#NEPALVSCOVID19 – The First Ever Virtual Design Thinking Challenge

By Suyasha Singh, Organizing Team Member, #NEPALVSCOVID19; Corporate Communication Officer/Faculty, King’s College

Kathmandu, Nepal – April 21, 2020
Almost 100 volunteers around the world assembled virtually over the weekend to come up with solutions to the challenges arising in Nepal due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. In just 60 hours, spread out over three days, 54 Nepali young professionals and students living all over the globe were guided through the design thinking process by our experts from Germany, Turkey, Belgium, Nepal and India. The challenge took place in an entirely virtual environment, using tools such as Zoom, Mural, Slack and Google Suite.
This weekend marked the first-ever Virtual Design Thinking Challenge hosted collaboratively by the award-winning German program „Impact Week‟ and King‟s College, and supported by the Lufthansa Group, the German Embassy in Kathmandu, remote collaboration platform MURAL, Berlin-based EX Lab and independent innovation experts.
The challenges addressed were focused on the four topic areas: public health, business, education, and community. Overall, there were ten final solutions presented. The winners of the challenge were Team Delta Warriors who came up with the idea of a program called ‘Corona Warriors’ which focuses on the prevention of COVID-19 spread in rural areas of Nepal. Through this program, medical students would be trained and deployed to villages to help contain the spread of the virus, both tackling the issues of the spread of COVID-19 and helping medical students, who are currently unable to practice medicine, to gain experience working in the field, as well as financial support, health insurance and networking opportunities.

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“We wanted Nepalese young minds to use this lockdown as an opportunity to liberate their creative minds and come up with user-centric solutions for tackling challenges caused by this pandemic in Nepal. We have proven that 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 of the #NEPALVSCOVID19 Virtual Design Thinking Challenge and the Impact Week Nepal.
Leading experts like Dr Anup Subedee, Infectious Disease Specialist at HAMS Hospital, Kathmandu; Amina Singh, Professor at Kathmandu University; Nidhaan Shrestha, CEO of Foodmandu; and some highly renowned doctors, professors, and other experts joined the students‟ sessions for specialized advice and feedback.

Highlighting the need as well as the opportunity of social innovation in a situation of crisis like this, Narottam Aryal, the President of King‟s College added, “Events like this help shape-up the creativity and desire of participants to design innovative solutions. This event might change the definition of how design thinking and global collaboration can actually be executed in the future to collaboratively find solutions to deal with the multi-dimensional adverse effects of the pandemic in the country.”
The guest speaker, Gagan Thapa, Member of Parliament in the House of Representatives, Nepal, and the former Minister of Health appealed the participants who dared to take part in this challenge to think differently, remember the context, understand the limitations, resources, and challenges, and come up with solutions, which could be applicable in our local constraints, new ideas for the local leaders to grab.

Overall, the challenge provided participants with the chance to join a global community of innovation, entrepreneurship and design thinking experts, and network with likeminded people from around the world. Most importantly, it gave participants the immediate opportunity to act and create a positive impact on their local and wider community.

Established in 2015, Impact Week is a non-profit program that unites people from a variety of countries and organizations. It promotes innovative and entrepreneurial skill progression in emerging economies as a foundation for sustainable growth, by establishing sustainable business models using Design Thinking. It equips the next generation for employment, to become inspiring leaders – successful agripreneurs, entrepreneurs and game-changers, regardless of their field or level of expertise.

The Impact Week Nepal 2019 was conducted successfully in Kathmandu with more than 100 participants designing solutions for challenges faced in six key topic areas. However, #NEPALVSCOVID19 was technically different, the first of its kind in the world. Professionals, students and experts from all over the world joining hands virtually to design solutions to combat effects of COVID-19 in Nepal. Inspired by ‘#NEPALVSCOVID19’, similar events are being planned for Kenya (1-2 May) and South Africa in the near future.


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