Featured Image by Yiyun Long
At the Seattle Interactive Conference 2016, several fellow Comm Lead students and I had the opportunity to participate in a Design Swarm, a unique onsite challenge that pits teams against each other to create solutions to a tough social problem.
The Design Swarm aims to promote creativity and create disruptive thinking by bringing together teams consisting of people with design, strategy, and business backgrounds.
This year, the Design Swarm partnered with Mountain Safety Research (MSR), one of the world’s leading outdoor equipment manufacturers to tackle the water crisis in Africa. At the event, MSR presented their water sanitation kit which, by the look of it, was an unassuming little blue pack filled with chlorine and plastic bags. The kit is actually a groundbreaking innovation that has the power to make clean water accessible to all. The teams were challenged to find a way to distribute MSR’s water sanitation technology in Kenya where clean water access is limited and fatalities from water-borne diseases are rampant. Kenya has been dealing with water scarcity for decades, only a very small portion of the country’s land is suitable for agriculture and the current water distribution system is less than equitable. It was clear to us that there is a great need for MSR’s water solution and with so much riding on the creation of a viable solution, the pressure was on.
We later found out that Kenya’s water shortage causes a large number of women to spend the majority of their days fetching water for their families and communities, leaving them more susceptible to water-borne diseases. This fact greatly impacted the way my team devised our Persona Spectrums, an exercise which helped us think about all aspects of the customer, their needs, thoughts, and challenges. We developed our solution around a persona we called Natana, a mother, a wife, an avid community member, and also a strong skeptic to the need for foreign aid in her village. We quickly moved into a phrase called “Ideation” where each group came up with 40 potential routes to their solution and then swapped ideas between groups.
There were ideas surrounding bots, singing buses, think spaces, and even a transportable necklace chlorine device. The most outlandish and absurdly large ideas were welcomed with open arms, and in the spirit of ‘failing fast’, ideas were narrowed down into a centralized strategy to get the kits to those in need.
My group narrowed our ideas down and finalized a distribution and marketing plan to address the skepticism and fear we imagined Natana and her community would experience when considering using MSR’s water sanitation kit. Our plan included an educational “Call to Action” song, which would be popularized by famous national singers. Another part of our plan was the development of a community space. We envisioned it to be a place for local community leaders to rally people around the idea that clear water does not necessarily mean clean water. The idea behind it was that this would promote a greater sense of trust toward using the water sanitation device.
At the end of the six hours, the judges converged to make their decision on the winning strategy. There was electricity in the air from the eager anticipation of the participants. You see, the winning team would have the chance to see their idea implemented through MSR. But more than that, winning meant that their idea might drastically improve the quality of life of people halfway across the world.
In the end, the winning team devised a novel solution around chlorine transport necklaces and a unique long-term payment strategy which addressed a variety of challenges in distribution. It was a unique and groundbreaking day for everyone involved.
A difficult challenge was met by an innovative solution when groups of people came together to swarm around crazy ideas.