how this burden could be lessened through the example of the Chinese centre, modified to fit their own circumstances.

Mr. Kalanga Joffres, a Zeroth Consultant, said “It’s clear that there are a lot of different things that the Bangladesh side can learn on how China has set up this One-Stop Centre; the question that we have paid close attention to over the course of the week is to try to figure out which pieces are transferable and which pieces aren’t.”

The knowledge-sharing initiative led by UNDP captured the essence of South-South cooperation. Opening remarks from UNDP China’s Head of Policy and Partnerships Ms. Hannah Ryder called the workshop an “innovative approach for development, demand-led ‘by the South and for the South’”, and emphasized the unique opportunity for China to also learn how to use its successes to help others solve even more complex local and global development problems in the future.

Read More about the Workshop


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