Sugandha Gaur

Sugandha Gaur is a Creative Communication enthusiast with 10+ years of experience comprising of Advertising, Research, and Teaching Under-graduate and Post-graduate students in varied setups. She holds a Ph.D. in Media Arts from University of Delhi, India - a highly valuable experience that enhanced her knowledge tremendously in unconventional advertising approaches. 

CleanCube Project

A project focused on bringing human-scale solutions to the large-scale challenge of clean water.

  • The CleanCube Project is built on a holistic model designed to provide an accessible, affordable source of clean water to people who need it most.
  • Currently in the prototype stage, the CleanCube product is a dissolvable cube made of natural plant-based material that can be added to stored drinking water to kill 100% of E. coli bacteria.
  • This product is part of a larger system that includes small batch production, community-based education, alternative marketing and distribution strategies, and appropriate pricing that fit the realities of CleanCube’s target users.



Worldwide, 783 million people lack access to clean water. In India alone, approximately 600,000 children die annually due to diarrhea or pneumonia, often caused by unclean water and poor hygiene. The sad irony is that water-cleaning devices are available, particularly in India where cheap manufacturing abounds. With so many options available, why are millions of people still lacking access to clean water?

One simplified answer is that the fit, scale, and sustainability of the solutions are insufficient to meet the needs of millions of people lacking access to clean water.

Some water cleaning products are too expensive for the average Indian family. Even if sold at an affordable price, the technology for some products does not reflect the daily realities of those living at or near the poverty line. The requirements needed to make them work effectively do not align with the challenges faced by the people who could most benefit.

Perhaps the most significant reason why the problem of access to clean water persists in India is that the solutions offered are not designed to scale up to reach a large, diverse, primarily rural population. As such, they are not inherently sustainable. Without a sustainable model for production, distribution, maintenance, and local economic impact, products have little chance of making meaningful inroads to eradicating the problem.

So what is the answer?

The answer is that a sustainable solution, one that closely considers the environmental, cultural, social, and financial impacts, has the best chance for making measurable change over the long term. This is the mission behind the CleanCube Project.

It is CleanCube’s interconnected systems approach consisting of small batch production, engaged community education, and innovative distribution and promotion activities that can bring clean water to the people who need it most. And to do so sustainability over the long term by creating economic opportunity, local ownership and by empowering individuals, especially women, at the community level.

The next steps for the CleanCube Project are continued research testing in the lab and in the field. The goal is also to use this human-scale approach to create other powerful design interventions that can overcome the barriers of distribution, financing, and cultural adoption to reach scale in other communities and around other global challenges.



Project Website
OCAD InStudio Interview with Sarah Tranum
Relating Systems Thinking and Design 5 Conference presenation

Illustrated CleanCube banner featuring several families surrouding a water drop, medical symbol and
Infographic demonstrating stages of development in CleanCube project, from production to final impact in the community
Photograph of woman working at home on CleanCube production
Sarah Tranum discussing the CleanCube project with local women
CleanCube infographic illustrating the multiplicative positive effect of having clean water in the community
A photograph of group of women who participated in the project, standing together and smiling
Illustration showing 3 groups of 5 women standing around a grid of clean water droplets
Friday, October 6, 2017 - 11:00am
Lab Member: 
Sarah Tranum
Embed Video: 

Jason Goodman, UX Instructor

Jason Goodman is a Sessional Instructor at OCAD University, having taught UX Design & Prototyping at the Masters Level, Toy Design at the Undergraduate level, as well as corporate training with both continuing education and OCAD Co. (the corprate/business training division). 

Sarah Tranum

Sarah Tranum is a social innovation designer and strategist. Sarah founded TrickleUp Design, a design firm pushing the boundaries of design and business to create transformative products and services that are socially, environmentally, culturally, and financially sustainable. Her creative work and research is focused on ethical product development as well as systems design and research for socially innovative solutions in emerging markets.

Clean-water design: Health, gender and sustainability

Many in the West take access to clean water for granted. Yet, according to the United Nations, 783 million people — approximately two-and-a-half times the population of the United States — around the world lack such access. Of those, 3.5 million perish every year, most often as a result of poor sanitation and hygiene.

