In a bid to further tackle the challenges of the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic and generic social challenges in South Africa, 74 South African university students and young professionals, supported by 31 South African and international experts and 7 organisers, spent three days taking take part in the #SOUTHAFRICAVSCOVID19 Virtual Design Thinking Challenge. The challenge was held from Sep 11 to 13, 2020 and was organized by the award-winning German program ‘Impact Week’, in collaboration with the TSIBA, dy/dx, Small Change Circularity, Launchlabs, Service Design Network; MURAL, a digital workspace for virtual collaboration; and the Lufthansa Group, one of the world’s leading aviation companies.
Before coming to South Africa, the five editions of the Virtual Impact Week – #COUNTRYVSCOVID19 Virtual Design Thinking Challenge was held in Nepal, Kenya, Nigeria, Germany and India respectively. The South African edition focused on solving challenges in the areas of public health, business, education, and community. South African participants from all over the country formed teams to ideate how they would approach the challenges in each focus area while receiving mentorship from international innovation experts and Design Thinking coaches. The Virtual Design Thinking Challenge creates unique opportunities for young creative minds to tackle pressing challenges using Design Thinking and user-centric design toolkits.
Lakshmi Rao, Innovation Expert from India & the Lead Organizer for SOUTHAFRICAVSCOVID19 explained that “Our experience in South Africa tells us that there is immense talent waiting to be discovered, an entrepreneurial ecosystem that is so empowering, enabling all of us to come together to build a future based on hope, opportunities and growth for South Africa ”. John Anton Durr, the Head of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at TSIBA Business School in Cape Town expressed his gratitude saying that ‘ the event and its organising have been a resounding success, uniting people globally toward social impact projects that could transform the lives of our people. Already, many of my students have spoken of it as a turning point in their own”.
Aman Bhattarai, Senior Consultant at Lufthansa Group and the Global Initiator of #COUNTRYVSCOVID19 movement added “We are delighted to bring our movement to a country that has a plethora of creative, passionate and enthusiastic youths eager to bring their knowledge into creating social impact in the country.”
The challenge took place over a period of 60 hours spanning across 3 days. Participants were brought together as teams of five to six members, using digital tools such as Zoom for talking to each other and collaborative tools such as MURAL, Slack and the Google Suite. The teams were coached through the entire iterative process of Design Thinking by understanding, observing, synthesizing, ideating, prototyping and testing in a virtual environment.
Carole-Keza Capitaine, a student participant from University of Cape Town expressed her gratitude “”Impact week was incredibly challenging but it was one of the most fruitful challenges. The team and the coaches were excellent. This weekend made me challenge and diversify my thinking and I’m very thankful for this opportunity!”
The winning solution of the ‘Concept Creators (Team R)’ – whose focus area was Community. The winning idea addressed food scarcity and hunger caused by poverty and loss of income and identified that teachers were the nucleus that connected the community. Playing many roles over and above teaching, educators could play a central role in educating and facilitating the creation of sustainable urban agriculture initiatives on the school premises to provide nutritious meals.
So the proposed solution focussed on a scalable and replicable engagement between the educators, mothers and the students by creating sustainable urban agriculture initiatives on the school premises to provide nutritious meals to the students. The extra products could be sold, traded or bartered. Over time as the primary objective of creating a sustainable feeding program became realised, a portion of the proceeds would be set aside for the maintenance and upgrading of classrooms and eventually the school/s. To encourage children to participate in this initiative, we plan to incentivize them by means of a lucrative rewards program.
The ‘‘Concept Creators (Team R), alongside two other solutions Period Patrol (Team T) and Agents of Change (Team H) are eligible to receive 500 Euros in funding (approx. 9,900 SA Rand) to help implement their ideas as quickly as possible, to create an immediate positive impact in South Africa. Local mentors led by TSIBA, dy/dx, SmallchangeCircularity, Cris Robertson, Vuyolwethu Dubese and Dr. Rael Futerman expressed their desire to nurture the ideas of the 11 teams who reached out to them and provide them access to other supportive networks. Furthermore, employees of the Lufthansa Group, part of the #AviationStandsTogether community, will support teams wishing to implement their solutions with their skills and fundraising.