The latest d-school graduates design-think their way to better public spaces

Foundation Programme in Design Thinking Grad May 2023

The Hasso Plattner d-school Afrika Foundation Programme in Design Thinking hosted its graduation ceremony for its 14th cohort. This marked the culmination of more than nine weeks of hard work and creative collaboration in one of the most exciting and cutting-edge programmes in the world of design thinking. At the end of the course, they not only left with a certificate but an innovative solution to a real-world problem. 

The programme, in partnership with the Western Cape Government Libraries, is designed to equip students from all backgrounds with the design-thinking tools and techniques needed to solve complex problems. This cohort consisted of three multi-disciplinary teams of five to six students, guided by professional design thinking coaches.  

The challenge

Redesign multi-use library experience for young adults in under-resourced communities in a world where they see libraries as a facility for the youth in school, and they feel excluded from the resources libraries offer and the communities they foster. 

Each team focused on a different aspect of redesigning the multi-use library – not a fictional library, however, but the Wellington Library. They were asked to think creatively, collaborate effectively and approach their problem from multiple perspectives. 

Team Damnzel focused on supporting library assistants to create a space within the library that targets the needs of young adults. They recognised that the library doesn’t have a designated space or a frontline worker for the relevant services young adults need and use. 

 The solution: Youth Development Initiative (YDI), a section within the library that provides personal development opportunities and job-related services to young adults. Through the YDI, a person will be present specifically to assist young adults with creating CVs and cover letters and improving their interview skills. 

The Flex Sabres narrowed its profile of its library user and targeted the needs of an elderly widow who frequents the library and needs a way to feel more connected to her community. 

The solution: A guided event-planning framework and application that assists libraries to easily plan social gatherings, encouraging more gatherings and helping to foster a stronger sense of community. 

 The third team, L+ve, sought to assist an experienced librarian passionate about outreach programmes but needs a way to feel supported when running them. The team was conscious of the limitations of government funding to cover such additional activities. 

The solution: A process that aids librarians in running more initiatives by sourcing and managing volunteers and matching them to community members seeking further library services and programmes. 

Launching with confidence 

The ceremony began with an inspiring keynote speech by Richard Perez, the director of d-school Afrika, who highlighted the importance of innovation and creativity in today’s rapidly changing world. He added that all humans have the capacity to think creatively and to be creative and that, at the core of it, the programme is about unlocking that creative confidence. 

Tiego Monareng, the programme lead at d-school, encouraged the graduates, “They should move with this experience,” he said – in other words, they should adapt it to all challenges. 

Alongside the formal ceremony were several interactive presentations showcasing the work of the graduating class. They demonstrated the students’ ability to apply design thinking principles to a wide range of real-world challenges, namely toward redesigning the Wellington Library. Assistant Director Pieter Hugo of the Western Cape Government Libraries was well pleased with the work done by the students. Pieter Hugo said the golden thread that linked all the presentations was they all recognised what the library currently offers but looked beyond it to the needs of the wider community to design additional community services that were outside a traditional library. 

Kiese Mpasa described her experience: “This was an empowering journey for me. Especially when it came to embracing ambiguity, I learned a lot.” Atondaho Ramudzuli elaborated further: “Upon joining the programme, as a scientist, I quickly discovered that I had to be spontaneous and not afraid to let go of something that’s not working.” In closing, speaker Maurisa Moloto urged the graduates to be fearless in showing the world their creative confidence.  

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