Our Process

Our Structure –  The Appropriate Technology Collaborative is structured as an international networking organization that develops appropriate technical solutions with community development organizations. With a small staff to connect the community to the solution, our technical work gets done by local individuals that devote their expertise as needed for projects and design challenges. ATC experts share their knowledge with community members throughout the project build in an approachable educational setting.

Ben Learning About Water Supply NSCI 2009 sm 2
Analysis of Existing Water Supply Problems

Working With Communities To Identify And Address Needs – We devote much of our time to living and working with our client communities, identifying local stakeholders and tradespeople to participate in a project.  Through ongoing dialog and teamwork we create a “design space” where new programs, products and technologies can have the greatest positive impact on our client’s lives.  Empowering our clients to fully participate in the design and development process has produced some of our most profound results.

Identifying Potential Programs and Technologies – Identifying exactly what technology to develop is the most critical step in our process.  We discuss with our clients a range of possible programs, technologies, and development strategies to address needs.  Each potential program can impact public health, the environment, job creation, health, education and community building.  This is a highly interactive process, a real give and take where our clients are co-equal partners with ATC’s local and international engineers, designers and social entrepreneurs.

Identifying Potential Collaborative Partners – ATC works with a varying range of national and international organizations to co-design and sponsor programs in appropriate technology. ATC staff develop relationships with community organizations of all sizes to plan and implement projects. Our partner organizations are a) well recognized and supported in their community b) provide a social service with consciousness to environmental impact c) have a sustainable and stable financing record and projection.  ATC collaborative partners include organic cooperatives, social entrepreneurs, schools and technical training centers, nutrition centers, childcare centers.

Lower Pump House - uwal k'ox
The Water Committee

Creating a Design Team – Once ATC and our partner organization have identified a project, the ATC network brings together the clients, local designers, engineers and volunteer student groups to research and test designs for each context. ATC has relationships with universities and professors to design courses around appropriate technology design to be implemented at the end of the semester. This high-impact strategy for funding our smaller-scale community development projects has proven successful, enjoyable and empowering for our local partners as well as the visiting students. See: Volunteer Travel

Proof of concept prototypes are developed in the U.S. by volunteers and student groups. Once we are certain we can meet our design goals we create a detailed set of final prototype drawings and calculations. The design team meets in the client community to prototype, critique and if necessary, refine the prototype.

Publishing our Designs – We license most of our designs through Creative Commons and we publish them online so that other individuals and organizations can copy or improve upon these designs to meet their needs, regardless of geographical location.  See:  ATC Design Library

Constant Evaluation – Critical to our success is ongoing evaluation.  We commit to re-visiting our clients for a minimum period of five years.  Following-up gains us valuable insight into how our designs are actually used by our clients to improve upon designs, durability and ease of care/use.


Study By Small Scale Solar Light
Study By Small Scale Solar Light

Business Incubation/Social Enterprise – Many of our programs are designed to provide low cost and affordable solutions for our clients. Beginning a virtuous cycle,  business incubation provides opportunities for rural people to earn an income by providing their neighbours with a social good or service to grow healthier sustainable communities.   ATC is incubating Mayan solar businesses that sell low cost / high quality solar lights in unelectrified communities.    Rural families that live without access to electricity can greatly improve their quality of life by investing in affordable solar lighting.  Instead of buying candles and kerosene for lamps at a cost of $1.25 – $4.80 USD per week, families can purchase a solar lighting system for about $30.00 that will save them money every week for the 5 year life of the lights.   See:  Mayan Power and Light