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Discussing design thinking for NPOs

Design is no longer seen only as a way to create better products. It’s increasingly viewed as a more effective process to better understand users’ needs, and then shape experiences, services and products more effectively around them.

Accordingly, this approach – known as design thinking – was introduced to a group of non-profit organisations (NPOs) last week by Inyathelo: The South African Institute for Advancement. (Tuesday 13 March, Cape Town).

The workshop took place at the Inyathelo office in Woodstock and was facilitated by Jill Ruijsch van Dugteren, who holds an M. Phil. in participatory design education from the University of Cape Town.  Ms van Dugteren is a highly experienced lecturer in design education, research and facilitation at higher education institutions and NPOs.

“The workshop attracted participants who work across a range of sectors – including health, education, social enterprise and mental health,” said an Inyathelo spokesperson. “Participants worked in a consultative way, engaging in pairs and in groups, resulting in a rich and lively engagement.”


Inyathelo has been discussing design thinking with Ms van Dugteren since 2014, considering how its processes, methods and tools could help address challenge areas for NPOs.

“In the last year or so, the curiosity around design thinking has intensified in both for- profit and non-profit spaces. We thought it would be a good idea to present a day-long workshop as an introduction to the approach,” she said.


“Our team’s initial conversations on running a workshop like this centred on how it could lead to rejuvenated creativity, enhanced critical thinking and improved decision-making in,  for example, strategy, planning and programme design. The workshop showed, though, that design thinking is a discipline that can be applied across various areas of work, and on both broad, specific and practical matters.”


Participant Sandi Sher, Marketing Manager at TSiBA Education said: “Design thinking is still so under-used in South Africa as a new way of thinking and running of organisations. It’s going to be a critical method of managing the rapid technology changes faced by everyone way into the future.”

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