Dashing their way through design thinking challenges

City of Cape Town mayor visits d-school Afrika

The Hasso Plattner d-school Afrika at the University of Cape Town hosted yet another creatively charged Design Thinking Dash on 10 May 2023. The design thinking blitz is a highly concentrated version of the d-school Afrika’s full design thinking courses. 

Aiming to introduce design thinking methodology in a fun, fast-paced, hands-on workshop, the Design Thinking Dash guides participants through the key stages of the design thinking process, including empathising with users, defining the problem, ideating potential solutions, prototyping and testing. Makaziwe Radebe, a fine arts student, said of the programme: “I gained consciousness of being mindful of other’s inputs, which links to the mindset of being human-centred.” 

During the Design Thinking Dash, participants worked in small teams to apply design thinking methodology to a real-world problem. In this case, the task was to create a student management tool, which is a system that allows students to mitigate challenges that they encounter in their academic careers. Reflecting on the lived value of the process, Evan Robinson, a coach at the d-school said that “design thinking means questioning your mindset and thinking with tangible things.” He explained that this means using objects to find solutions, these can be Lego pieces, building blocks etc – anything that aids in developing a prototype for a solution. Later, Evans advised students to not be afraid to start with something awful, but continuously test it. 

This intense, condensed programme is, by design, highly interactive and deliberately pressurised, forcing participants to work together without hesitation, and to prioritise action and movement over careful deliberation – offering a dose of what it’s like to work in a design thinking team. Shaakira Davood, an environmental sciences student, mentioned that she appreciated that the “design thinking process is applicable to any life situation and that it is adaptable.” 

During the activities the participants were surprised to see Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis pop in for a visit. Mr Hill-Lewis had been touring the newly built three-storey d-school sustainable building and was privy to part the workshop. Observing the students ideating in action, he commented, “If you are not thinking with the person you are trying to serve in mind, first and foremost, and what their experience of the service or product is, then you are planning to fail. The more people that we can get to understand design thinking, the more impact we can have in the world.” 

Watch as the City of Cape Town Mayor, Geordin Hill-Lewis, tours the HPI d-school building at the University of Cape Town and chats to us about his thoughts on the value of design thinking in our communities.

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