Design Abroad: Costa Rica Exhibition

Tuesday, November 19, 2019 - 5:00pm to Friday, November 29, 2019 - 6:00pm

The exhibition runs from November 19th to 29th in the Great Hall and features the work of students from across the FoD who participated in the Design Abroad course in May. Their individual projects are inspired by their experiences traveling and engaging in a comprehensive participatory design project with the El Cocal community in Costa Rica.

In May of 2019, sixteen undergraduate design students worked with the residents of El Cocal, a small informal community located next to the town of Quepos, Costa Rica. The focus of the project was working with key residents in El Cocal to co-design a comprehensive waste management solution that would assist the community to reach its goals of protecting the natural environmental and sharing its beauty with its residents and visitors. Using the participatory design process, OCAD University students engaged in systems thinking to develop a robust solution that can be implemented and sustained by the community. This solution provides not only a way to manage El Cocal’s waste, but also provides a grassroots platform to empower community leaders and residents, offers economic opportunities and job creation, and provides a strong visual identity that can serve as a unifying symbol of the strength, beauty, and Pura Vida that is El Cocal.

This project is the result of a partnership between OCAD University and GVI, an award-winning organization that focuses on high-impact and high-quality conservation and community development programs in several countries. In collaboration with the GVI field office in Quepos, the Design Abroad faculty developed the program structure built upon GVI’s long-term, trusted relationship with the El Cocal community. The work the students accomplished in collaboration with the community continues as GVI field staff provides ongoing support to El Cocal residents to implement the waste management solution.

The students’ work in the community and concentrated time and effort on the project acted as a catalyst for this initiative to move forward. Meetings with town officials and other staff in the municipality raised the profile of the project and led to the mayor’s and town officials’ support for the El Cocal community as it endeavours to make the project a sustainable system for managing waste. This is the ultimate goal of the Design Abroad course: to connect OCAD University students with communities to co-design robust solutions and to work with local partners who provide support and help to build capacity within the community to make the projects into viable, long-term solutions.

Learn more about the course and the 2019 project by visiting:


Venue & Address: 
OCADU - Great Hall
Design Abroad Exhibition Poster

Social Innovation Design Certificate

Friday, February 8, 2019 - 6:45am

For professionals who want to learn how design can be used as a tool to create social change, this 10-day international course is for you. Learn to apply design thinking and the participatory design process to co-create solutions to challenges faced by local residents in Quepos, Costa Rica.

Find out more here:

Graduates from this course will receive a Social Innovation Design Certificate from OCAD University Continuing Studies.

Costa Rica and continuing studies