Euan Millar

Project First Light – Service design for community sustainability


Over the past few years, one of Fjord’s founders, Mike Beeston, has been working hard in Kivu, the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo on the border of Rwanda and Burundi.

Together with local people, Mike founded “Ensemble Pour La Difference“. Ensemble is a not-for-profit, community interest company that provides macro-loans, design and innovation mentorship to SMEs that are rooted in local culture and have proven community value.

Fjord have partnered with Ensemble on the “First Light” project, intended to help Congolese people innovate with design-led strategy, training and technology.

First Light has been funded by the Fjord Innovation Fund, which provides support for great ideas that apply the design craft to social causes and extend the boundaries of the design discipline.

Our challenge is to design and implement sustainable business services that are owned and run by local people, thus bringing tangible human value to hundreds of thousands of people in one of the poorest and most constrained countries in the world.

We are setting up design and innovation led educational initiatives, along with developing our own design-led methodologies, honing our practice in the toughest of environments.

Fjord’s Living Services strategy describes the next wave of digital – service design where experiences evolve and sculpt around unique human needs. In the DRC, we have a green-field sandbox to find sustainable solutions to the way we live. With First Light, we are designing a new bespoke infrastructure, a human approach rooted in local businesses and open source.

For more information on the projects please see our case studies on bringing the internet to Africa’s forgotten Island and transforming local healthcare in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Take an in-depth and up-to-date look at the project on our microsite.

Euan Millar

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