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Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

Defining Project Scope & Target Community

Rafael Guerrero

After your team has assessed the risks and the stakeholders who could be affected by your design, your team must determine a target customer or community that your design will serve. While this target customer may have already been determined by your team upon choosing a project, it is also necessary for your team to consider the broader scope of your project beyond the individuals and communities that your design is intended for.

What is project scope?

When evaluating project scope, you and your team are using long-term thinking to determine the magnitude of the effects of implementing your design solution with respect to the community targeted by your design. The project scope determines the reach of your design project beyond its target community. Considering the scope of your design project allows your team to apply stakeholder analysis and project risk assessment to scale.                                

Combining stakeholder analysis, project risk assessment, and evaluation of project scope might best be understood in terms of a Utilitarian Approach. Generally speaking, considerations of project scope should aim to:

1) amplify the benefits of your design beyond your target community, and

2) ensure that the risks and harms that could result from implementing your design are experienced by the least amount of people.

Some questions that can help you identify an appropriate project scope are:

  • Can this design solution be mass produced? If so, does it need to be adapted for the different peoples/environments/uses beyond your target community?
  • How niche is the need/market that your design solution aims to solve? Does this niche exist in other communities?
  • What sort of modularity can be implemented to broaden the scope and (market) of your design? (e.g., food processor that can handle potatoes as well as fruits, multi-crop vertical farming towers, sign language translation apps to different languages).
  • Does this solution require materials or energy sources that are not available in other parts of the world? How may it be adapted to be more accessible to other communities?
  • Is this design solution meant to be implemented in a specific topography, climate, ecosystem, etc? How may it be adapted to be accessible in other parts of the world?    
  • If implemented, will this design solution pose a security/health/socioeconomic threat to specific communities around the world?
  • Does your design solution present inherent legal risks specific to any particular community that would limit the scope of your project?

Some questions that can help you identify an appropriate target community for your design solution are as follows:

  • What communities/demographics would benefit from your design solution?
  • Is your solution designed to operate in a specific topography, climate, ecosystem etc?
  • What system of standardized units is used to make your product? Where is this standard accepted?
  • How expensive do you intend your product to be? What communities would benefit from this solution, but require a lower cost?
  • Does your design require internet connectivity, wi-fi, or compatibility with other devices? Does your proposed target community have access to these things?
  • What materials are needed to fabricate, test, and operate your design? Are these materials relatively accessible and affordable by people in different parts of the world?
  • Is this design intended for a specific occupation? Where are these workers most prominent in the world?

Personal Link

In my senior design project, defining the scope of our project began with a deceptively simple question: “who is this clay press intended to benefit?”. We knew the broader intention of our project, which was to make a manual clay press that would assist people in rural communities in forming clay building materials. Specifically, we were initially concerned with making a press that could produce both clay tiles and bricks with adjustability in shape and thickness because rural tile makers in Rwanda made clay tiles by hand. If we were able to design a clay press that could handle tiles and bricks of a variety of sizes, we saw that we could potentially deploy our design in multiple rural communities around the world.

When we finally found a client in Nicaragua to design our press for, it became clear however that a clay tile press design was not necessarily the most effective nor appropriate solution for this community. Although a need was seen for clay tiles in Rwanda, the customer in Nicaragua voiced that they had no need to produce clay tiles. Moreover, they voiced that they had no need for clay bricks with various sizes, as they only produced and sold two sizes of bricks. What they did want, however, was a product that allowed for clay bricks to be compressed adequately enough to speed up the drying process of the clay.

We adapted our design to suit the requirements voiced by our client in Nicaragua. While this press was designed to meet the needs of this specific customer, we realized that a more customized design meant that the press would not be robust for application on a broader scale. Communities that need a clay press for tiles, different sized bricks, or other clay building items would not find our design solution useful. In the end, it became clear that the scope of our project narrowed more than we anticipated as we worked closely with one customer to fulfill their specific needs. An expansion of our project scope would have necessitated communication with a large number of clay building communities in different parts of the world to make the design more effective and marketable for a broader application. Because of the time limitations in the senior design process, we decided that a frugal clay press had the potential of being deployed on a larger scale, but that our scope had to be narrower to ensure that we were producing a robust and appropriate piece of technology for our client in Nicaragua.

Jun 29, 2018