Columbia University students organized the second student-run Ideation Lab to bring together students and young professionals from across all sectors and schools to identify solutions to the sanitation crisis in Nepal.

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One of the biggest problems identified was the problem of open defecation in Nepal. At the onset, this topic was unpleasant and taboo but this challenge changed my perception of it. Convincing communities about the need for toilets and making hygiene a priority was an issue that permeated different geographies. While being divided into teams based on regions — the Cities team, designed Info Toilet — an interactive kiosk that allows people to identify toilets in the area and assess their maintenance quality. They strove to use this as a tool to expand the conversation about sanitation, connecting stakeholders, and improving access to hygienic toilets. This tangible solution was successful in identifying a critical need gap.

Another team, the Plains team, developed an integrated training and sanitation program focused on women and children. The group’s keen understanding of Nepal-specific communities, and the opportunity they identified to engage these demographics stood out as many sanitation programs would otherwise neglect it.

And this is just the beginning. While there are eye opening pieces like these that talk about the scary reality of the aftermath-lack of infrastructure, relief and governmental support, I feel positive. Looking at what strong, young and creative minds can do over one weekend I have come to understand that no problem can be tackled in isolation.

Collaborating with people from different backgrounds of study and specializations made me open minded, immersive and even accountable to do my part as a designer to address these issues in the best way I could. And so a year on, Nepal has been more resilient than ever. With efforts like these from around the world, Nepal can harness this collective creativity into actionable results.

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