Wednesday, February 26 and Thursday, February 27, 2020, saw part of the ResilientAfrica Network (RAN) team offer the Human-Centered Training to a group of 48 multidisciplinary students, male and female at Makerere University. These students engaged in hands-on activities as the trainers emphasized areas of Need Finding, Problem Framing, Structured Brainstorming, Rapid Prototyping, and Pitching. For this Cohort 1 of the engagement, students were engaged in two separate teams to allow for in-depth engagement with each of the students for enhanced knowledge generation and sharing. It was fulfilling noting that University students can actually identify challenges they are facing within the University, propose solutions to these challenges, prototype proposed solutions and then pitch them to an audience. Some of the challenges students identified included; inefficient and ineffective handling of students’ marks, poor sanitation especially in the washrooms within students’ halls of residence, peer influence resulting into endless strikes at Makerere University, increasing mental case issues at Makerere University, poor students’ welfare at the University among others. Immediately after the engagement, when engaged to share about the training, some of the students had this to share;

 

  • ‘I have exceeded my expectations from this study, I have learned more than I had expected to learn from these sessions. Thank God I registered and also came for this training’.
  • ‘I am ready to lead my team to even engage with Prof. Nawangwe, the Vice-Chancellor at Makerere University seeking for further support to further develop our prototype. We must propose solutions to address the challenges we are currently facing’.
  • ‘My team and I would like to visit RAN so that we can further pitch our proposed solution and receive additional feedback towards improving it. When can we come there please?’ 
  • ‘Thank you RAN team for selflessly sharing with us all these skills within only two days. These skills will take us places. I will personally leave Makerere University a better person, I will create my own job rather than moving all through the streets looking for a job’.
  • ‘See all that we were able to come up with within a short time. That means that one can achieve more with a team than working alone’. 
  • ‘I wish many of us students and also our lecturers can get the opportunity to attend the Human-Centered Design Training, this country and world would be a better place to live in. Thank you so much the RAN team’. 

We will continue to engage with these students to further impart skills in them and walk the journey towards registering innovative ideas and projects in Uganda.  After the training, all trainees were added to the pool of student innovators being supported by RAN and they were also directed to the RAN offices both at Makerere University’s Central Teaching Facility and Kololo School of Public Health Annex. At the RAN Offices, these students can access further mentorship and capacity building opportunities, be linked to mentors both national and international, access free and fast internet connectivity, and ambient working space to ignite creative thinking among others. These students were also urged to move out of the training as the Course Ambassadors to tell the story and share skills learned within and beyond the University. ‘We urge you to go out there and remain RAN Ambassadors, share the skills you have learned and refer as many of your colleagues to register and benefit from this training’ shared Harriet Adong, RAN Director Communications, and Knowledge Management as she spoke to the trainees.  These are part of the efforts to institutionalize multidisciplinary Innovation ecosystem within the University with funding from the Government of the Republic of Uganda through Makerere University’s Research and Innovations Fund (RIF). ‘The grant RAN received from the Government of the Republic of Uganda supports the design of robust Innovation courses on creativity and innovation for incorporation into Makerere University’s teaching curriculum, monthly innovation series, training of students and faculty in Human-Centered Design as well as during the process of offering incubation support to early-stage University-based innovation projects’ said Nathan Tumuhamye, RAN Director Eastern Africa Resilience Innovation Lab. 

RAN recognizes the role startups and University innovation ecosystems can play as key engines to spur entrepreneurship in Makerere University and beyond. Prof. William Bazeyo, RAN’s Chief of Party and the Acting Deputy Vice Chancellor-Finance and Administration at Makerere University said ‘With a strong belief of “taking the Ivory Tower to the communities”, RAN is supporting Makerere University to harness the ingenuity and passion of university faculty, students, and entrepreneurs to deliver a great learning experience on how to identify great ideas/ innovations, nurture or grow and diffuse them into the communities in an effort to address challenges there-in. This is one of those training everybody should attend and benefit from’. These efforts are aimed at training over 500 students and faculty in Human-centered design; Imparting in students and faculty skills and knowledge on how to systematically identify and understand local problems or needs in order to inform innovation design; Establishing a robust and dynamic multidisciplinary network of student and faculty innovators ready to work with community representatives to identify and develop solutions to address diverse community challenges, local entrepreneurs and mentors to tackle the looming challenges; Delivering an Innovation course on Innovation design and Innovation management among others. 

RAN uses the Human-centered design methodology to equip individuals with skill sets and knowledge in creative problem-solving. This methodology employs Design Thinking which is an approach that creatively frames problems and aids generation of highly innovative solutions, intervention pathways, strategies, systems and paradigms at the nexus of domains. It involves building a deep empathy with people; generating tons of ideas; building prototypes and sharing with potential end-users to garner feedback before one puts out the innovative new solution in the market. This process involves making ideas visual, tangible, and experiential. ‘At RAN, we emphasize the importance of closely working with the communities with emphasis that this is more powerful than sitting away from these communities and designing solutions for them’ shared Natasha Kassami, RAN Community Liaison Officer. During the HCD training participants work in cross-disciplinary teams and after learning the design cycle we engage them in a Design Challenge to identify problems and solutions, come back in their teams to reframe the problem, synthesize their findings, brainstorm possible solutions, converge and take forward an idea to develop, prototype and test the idea. 

Our next training for Cohort 2 under this initiative is scheduled on Thursday 25 and Friday 26, March 2020. Keep in touch for details. 

Details about HCD are available and shared on https://www.ranlab.org/human-centered-design-hcd