Project Bertumbuh: A Design Research Team Built on Trust

The Project Bertumbuh team has been navigating many different communities in the course of our field research.

From fish distributors in North Jakarta to trash resellers in Bogor to tea plantation workers in Cikoneng, we’ve been learning about how people think about money. Their actions — how they save and spend, search and strive — are interesting to us. In addition, their mental models are just as fascinating. All of that data, and all of these stories, are important for our synthesis and design process.

We are also learning about one another. Hannah, Brandon and I are Americans, but we live in different parts of the world and have come together as a strike team for this work. We share an apartment when we are in Jakarta and do each other’s laundry or cook a simple dinner when fieldwork gives us a window.

There is no set schedule. For example, this morning Hannah was out the door by 5:30 to get to the train station and now she’s on her way to Tegal. I will meet Niko, one of our guides, around noon to scout locations in a Jakarta slum. At 4:00, Brandon and I will begin the interviews. We think the last one will wrap up by 11:30pm or so, but we leave ourselves flexible for opportunities that appear fluidly where we are. That can mean sharing a meal with an interview participant’s family or spending the night in a rented room. Usually, after a day that is a mix of planned contextual inquiries (where we spend time with someone in their home) and spontaneous intercepts (where we see something or someone interesting and ask on the spot if we can talk to them) we circle back together to debrief. We get key quotes, observations, insights and ideas on sticky notes, and draw whatever frameworks emerge on paper, whiteboards, mirrors, windows, or whatever is available.

We’ve been doing visual maps with some of our interviewees to get a sense of who they have the most confidence in. Initial findings make it clear that trust is just as much of a currency as money. People will trust their finances with community members who prove themselves discreet with information (i.e. not the gossips) or those they are related to.

Brandon, Hannah and I have developed how we rely on one another as well. From little things like charging camera batteries or making food for each other to larger matters of health, work quality, and communication, we have a stockpile of currency. This team has trust.

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Gigi Gormley

Gigi is an American born, Italian-at-heart, former design researcher and strategist at frog. She is passionate about agriculture, gut bacteria and the outdoors.

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