Welcome to Kwale!: Day 1, DIY Kenya Project, 20th July 2010

Ni siku nzuri sana!

What a beautiful day!

How wonderful it is to be here at the Kwale Homeopathic Health Centre & College!  I write now at the end of my second day at the Kwale centre and a very successful day working on the collaborative design project with the 1st and 2nd year Homeopathy students.

The first of the ‘DIY Kenya’ collaborative sessions began at 8am this morning in the lecture theatre with all 31 students in enthusiastic attendance.  In Kenya, most everyone appears to be awake around 6am so this ‘early start’ did not pose a problem!

The focus for today’s project activity was identifying opportunities for design to improve the quality of life in the rural area of Kwale and defining a short statement – the Design Challenge – to help guide the project over the remaining two weeks.

The class was divided in to five separate groups of 6 or 7 pupils and each group was asked to brainstorm their initial thoughts and ideas for an innovative design project based on their own intrinsic knowledge and experience of Africa.

The teams contributed ideas under the following headings:

  • Problems – identifying a wide range of problems experienced by people living in rural areas.
  • Ideas – ideas sparked from top-of-the-head thinking and inspiration.
  • Technology – technology-led ides e.g. wind-power, solar, mobile, etc.

The teams were each given some PostIt notes (their first experience with these) and pens and were asked to use these to record their ideas and place them under the appropriate heading.  This approach allowed the whole team to observe and openly discuss the ideas as they emerged.  Students were encouraged that there could be no ‘wrong answers’ in this exercise, nor such a thing as a ‘bad idea’.  Any suggestion, whether humble or ambitious, practical or ridiculous would be valued because it may just be the ‘spark’ that ignites an innovative thought further along the process.

This exercise lasted for around 45 minutes.  Half-way through, the students were asked to stop, circulate and look at the work of all the other groups to share and build on ideas – we were not in competition here after all!

For the next exercise, the students were guided through a process of re-ordering their PostIt note ideas into a hierarchy based on order of humanitarian urgency (for problems) and desirability/need (for ideas).  This simple exercise was a nice way of helping the students to re-evaluate their ideas and instigate conversations about what might make for viable design projects based on satisfying a genuine need for design.

After a short break, the girls re-grouped and were given 1.5 hours to generate three human-centered design challenges based on the morning’s brainstorming session.  As described in IDEO’s “Human Centered Design Toolkit”, such a design challenge should be:

  • Framed in human terms (rather than technology, product, or service functionality).
  • Broad enough to allow you to discover the areas of unexpected value.
  • Narrow enough to make the topic manageable.

Each group did brilliantly well in identifying three (or four!) distinct ‘Human Centered’ design challenges for Kwale and these were later presented to the whole class, including the director of the centre, Marie Marie and a visiting speaker from Nairobi, Cas Rooseboom.

There were design challenges concerning issues such as improved water harvesting, income generation, promoting trade and employment opportunities utilising local materials and establishing local professional networks to boost economy.  The girls seemed to enjoy presenting to the class.  They all enjoy a good rapport with one another and their oratory and presentation skills were of very high standard!

At the close of session, the girls were asked to discuss and select amongst their groups which of the design challenges they would most like to address over the coming weeks and to explain the reasons for their choice at tomorrow’s session.  Once each group has agreed upon pursuing a single design challenge, we will employ research techniques with which to uncover deeper appreciation for the issues at hand, collate available resources, identify possible solutions and unlock the potential for true innovation.

I cannot finish this post without describing how wonderfully accommodating everyone has been since I arrived at Kwale. When I arrived at the all-girl boarding school of Kwale centre yesterday afternoon, I was given the enormous pleasure of a “song-and-dance” welcome party courtesy of the students!  The song had been specially composed to mark the occasion of the DIY Kenya project!  I hope to post it here soon!

Marie has very kindly offered me the most delightful living accommodation during my stay.  She also gave me a very insightful and fascinating tour of the facilities here which include a clinic offering treatment to the public as well as practical training in Homeopathy for students; classrooms; a lecture theatre (that doubles as a cinema) a library and computer room; boarding houses; beautiful gardens (which are also used for growing crops) and a wonderful ‘family’ of very sweet people and adorable animals.  Yes, my friends, there are also lots of Ku kus (chickens)!

They certainly know how to welcome friends at Kwale!

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One Response to Welcome to Kwale!: Day 1, DIY Kenya Project, 20th July 2010

  1. Ok Lucks says:

    Long time viewer / first time poster. Really enjoying reading the blog, keep up the good work. Will most definitely start posting more in the future.

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