Reflected by Coaches; Compiled by Suyasha Singh (Corporate Communication Officer, King’s College)
After the successful execution of #NEPALVSCOVID19, the first-ever virtual design thinking challenge in the world, right after a week, the coaches and team from King’s College, Nepal joined hands with other international coaches and design thinking experts from Impact Week, for the second one in the series – KENYAVSCOVID19. The 4 coaches from King’s College who participated in this virtual design thinking challenge to collaboratively work on finding solutions to COVID19 in Kibera (Kenya) were: Prateek Raj Neupane, Raunak Choudhari, Swechhya Rajbhandary, and Udgum Khadka.
Even though the coaches were participating from Kathmandu, virtually, it felt as if they were actually there in Kenya, among their people, feeling what they feel. As Swechhya Rajbhandary, one of the participating coaches, shares, “I wasn’t really in Kenya, rather 6000km far from it, sitting in front of my laptop screen, virtually experiencing Kibera (Kenya) with my Impact Week team for #KENYAVSCOVID, a 2-day virtual design thinking challenge.”
It is fascinating how she portrayed the Kenyan locality while never actually being there in person. She further writes, “And a little further down the road was a handwashing station where people were taking turns to wash their hands. As I went further ahead, the main street branched out into narrower streets, which were bordered by small mud houses with corrugated tin roofs – these roofs were housing 700 thousand people in just 12.1 square kilometres.”
Besides the problem-solving process, it was an interesting experience for the coaches to learn about the culture and context of Kenyans. The participants from Coach Prateek Raj Neupane’s team were diverse ranging from a local politician, to middle childhood sports teacher, so as the coach remarks, the perspectives were also interesting. However, Coach Swechhya’s team consisted of 5 members from Kenya who were working in Amani Kibera, a youth-led community-based organization.
Furthermore, as coaches, getting to know the participants and user groups from Kenya, was very crucial in understanding their context and problem. The coaches from King’s College, Nepal really buckled down to accomplish that during the process. As Coach Udgum Khadka mentions, “One of my team members told that more than COVID-19, people here are afraid of dying due to hunger if lockdown is imposed by the government. This helped me extend more empathy and support towards them.” However, it was not all about the ‘serious stuff’ as Udgum further recalls the two phrases that pop-up in his head when he reflects upon his experience of KENYAVSCOVID19 as – positive spirit and sense of humour.
(Figure1: A screenshot from Coach Udgum’s Team showing participants from Kenya gelling-in)
The Kenyans do seem to know how to strike balance between working sincerely and enjoying the process. The coaches were really moved by how committed the team members were to make a difference in the lives of people in Kibera, but also did not forget to make the journey jovial. Coach Swechhya explains how her team ‘also knew how to have fun’ – listening to famous pop-bands from Kenya, dancing together to Suzzana by Sauti Sol, laughing and planning our real-non-virtual meet – all while diligently working and finding ways to overcome unexpected technological glitches.
Coach Udgum further expresses how he loved and admired the energy and positive spirit of the youths he worked with, after two rounds of interaction with the team and 48 hours of the Design Thinking Challenge. He adds, “Despite how the situation outside was, the members of the team had a ‘never-giving-up’ attitude and they were full of positivity. I remember one team member sharing Kibera’s population comprises of large youth population and the youths wanted to do something on their own to solve their problems. Also, their action also spoke around the same lines.” This precisely is the idea of Impact Week initiatives or challenges – to involve local participants and experts, who better understand the context, to target towards finding solutions to the local problems. Design thinking experts and coaches from outside facilitate the process to find solutions collaboratively.
Interestingly, the entire journey was not as easy as pie. Coach Prateek Raj Neupane found it challenging as well because of the technological challenges in Kibera. But their spirit was way higher than the odds. Coach Prateek adds, “In spite of all the technical adversities, their passion to solve problems in their community was commendable.”
During the course of the event Coach Swechhya realized how in Kibera, the lack of social distancing made the people briefly forget that the world was currently facing a pandemic. In spite of the news of the COVID crisis reaching every house in Kibera, the gravity of the situation was yet to be felt by many there. So, their team found a solution for COVID19 problems specific to Kibera. They designed the solution – Vaa Mask, Kinga Mwenzak, meaning: ‘Wear a Mask, Protect your Family and Neighbors’. The team believed that this program would educate the residents of Kibera on the importance of having a mask, sanitizing and properly using them.
Virtual challenges like such not only help the local people to work towards solving their pressing issues, but also set an example for everyone in the world to ‘act’. In the times of crisis, when everyone is struggling hard to adjust to the adversities caused by the pandemic and anticipating how badly it is going to affect them in the near future, it is truly commendable to see design thinking experts and participants of individual countries joining hands virtually to act against the virus and create an immediate impact.
After #NEPALVSCOVID19 and KENYAVSCOVID19, the next in the series is NIGERIAVSCOVID19. “There is a high demand and interest in conducting similar events in countries like South Africa, India, and Rwanda. It is very inspiring to move ahead realizing how virtual collaboration can equally enable fostering of innovation & entrepreneurship across the world,” said Aman Bhattarai, Senior Consultant at zeroG – a Lufthansa Group company – and lead organizer and initiator of CountryVsCovid19 Virtual Design Thinking Challenge.
Narottam Aryal, President of King’s College, expressed his heartfelt regards to all the coaches and members of the Impact Week team. “It is extremely appreciable how the teams are putting their combined efforts to collaborate virtually with people around the world to ‘take responsibility’ and act towards ‘finding innovative solutions’ to the problems created by the pandemic.”