Surf’s up for Design Thinking Week 2023

In November 2023, the Hasso Plattner d-school Afrika (d-school Afrika) at the University of Cape Town (UCT) hosted students from various universities for its annual Design Thinking Week. The project partner for this year’s programme was the Muizenberg Improvement District.

The 2023 Design Thinking Week took place over four days from 21 to 24 November. On 22 November students were also taken on a full-day immersion to the project site at the Muizenberg Promenade.

With students coming from various disciplines, the aim of Design Thinking Week is to afford them the opportunity to work in multidisciplinary teams made up of six to eight, and each team is also guided by a dedicated and experienced design thinking coach.

What’s Design Thinking Week all about?

Students participating in Design Thinking Week work on real-world challenges provided and framed by the d-school’s project partner which, for 2023, was the Muizenberg Improvement District.

As the students learn and are exposed to the tools and processes of design thinking, they also apply these in coming up with solutions to the project partner’s identified challenges. The aim of this is to cultivate the core design thinking mindsets and allow students to take this forward into their learning journeys in their respective fields.

In addition, the students participate in a competitive, African challenge and are exposed to real-world problems. This advances their critical thinking skills that are so crucial to solving some of the problems the continent faces today.

Design Thinking Week 2023’s challenge statements

For the 2023 Design Thinking Week, the Hasso Plattner d-school Afrika at UCT and the project partner, the Muizenberg Improvement District formulated the following three real-world challenges for the students to solve using design thinking tools:

  1. Redesign the safety experience on the Muizenberg Promenade for pedestrian visitors in a world where exploring a beach town on foot can create a more fulfilling coastal experience, but fear of safety deters people from walking.
  2. Redesign the Muizenberg Promenade’s retail experience to connect and include informal traders in a world where the promenade physically separates the formal storefronts from informal traders in Muizenberg, disrupting exploration for pedestrians.
  3. Redesign the travel experience to be more safe for local students visiting Muizenberg in a world where visiting the beach is affordable but fear of safety and stigma of public transport makes it feel inaccessible.

Which solutions came out of the 2023 Design Thinking Week?

There were 13 student teams participating in the 2023 Design Thinking Week. Some of the innovative solutions to the challenges above included the following:

  • A weekend beachfront food market featuring authentic cultural food vendors along the Muizenberg Promenade, with inclusive food options catering to a robust range of dietary requirements (Kosher, Halaal, vegan, etc.). This solution aims to bring the informal traders closer to the beachfront and allow them to be part of the beach experience.
  • A collaborative stakeholder inclusion initiative designed to ensure that community members actively shape decisions. Through effective collaboration, all stakeholders – including residents, businesses, NGOs, and law enforcement – could decisively come together to discuss challenges, share insights, and collectively implement solutions.
  • An interactive mixed media campaign that tells the real life stories of the diverse people within the Muizenberg community.
  • An initiative set to increase activity on the walkway through group walks, guided walking tours and bike rides – all to enhance safety on the promenade through the increase in foot traffic.
  • A collective effort to increase trading hours for existing businesses, as well as creating new spaces and opportunities for small and local traders. The further aim is to increase visibility at night, calling for increased security and improving the current security infrastructure.

How did the students apply design thinking in coming up with their proposed solutions?

Each team applied the design thinking process according to the following six-phased framework:

  1. Understand: During this phase, the teams explored their initial thoughts and perspectives on the challenge statements. By sharing diverse perspectives rooted in personal experiences, the teams were then able to collaboratively weave their insights into a richer understanding of the complex challenges they aimed to address. 
  2. Observe: This phase involved the full-day immersion where students had the opportunity to visit the project site and conduct interviews with community members, locals and other stakeholders using the project site in Muizenberg.
  3. Define a point of view: Here, the students looked at the challenge from the user’s perspective by mapping out the responses they gathered during the interviews in the previous phase. By grouping themes and patterns from the information they gathered, they were able to reframe the challenge into a more focused problem to solve.
  4. Ideate: Following the observation phase and with a clearly defined point of view, the teams then set out to generate as many ideas as they could for potential solutions to the problems. With all these ideas on the table, they narrowed down their suggestions to a single idea as a solution to the user’s problem.
  5. Prototype: Using all the information at their disposal from the preceding phases, the students were now able to create a physical representation of their idea. Prototyping their solution also helped them gain a deeper understanding of their solution, as well as identify potential flaws or limitations.
  6. Test: Finally, the students presented their proposed solutions to the Muizenberg Improvement District at a wrap up presentation ceremony at the d-school Afrika and were afforded the opportunity to engage with stakeholders from the body. In addition, the feedback they received during this session also allowed them to understand which aspects of their ideas were feasible for implementation. 

Design Thinking Week also highlighted the need for organisations and students to continuously adapt and be equipped with tools to navigate the tides of uncertainty. Contact us if you’d like to find out more about our programmes for individuals and organisations.

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