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The ‘Aftermath’ of Impact Week 2016

The single adage that best describes Africans as a collective is, it takes a village to raise a child. Community to community you will find that this adage rings true and is more often than not the driving force behind most educational endeavours, as has been evidenced in a study conducted by UNESCO indicating that by 2001 community schools accounted for about 17% student enrollment in the greater Nairobi region. It is for this reason that the Africa Nazarene University (ANU) town campus IT club took to visiting a high school in Nairobi, Kenya, St. Nicholas High School, their way of contributing to the development and growth of the child.

ANU-IT-Club-design-thinking-St.-Nicholas-students
The members of the IT club had participated in the Design Thinking workshop that was facilitated by Impact Week 2016, from whence they acquired a few basic Design Thinking tools, which they felt compelled to share. You see, a few weeks before the onset of Impact Week, club members had a met with their patron and had discussed the various ways with which they could bring about positive change in their communities. One of the ways they felt they could do this was by going to a number of high schools within Kenya and offering some programming lessons. However, after their experience during Impact Week, they decided that the best way to begin their outreach was by first introducing the concept of Design Thinking: understand the problem (interview), analyze, reframe, brainstorm (ideate), get feedback, and, finally prototype (be visual, use your hands).

The two things that stood out throughout Impact Week were the aspect of having fun even when trying to tackle serious issues, and, the importance of saying “yes, and…”, thereby building on other people's ideas. The fact that learning, just like innovating, does not always have to come from a place of ‘abject’ seriousness or overt self-consideration was such an eye opener for the club members that they wanted the high school students to share in this experience.

We, as the IT Club found that on sharing some of the design thinking tools, the high school students were encouraged to evaluate their future goals and how they intended to achieve them.  It was a beautiful thing seeing these students open up to their amazing potential and future possibilities.

“With the experience that I had from Impact Week, the design thinking approach was the best way to make the exercise fun, encourage group work, improve creativity and help the students know that they can be part of the solution in their area of interest.” (Timothy Marube)

18 high school students in their 2nd year of study participated in our first foray as Design Thinking coaches. As the new academic term begins, the IT club members have been invited back to St. Nicholas high school. Plans are presently underway to have a few more sessions with these students. However, it doesn’t stop here. As a department, the Computer Science and Information Technology (CIT) Department at ANU are now joining forces with the IT Club to visit more high schools with the aim of introducing Design Thinking so as to better foster a culture of innovation.

The ANU IT club, together with the CIT Department will be working together to ‘raise’ the children of Nairobi, Kenya and hopefully, even further beyond our borders. Watch this space, we will be endeavouring to keep you abreast to the happenings in this regard.

Participants

  1. Alex Kimani – Security Track (Team AD Backup)
  2. Joshua Minga – Food and Agriculture Track (Team Happy Farm – The winning Team Impact Week 2016)
  3. Timothy Marube – Health Track (Team Tabibu)
  4. Shabaya Deche – Health Track (Team Tabibu)
  5. Kendi Muchungi – Education Track (Team Impactors)

And the winner is…

In only one hour, we have seen and heard 17 pitches from 7 tracks, all of which have gotten standing ovations from the audience – and rightly so. And while the jurors labor on the hard task of appointing the winners, the teams are coming down from their adrenalin highs. The presentations have been given, chances taken, and now it’s time to relax. Spontaneously, track Lifestyle & Cosmetics breaks into a little group dance which soon includes half the room. This little anecdote shows what’s so great about the Impact Week: although everybody has been working hard, pursuing goals, and trying to come in first place, the event has also brought people together in friendship. What begins here, transforms the world.

Now, of course you want to know who won. But first of all, we’d like to say that each and every team in the Impact Week deserves to win. Think about it: it has been only 3 days since the teams came together, many participants meeting each other for the first time. Who would have thought that it is possible to achieve so much in so little time? And for sure there are more good, meaningful ideas than we can honor at the awards. This being said, we’ll let you know the winners:

5th place: Team Savac with their emergency evacuation system

4th place: Team Afrifast with a real-time traffic information system

3rd place: Team Isafi with technology for safe drinking water

2nd place: Team Gold Trash with their idea of using restaurant wastes

And finally:

1st place: Team Happy Farm with their farm in a box

Congratulations, winning teams! We’ll be watching out for you and will share news from you with our readers. Stay tuned for updates from all our participants!

Having followed the teams for a couple of days, you can probably imagine the celebrations following the announcement of the winners. We’ll spare you the details of who hugged whom and who said what to whom. Just check out #impactweekkenya to see all the support each team got from fellow Impact Week participants.

Prof. Marangu, wonderful and inspiring as always, urged the students in her closing speech to keep pushing the boundaries, keep being bothered by the problems they encounter. She reminded the audience that complaining has yet to deliver results. The great ideas which were put forward during the Impact Week show that there is a lot of potential in the students, and more social issues to tackle. This is why the ANU is planning for another self-organized Impact Week early next year. We are looking forward to hearing about it!

Group pic with shawls

Day 4 – Getting Ready for the Pitch of Your Life

The time has come: Today the teams will pitch their business ideas at the Impact Awards. It’s the grand finale of the Impact Week everybody has been looking forward to. The solutions our participants have come up with, tested and refined in just 3 days will be presented to a strict jury, made up of representatives of the ANU and the Impact Week team.

The first part of the day is spent fixing last minute bugs and preparing the pitches. As teams struggle to break down the intricate problems, concepts, assumptions, and ideas behind each project to a three-minute presentation, coaches are seen advising, orchestrating, and cheering their protégés. In the end, the jury will evaluate 17 teams by how well customer validation and business model were developed, how the team members interact, and what social impact the idea has.

IW Gruppenbild

Today, everybody is a winner

Only 5 out of 17 teams will win a place in the incubator and seeding money. But that doesn’t mean the other 12 teams will lose. Pretty much everybody we asked really believed in the ideas their groups had developed and felt that they would like to continue working on them, regardless of whether they will be among today’s winners. And we really set something in motion: Participants will take away from the Impact Week a unique experience and the knowledge that they can do anything they set their sights on. Struggling with a problem? Don’t wait for someone else to solve it for you! Get active, find some like-minded people, and get to work!

This sense of fervency and optimism was palpable all morning as teams rehearsed their pitches. Taking turns, they took the big stage to warm up for their performance in the afternoon. Since everyone was working hard on the finishing touches to their own presentations, hardly anybody had time to follow the rehearsals. Whoever managed to get some uninterrupted time watching already knew that it would be a close race – so many ideas were fantastic and well-presented!

The morning closed with a cross-sharing session, where teams from different tracks presented their ideas to one another, collecting feedback and gaining new insights. When you are really focused on an idea, it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture and make assumptions that your audience might beg to disagree with. This part of the program is meant to help teams realize any blind spots and make changes before the pitches.

17 pitches in one hour

Today, lunch coma was not an issue. Right after a short break, the big event began. Teams gathered for pep talks, motivating each other for what lay ahead of them. The rules were clear: 3 minutes per team, no overtime. After a short introduction of the jury members, the pitching began.

Team Tausi254 kicked off the presentations with an idea for lifestyle. They envisioned a web portal which would allow local designers to sell fashion and accessories to Kenyans as well as customers abroad. This would not only open up new sources of revenue for local artisans, but also foster pride in Kenyans of their own styles and the cultural heritage influencing these styles. Next up was team Masomo Busters, a web portal for stakeholders in education. If offers knowledge sharing, but also evaluations of teachers and institutions as well as options for e-learning to help increase the quality of education.

Tausi254

Masomo Busters

E-Mobi from the mobility track were the third team to present. Their focus: Where to find parking? Taking a problem that is pressing not only in Kenyan cities, but in urban centers all over the world, the team devised a system for guiding cars to free parking spaces quickly and efficiently, thus saving time and reducing pollution. They were followed by team Savac, which used information technology to enhance physical safety in buildings. In case of emergencies like fire or gas leakages, their system would allow for the fastest, safest exit from the building. Money money money – this was the topic of team E-Money. Their concern: helping people become more responsible with their money through a financial planning website. Monitoring spending habits and savings potentials helps users achieve more financial literacy and save for big purchases.

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E-Money web

From food security to lifestyle

The next idea focuses on the people who have nothing to save up, the urban poor. To help them meet their most elementary needs – food – the team devised an in-a-box system to turn small plots of unused land into agricultural space to feed those without a sufficient income. Another basic need, health care, was tackled by Shavuk. Troubled by the confusing abundance of health-related advice, online and offline, the team devised an easily accessible platform that would consolidate reliable information for users. Also focused on advice is team Glam Life. For young women, living a quality life is also about beauty. Helping them find their own style and quality products in a market with little regulation is the objective of the team.

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The World Bank recently found out that more people in Africa have mobile phones than safe drinking water. To help change this, team Isafi wants to develop fiber filters of different sizes to meet the needs of different populations and achieve water security. They were followed by Tabibu, whose SMS-based health notification service is targeting rural populations with the goal of reducing infant deaths caused by undersupply of medical facilities. The next idea focused on mobility, a huge issue in Nairobi, as we got to experience ourselves. Team Afrifast picks up an idea put forward at last year’s Impact Week and develops it further, creating a sophisticated real-time traffic information system to help reduce traffic jams and time spent travelling.

Isafi web

Tabibu_web

Afrifast web

Protecting consumers from fraud and theft

After them, team Abarwanyi presented their idea of protecting consumers. By providing information on the trustworthiness of micro finance institutions, they hope to cut down fraud in this sector. The next team, Gold Trash, thought about the issue of food waste. What if all the food restaurants in Nairobi throw away don’t end up in the trash, but on pig farms? Both restaurant owners and pig farmers would profit, as would the environment. To help people stay safe, the following team, Eye of God, proposed the use of CCTV surveillance not only to monitor for crime, but also for cases of police violence and corruption.

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Gold Trash_web

Eye of God

Phew, what a lot of great ideas we have heard so far! Three more to go. We’ll continue with Confession Closet, a lifestyle idea aiming to educate young women about cosmetics. Rather than buying cheap items that may have negative side effects, users can learn to find the right products for their skin type. The penultimate team is Impactors, a social platform aiming to improve the education system in Kenya. Focusing on what they perceive to be wrong incentives and motivations currently marring learning success in schools, Impactors aim to achieve a change in mentality and a new culture of knowledge transfer. Last but not least, team AD Backup alerts us to the pain and inconvenience of losing a mobile phone. Not only do you have to buy a new one, but all the data – pictures, messages, contact details – are lost as well. Hence their backup solution will help users solve parts of the problems that come with a lost phone.

Confession Closet web

Impactors

AD Backup

After so much input, we urgently need a break. Read our next post on winners!

Day 3 – Prototyping and business models

The first day was all about learning the principles of design thinking, and yesterday was focused on finding out users' needs. Today, it's time to get the creative juices flowing and get down to solutions. Some teams had already started on the ideation part yesterday, and true to the spirit of design thinking, built prototypes of their proposed solutions. More important still, today will be about money: Will the teams' solutions be financially sustainable?

Prototyping: seeing is believing

Prototypes – that sounds fancy, like a lot of work, done at the end when all kinks have been sorted out. Negative. A prototype in design thinking comes early. Humans are visual and tactile creatures. When we can look at something and touch it, it becomes much easier not only to understand what it is about, but also to see how it will or will not work. That's why the teams spent the good part of day 3 of Impact Week folding paper, gluing things together, cutting and drawing.

Prototyping-web-1024x683Who got to enjoy the fruits of these efforts? Again, users. Or people who could be users, if the idea takes off. Teams roamed around campus today, talking to people about their ideas, explaining their solutions, and collecting feedback. Does the solution address the problem it is meant to solve? Are their any aspects they didn't consider? What can possibly be improved? You bet the interviewees didn't hold back with constructive criticism, and the teams were eager to soak it up.

Again, we had some experts from the Nairobi tech scene come in and share insights with our participants. In the morning, Graham Ingokho from Africa's Talking told people the basic principle of building a successful business: "Look for your customer's pain, that's how you make money". He was followed by Riyaz Bachani from Angani, who talked about his experience running Kenya's first pay-as-you-go cloud business, giving advice on do's and don'ts for startups.

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Today's advice: dress for success, and make sure you have a business model

The afternoon was devoted to a different topic: How to make money. While the participants joined us for Impact Week because they want to tackle some of the problems they and others face in daily life, there's little question that you need funds to implement any idea. Impact Week wants to appeal to young people's entrepreneurial spirit, and part of this is finding sustainable ways to finance your operations and turn a profit. In the afternoon, teams learned to use a business model canvas to identify potential revenue sources – sales revenues, public subsidies, or private sponsorships – and work out arguments selling their idea to different audiences to create a solid business model. And in our case, we also added the importance of the Social Impact to each business model.

BMC-web-1024x683This was followed by a session in which teams from different tracks joined to share their ideas and give each other feedback. The cross-sharing session helped participants identify blind spots and gave them an idea which parts of their ideas and presentations still needed tweaking. It also prepared them for the final agenda item of the day: the pitch. Impact Week founder Michael Hübl, himself a founder of a successful start-up, took the stage in time to lift people out of the afternoon dip and demonstrated what matters for a successful pitch. His advice: make sure you have a great story to tell, and dress up! There's only one chance for a first impression, so don't waste it on sloppy appearance or the wrong body language.

Freshly energized, the teams went to work preparing their pitches for the next day, supported by their strict but loving coaches. And they did not rest until they had got it right – we saw lights on until late at night. So much enthusiasm will surely result in some great presentations of inspiring ideas – but see for yourself in tomorrow's post.

Day 2 – A day in the heart of Nairobi

July 05, 2016. Today, we had to get up really early: Impact Week day 2 at the city campus of ANU starts at 9 o’clock, which means we had to leave the Ongata Rongai three hours earlier. Correct, a distance of 21 kilometers will take up to three hours in the rush hours of Nairobi traffic. Good to know that team “Afrifast” in the Mobility track is trying to find a solution for this topic.

Impact-Week-Nairobi-street-view

Thankfully, we and almost all students arrived at the city campus in the heart of Nairobi in time. After a short warm up and a recap of interview methods, the teams scattered into the streets of Nairobi to ask people about their specific questions. For example, parts of the education teams went to a school in town, one finance team interviewed bank employees, and one healthcare team set up camp in front of a pharmacy.

Within two hours, each team got responses from up to 33 interlocutors and gained deep insights in the needs of their potential users – an extraordinary result and experience for our students. Meanwhile, our German team also had the opportunity to explore the streets of Nairobi and get a glipmse of the real Africa. An unforgettable memory which will stay with us.

Impact-Week-user-interview-design-thinking

Following the interviews, the students were acquainted with the synthesis phase in design thinking. It was now time to dig deep, unpack the research findings, and tell the stories they had collected this morning. Thinking about the key aspects of their insights, clustering them by topics as well as creating so-called personas was the most intense and challenging phase for the teams so far. By envisioning an archetypal user, this step sets the scene for the solutions the team will work on developing. Shedding received notions, selecting the most important aspects from user research and focusing on essentials proved to be a difficult task.

But design thinking encourages you to fail early and often, so even challenging times are helpful in the development of ideas. Based on the personae they created, the groups were able to rephrase or narrow their problem statement in order to create their user's specific point of view, which will be the starting point of the work going forward.

Impact-Week-design-thinking-go-for-quantity

GO FOR QUANTITY and HAVE WILD IDEAS: now it was time for Ideation! The goal is to generate as many ideas as possible in a short time in order to filter and find the best solutions. With questions like "how would Superman solve this problem?", the work rooms were bursting with energy and creativity. After selecting their best ideas, some groups already built their first protoypes … but read more about prototyping in tomorrow's post!