Need for Speed: Rapid Prototyping and Innovation for the SDGs

- Vedant Rastogi

November 1, 2023


What do some of the greatest inventions of the world and this blog and have in common? They both started out as a rough sketch on a piece of paper. Scrapped and restarted multiple times to finally arrive at a form, structure, and a point that hits home. The quicker we run and test rudimentary ideas with friends, colleagues or consumers, the faster we arrive at solutions that are relevant and scalable.

Designers and innovators often use such an iterative process, called rapid prototyping, to ensure that their solutions are relevant, enabling them to stay ahead of the competition. With India’s burgeoning start-up culture and a rise in social enterprise, rapid prototyping plays a critical role in helping designers fail faster than usual, that helps in the long run.

Take for instance, the response to the COVID-19 pandemic where rapid prototyping and production really came at the forefront, as nations faced resource constraints and public health facilities were running out of components for life-saving machines and protective equipment.

A study showcases innovators used different approaches on frugal innovations and rapid prototyping to provide timely response to tackle these shortages, in countries as diverse in size and infrastructures as Italy and India .



In Italy, Fablab Milano made critical medical equipment like ventilator valves, CPAP devices from scuba diving masks using 3D printing and reverse engineering. Similarly, In India, the M-19 initiative scaled production of protective face shields from 1,000 to 100,000 in just a few days by involving medical students stuck in university hostels and building on the collective power of makers spaces across the country. In this case, these were workshops in Universities where people with shared interests gathered to work on projects while sharing ideas, techniques and knowledge.

This initiative was led by Maker’s Asylum, an organization that, true to its name, helps people make, break and tinker with tools and technology to build rapid prototyping driven solutions for some of the most pressing development challenges.

To rapidly test ideas and create an enabling environment that fosters innovation, UNDP and Maker’s Asylum have launched SDG School Program, an experiential learning initiative that brings interdisciplinary and multicultural groups together to work on problems and lead community action for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

"It is important to not only have concepts and ideas but also actionable solutions. Rapid Prototyping helps creating that quick frugal solution to test out all the assumptions to move quickly forward in the creation process. In the context of the SDGs, this is important as time is of the essence!" says Richa Shrivastava, Director, Maker’s Asylum.

During the 10-day boot camp of the SDG School programme, participants collaborate and test solutions, ranging from creating lifestyle products out of repurposing waste medicine blister packaging to demonstrating safe on-site bathing spaces for migrant women laborers and designing a unique paper-based disposal system for sanitary napkins. Their projects underwent multiple iterations before arriving at the final solution.



The initiative has supported over 230 startups and solutions. Noteworthy projects include Mathable – a low cost augmented reality device to help children learn simple geometry and trigonometry targeted at rural areas; Safe Snann - An initiative to improve hygiene, agency and safety among women labour workers through DIY women-only bath houses; YAWO - A wearable insole for diabetic patients suffering from Type 2 Diabetes to give dynamic feedback of the patients’ plantar pressure; Black Gold – an interactive game to increase awareness for food wastage mitigation among school kids; Senskar - Augmented notepad which helps the disabled to communicate their thoughts comfortably and conveniently.


Muskan Lodhi, who used her learnings to innovate after the program says, “The opportunity at SDG school helped me understand the intricacies of interactive social board-game building, which has diversified my creative potential. The collaborative efforts at the workshop space as well as mentorship support provided by SDG School helped us build a one-of-a-kind Waste composting game for kids, while we journeyed through the entire process of Make, Break and Create to finally end our bootcamp with a well-designed interactive game.”

This diverse group of young people demonstrate the power of youth entrepreneurship in bringing social transformation and accelerating our journey towards the SDGs.


Kickstart your journey into social entrepreneurship, problem-solving and community-led action. This is the place where you learn by building exciting projects with people from different backgrounds, all focused on making the world a better place.

Visit the official website for applications: 

Register for the SDG School info session here:

Watch the video here