For 2013, we eased in to the new year by hosting the Makeweekend Ideation Workshop. The workshop is to support Microsoft and Asian Development Bank’s Apps for Asia competition, where contestants use technology built on Windows Azure to solve problems faced by organisations in the social sector.
Our workshop supports the participants in two ways. First, we train the participants in design thinking, a system to identify problems, generate solutions and create prototypes rapidly. Second, we give them insights into the social sector, by inviting experienced mentors from social organisations who give insights into key challenges in their area, as well as provide feedback on their prototypes.
We were privileged to have people like Reita from Gerai OA, Prakash from Komas, Ngai Yuen from KakiSeni and many more distinguished members of their respective fields, with 16 mentors in total. They have been generous with their time and knowledge, which proves that for the mentors, passion is more important than reward.
As Apps for Asia’s goal is to help tackle social problems in Asia, it is inspirational to see people, both mentors and participants, being passionate about solving social problems.
Know thy problem
“If I had only one hour to save the world, I would spend fifty-five minutes defining the problem, and only five minutes finding the solution.” – Albert Einstein
If you don’t know why something happens, you can’t solve it. At Makeweekend, we guide participants to go to the problem’s core and identify the exact reason for a problem, to ensure the solution is accurate and creates the biggest impact.
For example, if children in a certain area lack basic reading and writing skills, what is the reason behind it? Are there inadequate teachers? Are the teacher’s capable? Are there inadequate teaching materials? If the area is rural, do the children have to spend their free time helping their parents, so they don’t have time to read? Or do a majority of the students suffer from dyslexia?
Once you’ve identified the exact reason(s), only then can you start generating accurate solutions.
In the idea generation portion, we encourage participants to brainstorm and come up with as many ideas as possible, by putting down every thought on a post-it note without judgement. Once the thought flurry is complete, only then are the suggestions curated, linked together and then built upon to create a solution.
Once a solution has been worked out, the participants move on to prototyping by creating a draft of it on paper. They then ask for feedback from mentors on their draft, use it to improve their draft, and then repeat it again.
We then moved on to the final session, pitching, where participants took turns giving out a short pitch on their prototype. This allows the participants to get even more feedback, as well as to train them in idea pitching.
At the end of the day, there were so many ideas exchanged and we definitely learned as much as the participants themselves! It is also interesting to note that the participants were well represented by many different age groups.
The Ideation Workshop is just one of many Makeweekend workshops for the year, with our next one in March. Stay tuned!