Learning how to apply design thinking to disaster reconstruction and development is giving students the chance to trigger change – in the wider world and in their own lives.
The Master of Disaster, Design and Development (MoDDD) was developed in collaboration between RMIT and the humanitarian sector, including the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), World Vision International and UN-Habitat.
Five students share insights into their career journeys and how the degree is helping them hone their skills, spark new ideas and make change without sacrificing their dreams.
1. See community development through design eyes
Raphael Kilpatrick has been in interior design for seven years, with a particular focus on what he calls “the unglamorous bits”.
He’s tackled social housing, residential care homes, sustainable livelihoods, and childhood trauma over the years.
With additional experience co-founding a social enterprise for Melbourne’s young refugee community, Kilpatrick said the MoDDD seemed like the perfect next step.
“It caught my attention as a way to extend this thinking around community development through design thinking,” he said.
With subjects in ethics, social science, landscape and industrial design, as well as field trips to Japan and Ecuador, Kilpatrick said the program catered to all corners of community development.
“The diverse experience of the student cohort and teaching staff offer a broad base to explore these concerns.”
2. Make a change without sacrificing your goals
Katrina Barnes jumped into MoDDD right after her undergraduate degree in urban design and planning.
For Barnes, the postgraduate degree offered a range of opportunities to further her professional skills.
“With such a broad range of backgrounds among my peers, the course also lends itself to catering for individual needs,” she said.
“I’ve been able to continue my passion for urban design in a new setting of post-disaster and development planning, which I hope to continue in the future by working with vulnerable communities.”
3. Find the right path
Mailys Baerg used to think her fate would be that of a licensed architect.
Fast becoming disillusioned with the industry, Baerg discovered she could apply her design principles in other ways.
“It wasn’t until about a year ago that I had the opportunity to work in a not-for-profit organisation, designing much-needed facilities where they were indispensible and highly valued,” she said.
Changed by the experience, Baerg decided to pursue the MoDDD to make the most of her ambitions.
“Although it’s been challenging, it has been such a valuable experience, and while I don’t know exactly where I’ll be in a year’s time, I’m excited to see what doors are opened.”
4. Spark new ideas and discover new passions
Robyn Mansfield also harks from a design background, specifically landscape architecture.
But with an additional master of international and community development, Mansfield was unsure how she could combine her skills across the different fields.
“I saw MoDDD as an opportunity to connect the two fields of study to enact positive change in disaster-affected communities,” she said.
Now dedicated to supporting “active citizens in connecting with each other and their environment”, Mansfield credits the course for sparking new passions.
“The course content has ignited a desire to work in post-disaster reconstruction with an emphasis on community-driven decision-making, specifically children’s roles,” she said.
“The chance to test this passion in the field trip to Ecuador has been a highlight and I strongly recommend the course to building a strong well-equipped, post-disaster design sector.”
5. Make a living bringing communities back to life
Shane Thompson moved to Melbourne seven years ago to study theatre production, having first studied art in Tasmania.
For a while, he was heavily involved in theatre design and participated in general show crews.
Even though he still loves the arts, Thompson realised his world couldn’t offer him more opportunity other than enjoyment.
“I found that the scope of the industry was limited and that the tangible outcomes were somewhat lacking,” he said.
Using both his design and construction experience in “a more quantifiably useful field”, he undertook further study with a MoDDD.
“I applied to the MoDDD course in the hopes that it can serve as a gateway to working with on-the-ground design for people and communities that need it most.”
Story: Jennifer Park