Identifying the User in an Informal Trade Ecosystem

Niti Bhan, Rinku Gajera

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference article in proceedingsScientificpeer-review


How do we identify the right target beneficiaries within an informal economic ecosystem for development interventions designed to maximize benefits and value for money? This was our initial research question when we conceived the humancentred design research program for exploratory fieldwork to map informal trade in the borderland of Kenya and Uganda. This paper narrates our discovery process and analytical journey identifying a previously unknown segment of micro-entrepreneurs whose business practices lead to the organic development of an economic microsystem a "value web" or established network of customers, suppliers, and service providers. The individual actors in these microsystems collectively form a value creation engine which we identify as the target beneficiary or end-user, for the design of interventions meant to trigger progressively transformational change in the borderland's informal trade ecosystem. We describe the factors leading to our decision to consider the value creator's entire value web as the end-user, rather than the individuals at the heart of each such microsystem, for optimal outcome of systemic design interventions.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of DRS 2018 : Catalyst
EditorsCristiano Storni, Keelin Leahy, Muireann McMahon, Erik Bohemia, Peter Lloyd
PublisherDesign Research Society
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-912294-28-2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018
MoE publication typeA4 Conference publication
EventDesign Research Society International Conference - University of Limerick (UL) and Limerick School of Art and Design (LSAD) , Limerick, Ireland
Duration: 25 Jun 201828 Jun 2018

Publication series

NameProceedings of DRS
ISSN (Electronic)2398-3132


ConferenceDesign Research Society International Conference
Abbreviated titleDRS
Internet address


  • Design research
  • Complex adaptive systems
  • Informal Economy
  • value webs

Field of art

  • Design


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