Video: Debbie Aung Din and Jim Taylor

Designing for Social Value in Difficult Countries

Filmed on October 9, 2012, at “Gain: AIGA Design and Business Conference

About this video

Debbie Aung Din and Jim Taylor are co-founders of Proximity Designs, a social venture that designs, makes and markets affordable products and services for rural families in one of the world’s poorest countries: Myanmar. Over the past nine years Proximity has sold more than 180,000 products and services and has directly improved the incomes of over 2.5 million rural people. Learn how design is being done in an environment with extreme constraints. With more than 20 years’ experience living in the developing world, Aung Din and Taylor shares their practical experience of creating a design lab in Myanmar and applying user-centered design methods on the ground in the creation of life-changing products and services. They also show how Proximity is using design methods in their research and advocacy of national policies with the new government of Myanmar, exploring how the deep knowledge and design work for rural customers can converge with the design of macroeconomic policies to create social value on a national scale.

Speaker bios

Debbie Aung Din is cofounder of Proximity Designs, a nonprofit social enterprise operating in Myanmar (Burma). Proximity Designs makes and sells products and services that provide a path out of poverty for rural families. Proximity operates a full-scale design lab staffed with professional product designers. Products are designed for extreme affordability and typically boost productivity and incomes by $200 to $300 so families can afford basic necessities. Proximity delivers products to rural customers through a vast network of independent agro-dealer shops and village service providers. Since 2004, over 180,000 products and services have been purchased by rural households. Aung Din is a native of Myanmar and has lived and worked in Mississippi, Cambodia, Indonesia and Myanmar. She has worked for a variety of organizations including nongovernmental agencies, local community groups, USAID, the United Nations and the World Bank. Aung Din holds a master’s degree from Harvard University where she studied public policy and development economics.

Jim Taylor is cofounder and chief executive of Proximity Designs, a social enterprise that designs, makes and markets affordable products and services to rural families in one of the poorest countries in the world, Myanmar. Over the past nine years Proximity has designed eight different small-plot irrigation devices, three farm advisory services and three agricultural financial services. A leader in designing for extreme affordability or frugal innovation, all of Proximity’s products cost under $40 and are manufactured locally. Proximity has partnered with Stanford’s Design Institute (, Harvard’s Ash Center, IDEO and Tomorrow Partners on a variety of product and service design projects. Taylor has lived and worked in developing countries in Asia for over 20 years in both the private and public sectors. His current home is in Yangon, Myanmar. Taylor holds an M.P.A. from Harvard and an M.B.A. from the University of Southern California. Taylor is the recipient of the 2012 Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship and was recently named Social Entrepreneur of the Year by the Schwab Foundation.