On November 28th 2016 Makerere University School of Public Health ResilientAfrica Network (RAN) facilitated an invigorating innovation BootCamp at University of Nairobi, College of Veterinary Medicine, Kabete Campus in Kenya which is RAN Innovation Lab’s network plus partner under the Horn of Africa Resilience Innovation Lab (HoA RILab) http://hoarilab.ranlab.org. The event drew together 82 participants including undergraduate students from at least six of the major disciplines at the university as well as faculty and alumni students’ active in innovation and entrepreneurship. The RAN team included; Dr. Teferi Tesfaye, Innovations Officer for the Horn of Africa RILab, Mr. Nathan Tumuhamye, Eastern Africa RILab Director, Dr. Julius Ssentongo, Program Coordinator and Ms. Deborah Naatujuna, Engagement Manager. The main purpose of this engagement was to engross students, faculty, University Management and the community at large to embrace innovation and establish an ecosystem of budding young entrepreneurs and innovators.

The RAN focal person at the University of Nairobi and a senior faculty Dr. Andrew Thaiyah in his opening remarks, commended the RAN Innovation lab saying “Thank you RAN team for providing a learning and collaborative platform which is a great avenue for faculty and students to innovate and inspire bright young minds to contribute to solving community challenges.”

Participants were immersed in the Human Centered Design (HCD) Training where they were introduced to principles of Design Thinking that include; Needfinding / Ethnography, problem identification and framing, idea generation and brainstorming, Rapid prototyping, iteration and Storytelling. Participants were also engaged in hands-on activities applying innovation methods while practicing how to make an innovation pitch. They were excited about the engaging processes, using locally available materials to visualize and bring an idea to life while gathering and making use of the end-user feedback. These activities helped participants to hone their skills for advancing and leading successful innovation projects that supplement their academic courses as well as the field practicum. RAN believes that the Human Centered Design (HCD) approach is vital to innovation, this course equips individuals to design technologies and approaches communities can adopt more easily.

All through the workshop, facilitators maintained an interactive session designed to encourage active engagement of and among the participants. There were many exciting discussions and participants truly enjoyed the problem identification session where they also flashed out the most 20 critical problems that are detrimental to their society. These were collapsed to 8 problems where 8 teams worked hard and developed innovative solutions to address the identified challenges using the HCD approach and finally pitched these to the Jury. Some of the Challenges that students cited which were critical to their community included; Food Insecurity, Access to Water, Poor Farming Methods, Urbanization and Slummy communities, Gender Based Violence (GBV), Corruption, Youth Un employment and Drug abuse among others.

After a full energy packed day’s event, they pitched their final prototypes and the best 2 teams won small prizes that thrilled all the participants. Some of the other innovative ideas pitched included; a system to report GBV cases, a modern irrigation system, sanitation system that is community owned and many others.

The Boot Camp was an exciting, highly focused and hands-on experience, participants enjoyed working in multidisciplinary teams to brainstorm, identify, develop and pitch meaningful innovative ideas.

The RAN Innovation lab through such engagements aims at collaborating with academic rigor and inter-disciplinary approaches to develop innovative solutions for community impact, this is one of the many BootCamps that the lab has facilitated across partner universities to stimulate an innovation culture in universities and beyond so that he bootcamp participants become ambassadors for causing positive change in the communities as they develop innovative solutions for social impact.