RAN conducts NeedFinding workshop: A critical pillar of Innovation “As an innovator; it is not about you but about the end user. By prototyping, you learn through doing. Everything can be prototyped.” Makerere University School of Public Health ResilientAfrica Network (RAN) www.ranlab.org in collaboration with Stanford University-ChangeLabs, one of RAN’s core partners, has just concluded a two days engaging and exciting knowledge-building workshop focused on the human-centered approach to design resilience innovations. RAN has chosen a human-centered approach to ensure that communities’ needs remain at the center of all innovations developed and incubated in the Resilience Innovation Labs (RILabs). The NeedFinding workshop held 27 and 28 January 2015, brought together over 40 participants from RAN’s four RIILabs; Southern Africa at University of Pretoria, West Africa-University for Development Studies, the Horn of Africa- Jimma University, and largely from the Eastern Africa RILab based in Makerere University School of Public Health. The objective of the “NeedFinding” workshop was to introduce participants to the philosophy, techniques and methodologies of incorporating a human-centered approach throughout the innovation process. The participants were taken through needfinding techniques articulating user needs, stakeholder mapping, planning for and implementing a needfinding survey. On Day 1, the workshop participants were taken through understanding the value of needfinding, practicing techniques: the Dos and Don’ts of needfinding and an applied learning activity. The key questions in needfinding to consider; who are the community or people in need, what is challenge they/he/she are/is facing and what kind of solutions do we need to provide? Participants were also urged to have and define a clear problem statement right at the start of any project. Prof. Banny Banerjee from the Stanford University-ChangeLabs noted that “Risk and failure are part of the innovation process, never fear to take the risk and or fail-the earlier you fail, the better, you learn and improve your product”. The innovators were also urged to always calculate the risk in order to mitigate failure given that risk and failure are part of the innovation process. During the course of day 1, we held an engaging and interactive panel session with practitioners in the region, Emilia Klimiuk, Product Development Lead at Grameen Foundation and Christine Ampaire a Business Analyst at Thoughtworks, Kampala Uganda. The panelists led a very insightful discussion on the core importance of needfinding, shared their personal experiences as designers in the field, systems and projects they had worked on in their development work whilst applying needfinding and some challenges they had encountered. They inspired innovators to be open minded, go to the communities to meet the end users and surrender their egos. “Customer needs come first”, emphasized one panelist. “A customer is anyone who can help or block you” added Prof. Banerjee. Every one on the team should go and meet the end users of the products being developed in the community, citing that this gives the innovators more insight and conviction about the entire innovation process vis-a-vis the actual community challenges. They encouraged innovators to use visuals, videos and story boards among others to document and remember the conversation with their end user. “Be open to learning and keep in touch with the end users even if the product is still a rough cut. Early feedback results into a good product” one facilitator added. In the course of the workshop, Prof. William Bazeyo, Dean Makerere University School of Public Health and RAN Chief of Party/Lab Director gave leadership remarks and encouraged participants to explore all resources to innovate and cause impact in the communities. He added that “An innovation should cause positive change in the community”. He pledged Makerere University’s commitment to mobilize resources to support further development and scaling of innovations to address communities’ most pressing needs. During Day 2 sessions, the facilitators led innovators through practical sessions in ethnography studies and creating user profiles to synthesize and abstract important dimensions of the interview responses during needfinding. The design process needs to be informed by deep insights so as to correctly frame the problem. The need to test all assumptions as an innovator was emphasized.The community is diverse therefore innovators as designers should never generalize. For every solution you do, you need to dig deeper to understand the end user better. Scalability should be baked into the innovation from the beginning and not an afterthought. Prof. Banny Banerjee emphasized the need for innovators to think about scaling partners now and start engaging them right away. In order to positively impact the community and strengthen resilience, it is essential to multiply the capacity of people.Participants were given a challenge to design solutions using readily available materials in the Lab like hard paper, masking tape, pair of scissors and thread strings. They rapidly prototyped in teams and presented their rough products to the dummy end user who shared feedback for the next iteration. The hands on exercises made the training sessions very interesting and innovators learnt how to design, develop prototypes, pitch to the end user and understand their experience. Innovators learnt about the diffusion and impact strategy to think about how their projects spread through social networks, the relative advantage vis-a-vis other ideas, compatibility with existing values and norms, simplicity and ease of use. The training ended on a high note leaving most of the innovators fully charged and feeling challenged to dive into needfinding immediately. Even those who had advanced in their products appreciated the need to go back to the community and interact with the user. Once the innovators design with the end users, the chances that the innovation is easily adopted are much higher. Key among the lessons learned were the three pillars of Innovation, which form a cycle: Finding Insights and Unmet User Needs through Needfinding, Reframing the Problem, and Prototyping.. Insights from some of the innovators
- “Needfinding and Prototyping grabbed my attention and interest. These are key pillars to all innovators/designers like me. This training was timely, I have learnt and appreciated the need for the innovators to engage with actual end users at all stages of the innovation process. This type of interaction should be regular, even to revise the tools before and after community consultations”.
- “The human centered design is an excellent tool for innovators; I was privileged to have been part of this training exercise. Interacting with the end user keeps both the innovator and end user on the same page. It is vital to get and understand the end users mind set”.
- “This was a great learning opportunity; needfinding enhances creative and adoptive thinking. Most of us with a science background gained a social scientist ingredient of understanding the end user while designing solutions through needfinding”.
“Solutions through Innovation”