Sustainable Homes

Nestled in the Guatemalan highlands, Lake Atitlán has been called one of the most beautiful lakes in the world, attracting large numbers of tourists every year. The lake is a source of resources for the communities of the region but modern practices, population growth and climate change are affecting both the lake and its communities in countless ways. One thing is clear: no product by itself solves this situation nor the problems with which these families are struggling. Complex challenges require holistic solutions. Here and thus the concept of “Sustainable Homes” was born,  aiming to activate local development in the communities of Sololá by fostering local innovation and entrepreneurship. The project focuses on the co-creation and design of solutions for sustainable living in the areas of water and sanitation, waste management and energy.



Our Methodology

IDDS is a hands-on design learning experience, which gathers 70 people with different walks of life and from all around the world to create low-cost innovations that enhance the lives of people living in vulnerable conditions. IDDS is conceived as a platform to address the complexity of sustainable development from the principles of openness, inclusion, diversity, participation, experimentation and collaboration. It emphasizes the importance of the “co-creation” concept, which refers that working with members of communities is much more powerful than just working for them.

Creative Capacity Building, a design methodology developed by MIT D-Lab and applied in IDDS, aims to empower people through the design and development of active and creative agents capable of inventing, innovating and inspiring each other, to create and/or adopt new solutions that allow them to improve their own reality.

Screen Shot 2017-05-24 at 7.11.50 PM copy.jpg
Screen Shot 2017-05-24 at 7.13.27 PM copy.jpg

During IDDS Sustainable Homes, 52 participants carefully selected collaborated in 8 multicultural and multidisciplinary teams, composed by members of rural communities, social entrepreneurs, academics, professionals, community leaders of Guatemala and the rest of America, to develop prototypes of possible solutions during 17 days of workshops, conferences, co-creation sessions and community visits in this hands-on immersive learning experience of the design process and the Strengthening of the Creative Capacities of people. Each of these teams was guided by design facilitators, mentors and instructors from Europe, Asia and North, Central and South America, and by community leaders experts on the local context, forming an elite team of experts with the highest level in each of its fields, in design methodologies, facilitation and diverse team management. The event took place from June 4th to 20th, 2017 in the Altiplano Campus of Universidad del Valle de Guatemala in Sololá and worked along with the community of Santa Catarina Palopó.




Organising Entities

Link 4 - Asociación para la Innovación y el Desarrollo Sostenible and Universidad del Valle de Guatemala, in alliance with International Development Innovation Network -IDIN- and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology´s D-lab, organised the International Development Design Summit -IDDS- “Sustainable Homes” with the purpose of articulating efforts of existing initiatives, facilitating the exchange of diverse knowledge and experiences, creating space for discussion and knowledge generation, and setting the foundations of an innovation and design for development ecosystem in Guatemala.

IDDS Sustainable Homes wouldn’t have been possible  without the generous support of our sponsors and allies that believe in the power of local innovation in Guatemala.



Santa Catarina Palopó


Santa Catarina Palopó is one of the 12 indigenous villages located around Lake Atitlán. It is integrated by three villages, the municipal head (Santa Catarina) and two hamlets (Xepec y Pacamán). It is very picturesque, its people is kind and very smiley. Once you arrive you will enjoy the blue, purple and turquoise tones of the local garment, and  listen to the textures of the Kaqchikel language. It is a town which economy is based on fishing, construction and manufacture of fabric and local garments. Additionally, to ensure food safety, some are engaged in the agricultural cultivation of beans, corn and onion. The town’s patronal feast is on November 25th, and during this festivity you can listen to marimba throughout the town and delight your palate eating “pulique”, a traditional dish made with corn dough and a tomato and achiote sauce.

Santa Catarina opened its doors and welcomed us with the opportunity to work along with its community leaders. We initiated with an introspection process, from which there were identified necessities and opportunities to improve, that mark the way to a future vision dreamed and built from within, by its inhabitants.

We are glad and happy to share this experience with a community where the Municipality, its members and diverse organisations believe in working inclusively to design a better future.