In efforts of promoting entrepreneurial education and innovation, King’s College started a 2 month entrepreneurship module called ‘Urban Mobility Co-Creation Project’, where a team of students undergo the design thinking process to solve a real challenge given by an industry partner.
The module is also a part of the EUAccel program, a program supported by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT). EIT promotes and supports universities, start-ups and entrepreneurial institutions across countries, under various Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KIC). This year EIT’s focus is on two KICs – EIT Urban Mobility and EIT Urban Manufacturing, where various entrepreneurial universities run project based courses aligned to one of the KICs.
And so, along with 8 universities from 8 different countries like Germany, Austria, Belgium and Scotland, 13 students from King’s College, in the midst of the festivities humdrum, set out to solve a challenge set by 3 Nepali Companies – Pick n Drop, Tootle and Upaya City Cargo – working in the field of urban mobility. The challenge topic of each company ranged from product designing, to adopting inclusionary practices in the workforce, to exploring opportunities in a new market segment.
During the 2 month process, students spend the first half of the module trying to understand the challenge in depth before ideating and jumping into a solution. In order to dive into the challenge, students work closely with the company, identify various stakeholders involved in the challenge and fully immerse themselves in the community to empathize with the stakeholders and understand their emotions and behaviors.
“I really empathised with the delivery rider when they shared their difficulty of delivering parcels heavier than mentioned. Sometimes, customers also expect you to carry it multiple flights up the stairs. It got me questioning, if it can get this difficult for able bodied men who are usually associated with heavy lifting, how can we be more inclusive to recruit women or people with disabilities in the workforce?” a student questioned and reflected after listening to the struggle stories of stakeholders.
At the understanding phase, when students end up with more questions than answers, and more confusion than clarity, we know that they are on the right track, and that they have fully immersed themselves in the complexities and nuances of the problem. Such questions also fuel the curiosity of the students, and as a result they get to utilize their theoretical knowledge and put it into practice while doing their research.
Working in a team also becomes a crucial aspect of the process. While navigating the process of solving the company’s problem, students also have to navigate their own team dynamics and stride forward together. To ease this process for the students, there are bi weekly sessions, for all three teams to come together and share their challenges and success stories. This allows the students to learn from their peers’ success stories and mistakes. These sessions also introduce students to different tools and methodologies that they can use in different phases of the process.
To guide and challenge the students in the process, and ensure that students are thinking critically and entrepreneurially, students are supported by local design thinking coaches/facilitators as well as subject relevant faculty from the college. Along with them, to add an international component, students are also exposed to the international community of students and experts from the EIT ecosystem to exchange ideas and synergise their learning experience.
In this journey, we hope students are empowered to think critically and trust their actions and decisions in developing an innovative solution to the challenge shared by the company, and, as a result, carry the learnings from this process in their personal and professional lives.