By Annette Acosta, Guest Blogger from Agenda 28
Agenda 28 and Barakat Bundle came together to lead a workshop on Human Centered Design for 21 students enrolled in the Institute of Life Science at Ahmedabad University. The objective was to show students a new process of solving social problems by building deep empathy with the people being served, generate tons of ideas, and build prototypes based on the innovative solutions they came up with. Students were given the theory and right away they had to implement their learnings on the problem that Barakat Bundle sought to solve. Because it was based on a real life case, it was very dynamic!
Breaking the Ice
All the students were very energetic, they never held back, and both women and men participated 100%! We started with the icebreaker, a stimulating activity where students started to let their minds be free and creative. We asked what office supply would they be and why? There were very creative answers and some even made us giggle. Some examples include: Facebook to connect people (I guess looking at Facebook in the office is acceptable now!) and AC/water to refresh people (Yes, it gets very hot in India! The average temperature was 100 degrees Fahrenheit when we were there). Both very important office items!
What is Human Centered Design?
We got to the heart of the workshop when Karima introduced Barakat Bundle. Some students were nodding their heads eagerly, some started to whisper, they wanted to give their opinions and comments right away but first we wanted to walk them through the concept of Human Centered Design. And what is Human Centered Design? It is a problem solving technique that believes that the people who are to be served are the ones with the answers. The approach starts from the base: it is the communities that will help design the innovative solution by sharing their experiences, problems, needs, desires, hopes, and dreams. There are three phases to this process: inspiration which is the phase in which we understand people by observing their lives; ideation is the phase where we generate ideas, identify opportunities for design, and give solutions; and finally, implementation is where we bring the solution to life!
The group was split into four smaller groups to get a wider variety of input and to ensure that everyone had a chance to participate. Then, the magic began! They started with the problem attempting to be solved, “What are the problems and challenges faced by new mothers and newborn babies? ”. They brainstormed incredible ideas and possible solutions that could be applied to Barakat Bundle. In this phase all ideas are good. The phase is all about exploring creative solutions and the students were extraordinary. Then the teams had to choose the best solutions and come up with their idea of what the bundle should look like. At the end, each team presented their findings by drawing or modeling ideas for Barakat Bundles. The designs led them to concur that the bundle had to have some kind of movement (swinging), be very visual to avoid the language and literacy barriers, and should definitely be washable. Our favorite idea was that Barakat Bundle should be promoted by Bollywood stars! We think so too!
The Big Reveal
Some of the ideas they came up with were already being implemented in our working prototypes like including a first aid kid and mosquito nets. This made for a great segue where we revealed the 4 Barakat Bundle prototypes. The students were asked to share their thoughts on what we had and give us feeback on how to improve the prototypes. It was an enlightening activity for both parties as we learned a lot from each other.
It was here where Barakat Bundle and Agenda28 really got a sense of how to immerse themselves deeply into the Indian culture and get a feel for what could and couldn’t work in the state of Gujarat.
Learning From Each Other
This was an enlightening and empowering workshop where both parties put their minds together to try to address the question: How can we reduce preventable maternal and infant mortality rate? The students were encouraged to embrace the skills they learned in this workshop and apply them in their professional development as they thought deeply and intentionally about the problems they hoped to solve.