It's getting heated on the Fast Company Design Blog. Writer Bruce Nussbaum wrote a piece on July 7th that asked: Is Humanitarian Design the New Imperialism?
His answer: Yes. Nussbaum called out organizations like Project H Design and One Laptop Per Child for being pie-eyed, misdirected, and crass to the needs of local populations. He compares this new direction in design to the Peace Corps:
"Are designers helping the 'Little Brown Brothers?' Are designers the new anthropologists or missionaries, come to poke into village life, 'understand; it and make it better—their 'modern' way?"Emily Pilloton (who I interviewed on this site) is founder of Project H Design and she took exception to the piece, particularly the part where Nussbaum criticizes American-based humanitarian designers for going abroad when so many issues face them at home. Ironic in light of Pilloton's latest move. Read her response here.
And if this topic interests you, check out the blog post I wrote this spring for Metropolis about the humanitarian design debate.
Nussbaum RESPONDS to Pilloton.
Susan Szenasy of Metropolis JOINS the debate.
And Change Observer follows the many posts the resulted from Nussbaum's original inquiry.