Given the mandate of capacity building directed towards strengthening resilience in African communities, on Wednesday, April 4th 2018, part of the team from Makerere University School of Public Health ResilientAfrica Network (RAN) engaged in facilitating a one-day Design Thinking (DT) workshop for five start-up companies currently being incubated by HiiL Innovating Justice  The DT training introduced participants to concepts of Human Centered Design and emphasized how this is a creative approach to solution development and problem solving. Emphasis were also on the fact that DT can be used to develop innovative and sustainable innovative solutions while deeply engaging with potential target users/customers. This training was also cognizant of the fact that these are already existing start-ups that have been operational for a period of at least 8months to 1 year and therefore worked with the teams to improve and refine their existing projects, processes and procedures employing the DT principles.

This engagement was aimed at;

  • Equipping participants with methods of Human Centered Design so that they can be more intentional about facing and solving community challenges by empathizing with developed solution users.
  • Teaching participants how to identify patterns and opportunities for concept development, experiment with the power of problem framing, ideation, evaluating multiple alternatives, rapid prototyping and why rapid prototyping is essential to excellent interaction design as well as pitching an innovator’s final product and
  • Equipping participants with skills on how to get and incorporate user feedback during product and service development to yield a refined solution.

To this end, five teams with innovative solutions that offer fast, effective and safe access to justice to Ugandan citizens participated. Each project was represented by at least 2 team members who participated in the training. These members also shared that they had been in operation for the last 9 months. During the first session, they were all tasked with an exercise to write and share a brief description of their projects, who their target customer is and how they envision their projects in three years’ time from now. The 5 projects engaged included;

West Nile Mediation Center – an alternative dispute resolution platform for a variety of problems, including land-related issues. The Centre is accredited with Mediators offering Dispute Resolution, Court Annexed Mediations, Arbitration and ADR Settling Disputes Amicably in Uganda

Wetaase – Wetaase is an online platform that utilizes data to track and reduce incidences of human trafficking through an online dashboard to monitor domestic and transnational trafficking. Our focus is both on prevention, and post-incident justice and recuperation. Users will be able to access information & resources on human trafficking, including on red flags related to travel opportunities, access to legal advice, safety tips and prevention mechanisms.

Evidence and Methods Lab – They package research findings, by employing civic tech to support research organizations/institutions and individuals to package and share. Their mission is to support organizations that generate research evidence by packaging findings into appropriate formats that enable users to easily access and utilize as well facilitate conversations on methods that work in generating evidence.
 findings with audiences in exciting and effective formats

Justice 2 People – Justice2People (J2P) is a system designed as a Mobile Application and Web based interface which is in line with the UN Goal 16 to offer a channel through which aggravated persons or victims of crime can be able to get help and Justice. Provide users ability to Report Crimes, Accidents in their communities, Access to Legal help from a wealth of Professional Lawyers, follow up cases reported. A tool for Community Policing.

Lawyers 4 Farmers – They ease the access of farmers to basic legal information and services. We deliver instant legal information through an SMS based platform and offer micro-legal insurance to farmer groups which lowers their cost of travel to access legal information and increases their knowledge of their rights.

Ms. Harriet Adong, RAN’s Communication Manager opened the workshop with a brief introduction about the ResilientAfrica Network (RAN) and its work in leveraging the knowledge, research and expertise of university scholars, students and communities to develop innovative solutions that will strengthen communities’ resilience to shocks and stresses. She briefed attendees that DT is one of RAN’s flagship courses delivered to innovators to help them turn their ideas into tangible solutions while in constant touch with users and target communities.  She also mentioned that this course was introduced to RAN by partners at Stanford University – Change Labs which is one of RAN partners and participants could continue refreshing themselves after the training by accessing some videos on RAN’s u-tube channel also accessible on ‘For growth and sustainability of our innovative solutions, at all times, all through the innovation process, we should always think about who the end users of our products are and how they would like our products designed and presented to them to respond to specific community challenges’ noted Harriet Adong. She also encouraged the training participants to regularly visit the RAN website, RAN Twitter page-@AfricaResilient and Facebook-Resilient Africa Network for regular updates and opportunities across the RAN network.

Ms. Harriet Adong – RAN’s Communication Manager giving opening remarks

Nathan Tumuhamye, the Director Eastern Africa Resilience Innovation Lab (EA RILab) also welcomed participants to the Lab and re-assured them that they would have an exciting, highly focused and hands-on training. He also encouraged them to keep using the RAN innovation space where they will interact with other innovators, mentors, coaches while networking and growing their projects for the benefit of the communities in need.

Nathan Tumuhamye, Director EA RILab offering team support during the training

The RAN team strongly believes that DT is a vital step in the innovation pipeline that empowers innovators and entrepreneurs with critical skills on making their ideas visual, tactile, and experiential.

Participants were taken through the different modules on how to build deep empathy for the people they are designing for; generating tons of ideas through the brainstorming and ideation module; building prototypes; getting feedback from target users on their prototypes and eventually putting their innovative new solutions out in the world for consumption and or use.

This training covered the 5 modules of DT which introduced techniques for problem solving through Ethnography and Needfinding so as to gain empathy with people and get design ideas, how to make paper prototypes and low fidelity mock-ups that are interactive and how to use these designs to get feedback from stakeholders such as end-users.

Ms. Deborah Naatujuna, RAN Engagement Manager facilitating one of the sessions

Teams getting one-on-support from a Facilitator


                        Teams prototyping their innovative ideas during a session at the workshop

One of the Team leaders pitching about their project

Both the participants and facilitators found this process truly engaging as it unlocked their minds on how they can use locally and readily available materials to visualize and bring their idea to life while getting end-user feedback which is critical to their final products. The various hands-on team exercises helped them to hone their skills for advancing and leading successful innovation projects as they actualize the mission and vision of their projects. One innovator commented that ‘Surely, every innovator needs to go through this Design Thinking hands-on session not only to better creatively work but also to plan his or her life engagements better. Thank you RAN team for selflessly sharing the knowledge with us all’.

Additional benefits of this engagement:

  1. The RAN team will follow up with the innovator teams to ensure that the additional ideas that emerged out of or were generated from this training have been implemented for further development of the innovation projects.
  2. These innovators will be added to the RAN non-funded innovation projects so that they can also benefit from the diverse opportunities from across the Higher Education Solutions Network (HESN) and RAN partners.
  3. The RAN team will endeavor to attend and participate in other engagements where these innovators are being supported e.g. other Pitch sessions, knowledge generation and sharing sessions for continuous mentorship and coaching.
  4. In our day-to-day operations, also as the RAN teams engage with key stakeholders, we shall link these innovators to the potential growth and scaling partners.