– For me, design becomes meaningful when it is about solving problems, says Peter Alwin, the winner of James Dyson Award for 2019.

Peter Alwin has studied a Masters in advanced product design at UmeÃ¥ Institute of Design, UmeÃ¥ University, and graduated in 2016. His Masters thesis project was a life saving innovation called ASHA. ASHA is an acronym for Accredited Social Health Activist. ”Asha” is also a Hindi word which means ”Hope”. Peter Alwin’s innovation ASHA is designed to reduce child mortality by measuring three vital parameters: height, weight and temperature in children with low birth weight.
Congratulation for winning the James Dyson Award for ASHA. How did you react to the news?
– I am truly glad that I was chosen as a national winner for the prestigious award. It is a good platform to be recognised. In the past also, ASHA was awarded with few other international awards.
What was the inspiration for this project?
– In Umeå, at the Design school, we do a lot of human centred projects. For me, design becomes meaningful when it is about solving problems. I come from India and focused on child health and sadly, we are leading globally in child mortality rates. I researched on low birth weight in a village near my hometown Baroda and thought to myself where can I play a role as a designer towards solving this problem.
Tell us about the challenges you faced?
– It was hard to interact with people and get the right kind of information. Although i was like a local in India but people in village react in a different way when you come from city. The child mortality issue in itself is a mutifactorial problem which was complex and challenging.
How was your experience from Umeå Institute of Design?
– Great! I spent two years in Umeå and a gap year where I went abroad for internship. I graduated from National Institute of Design from Ahmedabad in India and then worked in Stockholm for a couple of years. I really had to choose between my job and studies but it was one of my best decisions to pursue masters at Umeå Institute of Design. There are students from all over the world with different backgrounds. The program is very intensive and we learn from each other. The opportunity to study in the design school and participate in projects with industry at the same time helps the skills to stay updated and is the keyfactor of the school that helped me a lot.
What do you do now and what are your plans for the future?
– I am working as a design consultant for Ericsson in Stockholm and definitely aspire to see ASHA moving forward and reaching the grass root health workers somewhere in the near future based on deeper research, funding and collaboration.
What is your advice to readers aspiring to innovate?
– Never stop believing in yourself. Do not limit yourself as a designer. Design is the first step to everything. People are nervous to take a step but go for your passion with a leap of faith. It may or may not work but the most important thing is to try.

Nausheen Khan