Resilience innovation series workshop in Zimbabwe

Wednesday, April 5, 2017 - 08:00 to Friday, April 7, 2017 - 08:00

Twenty-eight (28) Zimbabwe Ezekiel Guti University (ZEGU) students from five (5) different faculties of Law, Commerce, Arts, Education and Agriculture attended a workshop at their campus on Resilience Innovation. The training was organized and offered by the University of Pretoria (UP) Southern Africa Resilience Innovation Lab (SA RILab).The training was organized as part of the objective of the Resilient Africa Network (RAN) to reach out to students and faculty in Network plus partner universities. The objectives of the workshop were dual-fold: i) Building the innovation community and ii) Strengthening students’ innovation skills. The learning outcomes of the training were targeted at knowledge and skills development for students and included the ability to:

·         Use conversational, semi-structured interviews with end users to begin to discern their current behavior habits, motivations, and deeper needs
·         Articulate human insights and use rapid prototyping as a tool to probe ideas
·         Identify how, who, and where need finding is most critical to advancing your project in the immediate future
·         Develop understanding of how to create business models and scaling their innovations and business
·         Use the scaled impact process to monitor and evaluate their innovation development activities


The training was opened by the Deputy Registrar of students at ZEGU and was also attended by the Quality Assurance Manager of the University with responsibilities of writing funding proposals for the University. As it was the first time such training was offered at ZEGU, this engagement was meant to create the culture of innovation and identify areas of support required from the perspective of both students and staff. Through the training, it was anticipated that students will understand the RAN definition and approaches to resilience and how development interventions targeted at strengthening community resilience can be developed. It was also anticipated that students would understand their role in developing solutions with potential to impact livelihood options and income generation capacity of their communities towards wealth creation and food security.

The RAN developed training materials using a Human Centred Design approach were used for training delivery. Topics covered during the training included:

·         The Resilience and Innovation Nexus
·         Creating a culture of innovation
·         Rapid prototyping and Conceptualisation- rapid idea generation
·         Design thinking
·         Need-Finding through a Human Centred Design approach
·         Business model development
·         Impact potential
·         Monitoring and evaluation for innovati
·         Available grant opportunities for Innovation

During the training sessions, students learnt how to conceptualize ideas and define problem statements resulting in some creative ideas being proposed that formed part of the training delivery. The focus of innovation ideas proposed by students included areas of agriculture, waste management, information, education and communication and preservation of indigenous knowledge through community traditional systems. As the training approach was practical and activity based, design challenges were developed based on ideas proposed by the students. This allowed students to think of the challenges encountered by the communities they come from and possible solutions based on their experiences and interviews with their peers.

The outputs of the design challenges were low resolution prototypes made out of paper. The developed prototypes were in either physical or in the form of story boards. The idea was to teach students to understand that prototype development does not require expensive materials and ideas can be demonstrated using cheap and locally available materials. This follows the principle of failing early and failing cheaply as promoted by RAN.

From the training evaluations completed by students, evaluating the usefulness of the materials used, the following were some insights provided demonstrating how relevant and useful the tools are. The materials used during training were useful in terms of the following:

·         Allowing students to think in a structured manner
·         Encouraged working in groups
·         Demonstrating the need to immerse oneself in the community to get insights about development challenges and solutions
·         Made conceptualization easy and broaden thinking beyond the levels students are accustomed to
·         Made students understand the skill of interviewing and asking open-ended questions

Some ideas of how an innovation culture enabling environment can be promoted at ZEGU emerged. These included:

1.    Working with the already existing Enactus student club on campus to build their capacity to conduct community problem analysis and develop programmes that seek to identify innovative solutions
2.    Promote the culture of innovation among staff and students through hosting various events, including competitions, targeted at encouraging students and staff to be involved in identifying and developing innovative solutions to common development challenges
3.    Identify a staff member who can be a champion of innovation and entrepreneurship for the purposes of supporting and guiding students in their activities
4.    Provide resources that will stimulate student innovation and entrepreneurship. Examples could include office space for the Enactus club that can be used for general innovation activities
5.    Develop a comprehensive work plan for student clubs to identify projects that they can work on and use those to source external funding for operationalization


Author: Ozius Dewa