On September 29th, 2016, I went to Service Design Hong Kong to speak about applying service design to domestic help — an informal kind of service that is often taken for granted, yet it deals with the most beloved in our life: family and home.

I told the story around a persona named Inah, who left her hometown to work as domestic helper in Jakarta because her family needs financial support. In the big city, she faced issues such as premature on-the-job training, non-standardized salary, loosely defined job description, and possibility of termination anytime. These issues exist due to lack of regulation in Indonesia.

Imagine if Inah tried her luck migrating to Hong Kong. Some of the issues may be tackled with regulations already in place. But there are still problems, whether related to communication, culture, habits, or personality clash. The matter of domestic help may not be best solved with regulations alone.


The persona Inah was demonstrated by Louise from SDHK team (very sweet of hers!) — Photo courtesy of Cindy Chen

What’s unique about domestic help is it’s partly employment, partly personal relationship. The circumstances force the relationship to progress too fast from the very beginning. A bit similar to arranged marriage, you don’t really know how the other person is, how your relationship is going to be, until you’ve started living and working together.

I believe there’s a better way for this, than totally leaving it up to fate. At least we can increase the probability. How might we design a better way for helper and employer to build their relationship with higher chance of harmony? Looking into the journey that helper and employer go through, I’ve identified a few opportunity areas which I shared with the audience.

I was happy to get the conversation going with the audience: comparison of how domestic help is treated in other countries like The Philippines and Australia, enlightening initiatives from the employer’s side, and even shared concerns from people who don’t have firsthand experience with the matter. Many people were curious how I’d move forward with these findings. Well honestly it still counts as a passion project and hasn’t materialized into something concrete yet. But this got me thinking whether I should pursue something around this area.

What I love the most about going to conferences is to be able to meet like-minded people, building on one another’s thoughts and ideas. As a designer I want to contribute making the world a better place. Along the way I get lost easily about the value of my work. Talking with one another empowers us, by seeing what others have done or are doing. Next, I will share more about the rest of my experience at Service Design Hong Kong.