Beyond these staggering morbidity and mortality rates, one of the most surprising and vexing aspects of this issue is that there exist thousands of solutions for cleaning water. They range from high-tech chemical processes to low-tech filters.

Local problems and solutions

According to Sarah Tranum, a professor of social innovation design at OCAD University, “a main reason for this disconnect lies in a lack of sustainable models for distribution and adoption.” Through her CleanCube Project, Tranum is attempting to design an easy-to-use, affordable water-purification method that can be deployed in any shape or sized household water-storage container to remove illness-causing pathogens.

The World Bank estimates that 21 per cent of communicable diseases across India are related to unsafe water.

With funding from Grand Challenges Canada, Tranum is leading her project in South Goa, India. Like thousands of other migrant slums in India and the Global South, that’s a community where human and other forms of waste frequently contaminate drinking water supplies. Coupled with this problem is the lack of economic and social opportunity, especially among women.

Waste and water are inextricably linked in this slum community


Holistic sustainability

“Clean Cube takes a holistic approach to designing a sustainable solution to South Goa’s water needs,” says Tranum. “By sustainability, I’m looking not only at the environment, but also at creating a means for people to continue to gain access to the solution over time.”

In India, Unicef reports that 600,000 children die from diarrhea or pneumonia, often stemming from toxic water and poor hygiene.

A participatory design process is central to Tranum’s approach. “By engaging the community and drawing on its knowledge, CleanCube can be a true reflection of its strengths, weaknesses, needs and desires.” In this regard, Tranum explains, “understanding the daily practices of women has been key.”

Washing clothes from stored water

Women’s work, women’s empowerment

By adapting the most innovative and relevant aspects of decentralized, cooperative Indian businesses such as Lijjad Papad and Amul, Tranum’s pilot project is using small-batch production carried out by women within their homes.

Participating women are able to fit their work around their usual daily responsibilities, while also generating income for their families. “In addition to the immediate benefit of manufacturing clean-water solutions for a population plagued by unsanitary water,” Tranum notes, “taking part in the CleanCube production process holds the potential of giving women a stronger voice within their households and broader community.” 

Video produced by Martin Iskander
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Art Supplies of the Future

chemistry experiment
Wednesday, October 21, 2015 - 6:00pm to 7:30pm

OCAD University's social innovation hub, Impact Collective invites you to join us for our speaker series:

This month, Impact Collective hosts Trevor Plint, Ph.D candidate and junior fellow at Massey College as part of its inaugural year of its social innovation festival.

Art Supplies of the Future
The audience will journey on a meandering tour through the foothills of scientific exploration, fields still in their infancy, and recent landmark discoveries. To illuminate these sometimes obscure areas, ideas will be illustrated through the lens of the potential art project, with a mixture of detail and overarching possibilities. Participants require no specific scientific knowledge, but an open mind and an appetite for novelty!

About Trevor Plint:
Trevor Plint is a Ph.D candidate in the faculty of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry at The University of Toronto. His area of research centres around understanding the interactions between light and matter in organic semiconducting materials. He is a Junior Fellow at Massey College, a graduate college founded on the principle of interdisciplinary exchange. In addition to a lifelong love of art, he is fascinated by the interconnections between the aesthetic experience and the act of scientific discovery.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015 @ 2:00 pm - Lecture, with discussion to follow

Registration is through Eventbrite at (limited number of tickets):

Asma Khanani Caporaletti, Social Innovation, Activation Coordinator, IMPACT COLLECTIVE
416.977.6000 ext.4611

Venue & Address: 
OCAD University 49 McCaul Street Toronto, Ontario M5T 1V7
Asma Khanani Caporaletti, Social Innovation, Activation Coordinator, IMPACT COLLECTIVE
Asma Khanani Caporaletti, Social Innovation, Activation Coordinator, IMPACT COLLECTIVE 416.977.6000 ext.4611
Free with registration at Eventbrite: