July 04, 2016 – After weeks and months of preparation, the Impact Week Kenya 2016 finally starts! We are very excited and overwhelmed by the participation from students at ANU and other universities in Nairobi. More than 100 students found their way into the newly built Helstrom Building at the ANU main campus.
Right at the beginning of the event, we received a warm welcome from the ANU officials this morning. Prof. Leah Marangu, the ANU's Vice Chancellor and the first woman professor in Kenya in 1978, honored us with a rousing speech, in which she addressed the participants and told them: "My motivation was never about being the first, but when something was disturbing me, I told myself: I will change it so that ten years from now it will never bother anyone again."
"You will learn to really understand people's problems and find a way to overcome them. That's what innovation is all about. That's the core of every good business." – Prof. Leah Marangu, Vice Chancellor, Africa Nazarene University
Few things are certain in life, except that every design thinking session starts with a warm-up. Having said that, you can image how difficult a warm-up with almost 150 people will be. Our moderators Maren-Christin Mueller and Jochen Guertler handled the situation just perfect. While grouping in clusters based on favorite animals solely by imitating their sounds, participants and coaches started to get comfortable with each other. The beginning of a great friendship for some, we dare say!
Design thinking is about understanding the problems and needs of users and building a solution based on those quickly. For someone learning a method, what better way is there than having them see results immediately? During the first session of the workshop, the students realized how fast each one of them was able to develop an idea on a topic they hadn't spent many thoughts on before. In pairs of two – and with the help of the DT booklet – the students embarked on mini design thinking projects and went through the several steps of the process in just two hours. The results are happy and incredulous faces.
This year's Impact Week was again divided into tracks, encouraging participants to develop a broad variety of business ideas. The tracks are: agriculture & food, cosmetics & lifestyle, education, finance, healthcare, mobility, and security. Each track is led by coaches from the German and Australian team as well as professors and teachers from ANU, who were immersed in the design thinking methodology during our train the trainer workshop last weekend.
Each track is in turn divided into smaller teams. The first few hours of the teamwork were dedicated to getting to know each other and figuring out how to work together. Having diverse and and well-functioning teams is a very important part of the design thinking process – and this is true with students from a number of African countries, with different backgrounds and levels of knowledge who participate in this year’s Impact Week.
Once the teams were set, they embarked on the design thinking journey for real. The first stage was the “understand” phase – the teams came up with various topics from their track and discussed which problems surrounded them. For example, thinking of security in Kenya, the teams discussed topics ranging from safe drinking water to safety on the streets, the loss of phones and gadgets as well as security in buildings. And that's only a selection from all the topics that came up.
Each group then chose a problem statement and put together a short questionnaire which they will need when the teams interview real users on the streets of downtown Nairobi tomorrow. We are very excited for the opportunity to head to the City Campus of ANU. This will enable the groups to talk about and expand their first ideas on a strong base of evidence.