Asian students design justice programs in Thai seminar


Students from 14 countries across Asia and the Pacific used design thinking to create innovative programs that deliver access to justice for marginalized people in a workshop in Bangkok last week hosted by the Thai Institute for Justice and the United Nations.

A total of 162 young people from around the region participated in the Borderless Youth Forum co-hosted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC) and the Thailand Institute for Justice (TIJ). The TIJ is a public organization that supports research and capacity building, and that promotes international standards and norms in the criminal justice system.

The young people who participated will continue to collaborate, develop their ideas, and present their innovative projects and conclusions at the 6th Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development organized by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) on March 27-29 in Bangkok.

Design Thinking is a relatively new concept in Thailand. Its proponents describe it as a systematic, human-centered approach to solving complex problems. Businesses and governments as well as research institutes, organizations, and individuals have used design thinking in creating products, services, and programs. Its advocates say that it promotes innovation by putting the designer in the end user’s shoes, and it requires frequent feedback.

“It is a method of problem-solving that serves human needs and develops empathy for users, so it is applicable to criminals and victims,” said Glenn Fajardo, a facilitator at the forum from the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University.

Kanravee Kittayarak of the TIJ said the goal was to improve the judicial system using a collaborative method by inviting young people to redesign justice. “The administration of law should do justice for all, not just those in power. As the future of our country, youngsters should have their say in the judicial system,” she told the Bangkok Post newspaper.

One program designed by the students was the “Spring Farm” program that re-integrates former prisoners into society. It assigns them to work in various jobs on farms, providing them with income and knowledge they can use to find work or support themselves on their own land. About a third of Thailand’s workforce is engaged in agriculture or related industries.

Student Chatchanart Charanwattanakit said his team designed the “Spring Farm” project to solve the problem of recidivism. “I don’t believe that criminals are inherently evil. I think a widening social and economic gap leads them to commit crimes,’’ he said.

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