The award-winning German program, Impact Week, recently hosted a 60-hour Virtual Design Thinking Challenge to tackle issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The hackathon, already hosted in Nepal, Kenya, Nigeria, Germany and India, was brought to South Africa in collaboration with dY/dX, TSIBA, Small Change Circularity, Launchlabs, Service Design Network, Mural and the Lufthansa Group.

As part of a global initiative to find solutions to the local and international challenges we are facing, the event offered a unique opportunity for young creative minds to use Design Thinking and user-centric design toolkits to solve problems in public health, business, education and community.  Participants also received mentorship from international innovation experts and Design Thinking coaches.

“Design Thinking and Service Design are still in their infancy in South Africa” says Templar Wales, partner at dY/dX ”so we were very excited by the opportunity to work with Impact Week to help grow the skills locally while making a real impact in communities that need it most.”

Each of the eleven teams conducted research, developed strategies and presented their solutions within the three short days. Consisting of a total of 74 local university students and young professionals, each team was also supported by local coaches and two international design and innovation experts.

Lakshmi Rao, Innovation Expert from India & the Lead Organizer of the hackathon explained, “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.”

The three winning ideas were announced in an online ceremony. The winning team, Concept Creators, from MANCOSA, were presented with financial support to develop their solution, as well as mentorship from dY/dX and free access to the Design Thinking course developed by dY/dX and Red & Yellow Business School for each team member. All of the hackathon’s participants also received discount vouchers for the course.

The winning idea addressed food scarcity and hunger caused by poverty and loss of income, identifying that teachers were the nucleus that connects the community. Playing many roles over and above teaching, educators can play a central role in educating and facilitating the creation of sustainable urban agriculture initiatives on the school premises to provide nutritious meals.

Team Period Patrol took second place, confronting the long-standing issue of affordable access to female sanitary products which leads to low school attendance and a negative stigma due to ignorance. Using a holistic approach, they saw an opportunity to create jobs through the design and manufacture of reusable pads and underwear called “Mbali”, addressing education of menstruation through printed brochures. As part of a strategic growth plan, the team sees distribution and education being “Mbali Mobile”, a boldly branded pink tuktuk.

“Although the jury’s decision was unanimous, many of the ideas presented are worth looking into,” said Templar Wales, partner at dY/dX. “The teams should all see this as just the first step to creating solutions to challenges within their communities and continue to learn and use the Design Thinking techniques they’ve learned for problem-solving in other areas of life.”

Some of the other issues which were addressed included education, both online and community mentorship; solving for last-mile medicine delivery to frail and disadvantaged citizens by enabling agents from within their community; and a secure digital medical record storage and access. A WiFi solution called “Mahala Box”, created by a team at REGENT Business School, won third place. It would provide free access to skills development, job placements, self-help content and a range of books, videos, templates and exercises.

dY/dX, supported Impact Week in South Africa by facilitating the recruitment of participants from tertiary institutions and subject matter experts during the three day workshop as well as a keynote talk from Nevo Hadas, dY/dX partner.

Established in 2015, The Impact Week is a non-profit program that unites people from a variety of countries and organizations. It promotes innovation and entrepreneurship skill progression in developing and emerging economies as a foundation for sustainable growth, by establishing sustainable business models using Design Thinking. It equips the next generation with valuable skills for employment and to become inspiring leaders – successful entrepreneurs and game-changers – regardless of their field or level of expertise.