One high-level official noted “The lab’s mandate sounds very impressive…but what does success look like for it?”.
AccLab Jordan was launched in December 2019 onto the development sphere. Potential partners found it tough to digest the new outlook that the lab presents to the development community. Our mission was to express our overarching goals through simpler and more digestible ways for the general public to understand. In fact, during the launch event we set up a Sustainable Development Goals café, naming coffees with different SDGs to constantly remind our attendees of our goals. In addition, we designed an aspirational newspaper that optimistically portrays Jordan 10 years from now. We wanted to show that if we all work together to attain the SDGs, this fictional newspaper can become a reality. These simple interactions with the invitees have successfully stirred deep yet entertaining discussions about the future of development.
For our first challenge we decided to tackle the issue of energy in Jordan, through the lens of climate change. This issue has proven to be multi-dimensional from the supply side, as political and economic interests heavily influence many stakeholder’s decision making. Therefore, AccLab Jordan decided to concentrate on the demand side - mainly household electricity consumption, since it represents around half of the country’s total energy consumption. Our aim is to look for innovative local solutions to generate learnings to tackle the complexity of household behavioural outlook towards electricity consumption. For this loop, we decided to source possible solutions through conducting a design competition and a hackathon, the first and largest in the Arab region.
For the design competition we called upon design students across the kingdom to redesign the electricity bill to address our assumption “if we changed the electricity bill visually, will consumers be encouraged to decease their electricity consumption?”. Meaning if households better understand their electricity usage, would they be more inclined to reduce their electricity consumption level. Through this approach we wanted to steer away from hardware solutions that require installing expensive devices in households. We opted to use low-cost design-based information intervention as a way to encourage behaviour change. One way this could be done is by showing the consumer an estimate of their next month’s bill or by adding simple graphics that allow users to easily compare to their previous consumption.
The design competition has proven to be a great success, as many design students and fresh graduates across the kingdom were eager to present their new, creative and innovative designs to transform the traditional electricity bill. Shortlisted submissions were showcased during our launch event, and two winners were selected though an online public voting poll and the launch attendees. We are now working on validating this hypothesis in partnership with one of Jordan’s leading online payment companies. The plan is to test the new bill design prototype on their platform; a much faster and cost-effective route to reach consumers and bypass any governmental obstacles.
Our second solution sourcing activity, the hackathon, was announced as a public call to anyone; with new, innovative and low-cost ways to reduce electricity consumption at the user level. However, our call remained unanswered and the hackathon lacked participation and enthusiasm from all levels of the community. This vacuum created an atmosphere of confusion that led people to question the purpose of the Acclab. Some asked “is this for students?” others said “ahh… this is for start-ups.” Reflecting on this experience, we now know that we should design activities to target specific groups, making them and the Acclab objectives more understandable and relatable.
What’s next? We have made our print on the Jordanian development scene with the launch, now it is time to embark on forging partnerships with the private sector and other organisations to further inform our portfolio and pave the way for scaling our experiments into other sectors. Don’t miss out on reading about our new approach and new partners regarding our hackathon in the next blog.