Metabolic Foundation was established to create cooperation between open technology developers and the diversity of innovative communities around the world, sharing experiences and techniques for resolving issues with decentralized utilities and basic needs.
This takes the form of a framework for aggregating global do-it-yourself knowledge and a process for utlizing it on the ground. A human centered planning approach applied to community technological design to develop appropriate technology principles on an open and customizable platform.
Thailab, our first project, was established in 2013 in Chiang Mai as a field office of Metabolic Foundation. Following a period of thesis research, a network of local actors were engaged to identify and tackle shortcomings in basic service provision. Community surveys revealed one major gap in services to low-income communities: a severe lack of adequate wastewater treatment. By talking further with community residents, we found two additional related areas of interest to them: urban gardening and environmental remediation of waterways.
Together with the women’s group of Ha Tanwa, our team took on these three challenges. Our approach included working closely with the women’s group to connect with local residents and youth, educating and co-developing technical systems to address the issues. What resulted were three prototypes of DIY technologies well-suited to local needs and resources. Moreover, these technologies were created through the first successful application of an evolving process of co-creation which will be applicable to many more such issues in the future.
In May, 2014, a military coup in Thailand caused an indefinite interruption in our work there. Due to changes in political relationships with communities and legal eligibilities for foreign workers, our team had no choice but to wrap up their activities and bid a heartfelt and uncertain “see you later” to the residents of Ha Tanwa. We maintain close contact and exchange stories and ideas with the Ha Tanwa women’s group, who continue to share their innovations and develop more projects with their community and others.
We are confident that the work in Ha Tanwa will continue to inspire others and hope that it will lead to a more permanent hub for DIY innovation in Chiang Mai.
Work has now begun for Metabolic Foundation to build a network in the Caribbean, and to find a suitable location for a new field office. With limited space and resources, the islands of the Caribbean have a natural need for clean and efficient technologies. And with poverty rates over 40% on some island nations, the opportunities to co-develop affordable and replicable systems are numerous. We are presently seeking local organizations to partner with in this endeavour, to enhance and accelerate our impact with community empowerment.