With transnational reach and a grassroots ideology, MASS Design Group is a team of designers, researchers and community health experts united by a mission to “improve and empower” healthcare through design. With a portfolio including hospitals, doctors’ housing, a cholera treatment centre, a cancer care centre, a primary school, design and training centres, and even a bike shop, the nonprofit has tallied over 26 000 pro bono hours, and has 26 active projects generating 13 000 jobs, with another 5 projects under construction. One of the founding partners, Michael Murphy, states: “If you change the way that we build to have impact along the way, then the building isn’t just a performance of improving health but it’s the building process which also helps a community’s health.” The group acts as a rescue-government-in-a-box through its holistic and exhaustive approach towards a new ethics of emergency intervention. Their conceptual framework rests on four principles:
Strategy—We understand that exploration is the first step towards amplifying the vision of our partners. Our research process uncovers key questions and insights, and applies interdisciplinary thinking to transform challenges into opportunities for growth and impact.
Design—Design is never neutral. It either helps or it hurts. We begin every project with immersive research, designing from the user first to ensure high impact designs that directly amplify our partners’ missions.
Build—The construction process is an opportunity to build lasting impact. From manufacturing sustainable materials locally, to training skilled craftsmen during construction, and training architects and builders to oversee the process, we leverage the building process to improve the regional economy and to build the community’s capacity.
Advocacy—We are building a movement. From developing architectural curriculums to rethinking global standards, we recognize that passing on knowledge and research is critical to systemic change and embedding long-term local capacity.
If architecture is their forte, MDG is all the more interesting since their philosophy is focused on everything but: “We immerse ourselves within the community, design from the user’s point of view, leverage the local economy in the construction process and extend the opportunity for growth—using education as the most influential tool.” This comparative model of intervention uses architecture as a medium for producing a long-term, accountable and scaled impact on developed and developing nations.