Demotech, design for self reliance





Reinder van Tijen took the first steps towards starting his own organization focused around finding creative, imaginative solutions to some very basic social problems. Demotech started her activities in 1970, influenced by the phenomenon of Freetown Christiania. Influenced by writers like Viktor Papaneck, Ivan Ilich, and Mahatma Gandhi, his first work was on deficiencies found in the Netherlands, designing a new public transport system, a home-grown toy factory, and alternative self-sustaining lifestyle options. The ideas met with brick walls, people in the West proved to be very reluctant to change. After two years Demotech abandoned its efforts to make a change in Dutch Society and went searching for a society that would be more accepting of change, and found it in the 3rd world.

1976 marked Demotech?s first publications and its first truly successful innovative design, the Tin Bicycle. Entered in a Japanese Bicycle design contest, the Tin Bicycle was expected to be sturdy, collapsible, easy to carry, and be produced at minimum cost in an environment rich in craftsmanship but poor in capital. The Tin Bicycle met with what Reinder would call marginal success. While it received funding for design completion, it only held potential for change on the micro level. He decided to put the project on the shelf in preference of an invitation to redesign water pumps.

Demotech became a registered foundation in 1979, this to comply with the regulations to work for the Ministry of Development Cooperation. First design work was on a locally to be constructed hydraulic ram pump in Burkino Faso. In the following years projects in Africa, Indonesia and South America were undertaken while producing a consistent amount of publications and knowledge on the transfer of knowledge and the do?s and don?t of development.

Since, Demotech has moved from Dieren to the university city of Maastricht, as an experienced and active organization that is still determined to make its mark nearly thirty years after its inception. Working with students and professionals on a voluntary basis, Demotech has put its experiences and successes in development to work to produce new designs, theories and ideas around the common theme More Joy Per-Person. Founding a design-workshop in Maastricht and helping to establish its partner organization The Student Workforce for Sustanability and Development, Demotech's activities have grown locally and internationally.

Recently, Demotech member Bram de Vries was awarded a grant by Vodafone's ?World of Difference Program? to pursue his plans for the Hydraulic Ram Pump, and plans have taken-off to Guatemala and beyond to continue testing and distributing Demotech designs.

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