Doh Eain @Merchant Street

Our Clients Talk: Doh Eain

Doh Eain (“Our Home”) is a social enterprise working in heritage conservation and urban renewal.

In April 2017, Hintha Business Centres donated US$ 5,000 in support of Doh Eain’s Alley Garden project, which seeks to turn Yangon’s dirty back alleys into alley gardens, enjoyed by the community as a whole.

We have recently sat down with Doh Eain’s Founder & Director Emilie Röell to talk about Doh Eain, her future projects and the future of Yangon.

 
About Doh Eain in 3 sentences.

We are a social enterprise aimed at heritage conservation and urban renewal. Founded in 2016, our office brings together skills in participatory research, design thinking, urban planning and architecture. Taking a user-centered approach, we design solutions that improve private and public space in Yangon for the benefit of families, the community and the city overall.

 
Doh Eain’s key values.

We have four key principles that guide our work: 1) user-centered and locally owned, 2) open-minded and creative processes 3) high quality, sustainable work, 4) commercially viable (at least 50% of our projects).

 

How did the idea of creating Doh Eain come about?

You can find our full story here on our website.

 
Tell me something that people don’t know about Doh Eain.

We realise that social cohesion and the way people relate to their neighbours is as important in our work as our more technical restoration work and the way people relate to space. We are working hard to fully integrate this dimension into our work.

 
What accomplishment are you most proud of?

We are proud of the dignity that our work instills in families and neighbourhoods. It is great to see families turn into heritage advocates, or to see neighbourhoods to start working together and look after their environment better.

 
What is the greatest difficulty you have encountered since starting Doh Eain?
The concept of social enterprise is still very new to Myanmar, and neither has [the government] made legal incorporations easy nor has it been easy explaining our approach to stakeholders. We have activities that generate some revenue for us, which we then use to undertake non-profit activities. Being able to rely on and apply a diversified set of financing methods, we can be more independent and agile, but we need to explain this approach carefully each time.

 
What inspires you to continue this journey?

I think Yangon is a great city, and that is has even more potential. I love the tangible aspects of our work, while we are also starting to impact less tangible processes such as community building and good governance.

 
What is the best piece of advice you’ve received since starting Doh Eain? And the most surprising thing that you have discovered?

For a while, I struggled with the complexity of what we are doing, how to bring it all together in the best way and turn it into explicable and convincingly-sounding bits. It was good to hear that there is not only one right way to do what we are doing. It was also good to hear that having an iterative process where you are constantly looking for and processing honest feedback is much more important. I think this is an important realisation for many entrepreneurs, particularly social entrepreneurs.

 
What are the next steps for Doh Eain in the next 12 months? And in the next 1-2 years?

First of all, we are focused on expanding our heritage conservation work, upgrading and rededicating old buildings, as this is the ‘engine’ for some of our other work (it is mostly these activities that provide us with some income). In addition, we are about to launch a new public space project related to walkability. In the next 1-2 years, we intend to grow further as a human design thinking centered organisation that applies HCD to a range of conservation and renewal challenges in Yangon, seeking to mobilise residents and authorities in the process.

 
Yangon in 5 years’ time. How will it look like and what role will Doh Eain play in it?

Our vision is a Yangon city upgraded in terms of livability and sustainability, and owned by the original residents who have actively taken part in developing its rich and diverse legacy.

We hope that we will have made a positive impact, particularly in terms of enhancing people’s motivation to contribute in making the city more liveable and sustainable (either through social or economic incentives). We also hope that we will have set an example in terms of what type of innovative and creative projects are possible in Yangon.