“Redesign Stories” is a series of articles showcasing the business redesign projects we took together with 5 of our key clients. Each article takes us through the journey of innovation and agility within the organisation touching upon mindset, experience, and space design. Follow the agile redesign process in the 6 inspiring stories shared in our blog.
“One of the best ways to learn is to teach” - this is the phrase whose validity IPKO Foundation, the oldest Kosovar organisation investing in students development, has been exploring and can confirm based on their yearly-held big venture KosLift Design Challenge. A students’ competition for innovative solutions for business’ needs in Kosovo. A classic 4-week-long design sprint with teams in the classroom, guided on spot by facilitators with a financial prize for six winning teams to continue developing their eye-catching solutions. This is the way the Design Challenge used to happen until 2019.
The last competition in 2020 - Design Challenge 3.0, however, had to be different. COVID-19 really took a toll on business and customers in Kosovo, effectively throwing the organizers into the deep waters of uncertainty - they had the hard and vague task “to adapt to the new normal”. This meant that recruitment of students, instructions, delivering and coaching had to be better than ever. To top it all off, everything had to be conducted online, making it riddled with obstacles and uncertainties.
“When the pandemic started we said we have to put the Challenge online! And the director said - I have been working previously with Elina and her team, they can help us.”, remembers back then Dina Spahiu, program associate for the KosLift Design Challenge, on how they reached for launchlabs Sofia.
To carry over the whole competition from offline to an online environment meant a full redesign of the end-to-end experience for all involved: students, co-facilitators, organizers, partners, jury members and even donors. This also had to include “Train the trainer” activities for the facilitators joining from Kosovo including tools, platforms and tricks for virtual collaboration, co-creation and facilitation.
The riddle was at sight:
For IPKO Foundation - doing it remotely for the first time and would they be able to manage the technical setting? Would students be able to take part and if they did - are they going to follow till the end - a question made even more pertinent as it was exam month. Are there going to be tangible solutions at the end worthy of the grant? And also whether the students are going to be able to apply what they would learn in their future work, being one of the main goals of IPKO Foundation.
The desired outcome was clear. How did we approach this challenge?
On several co-creation workshops together with IPKO Foundation we explored the exact touchpoints that needed redesign, mapped the overall scope for the students design topics, crafted some great communication messages to attract applications and set the path forward. At the core of our approach was to turn KosLift project team and all mentors involved into fluent online facilitators through an effective “Train the trainer program”
We had 8 weeks altogether. 3 weeks were for exploration, scoping, designing the whole program and for “train the trainers” workshops; 4 weeks for the actual design sprint with the students and 1 week for final prototyping and pitching sessions. Approximately 60 students registered and were spread into 20 teams. launchlabs team delivered the first round of remote workshops for 10 teams and were shadowed by the Kosovo based facilitators who then repeated it on their own the next day for the second batch of 10 teams.
Together, launchlabs and IPKO foundation teams, we changed the design challenges for students too. In the previously held editions the tasks were related to specific companies that had a very niche problem. This time we decided to broaden up the topics so that solutions could be applied to any business facing the same issue.
“We were worried that the students would not narrow down enough, but then the design thinking tools made them do it and by the end of the workshops they had real tangible solutions. It is amazing that they didn't go abstract”, says Dina Spahiu.
For the whole design sprint we had to create 84 Mural boards and implement around 30 tools. “The design thinking tools are new in Kosovo, the students don't know them. We were impressed how simply they were explained and how well they used them.”, says Dina.
So, how did it all turn out?
Eventually, the mission was successful. Even over successful: “By the end our expectations were exceeded - the launchlabs team made it so fun, without Zoom awkwardness!”, she shares with unhidden enthusiasm. “The students were hyped at the beginning and they stayed hyped to the end, they became even more emotionally attached”, she says. “Even though the day was long by the end I didn’t feel tired and worn, not in the way that live workshops can drain me. The distribution through the 4 weeks was nice as well ”,,adds Arte Retkoceri, Learning Manager at KosLift Project.
What really struck KosLift Project and IPKO Foundation team was how their personal input was constantly sought out and solutions were built upon it.
“They [launchlabs Sofia] really wanted to hear our input, they made it personalized, they wanted to know what were our expectations and to meet them.”, says Arte and adds: ”They adjust, they are really flexible and try to make it work, they don’t postpone things when something doesn't work, they try to find a solution immediately.“
For this strategy to be effective, progress had to be monitored at all times and instructions were given at every step, because everybody had the hard task of simultaneously managing various working tools and, more importantly, the “classroom” dynamics. “It is not easy at all. To be an online facilitator you have to manage the video conferencing platform, the collaboration tools, be able to explain how to use them and not forget any details; everyone is in a different place, with electricity and connection problems and at the same time you have to continuously think about the elements of the program. In the first workshop, when I shared my screen, my Viber chat was also visible (she says in laughter) - there are a lot of things to think about!”, remembers back then Arte, her first struggle with the remote workshops.
How did the competition end?
Owing to the professionalism and collaboration of KosLift Project and IPKO Foundation team and the guidance of our team at launchlabs Sofia, the students found the content fun and engaging. In fact, even the ones who were eliminated shared how impressed and grateful they were for the opportunity to create their own products, services, strategies and solutions for one of their first difficult situations.
At the end it is the IPKO Foundation team too sharing to have learned a lot of things beyond becoming better online facilitators and running amazingly interactive online workshops. “We know the tools now, we will be able to adapt.” They also share their wish to expand the foundation’s activities - more activities for more students and more young people in Kosovo to benefit for free from the knowledge.
“I know that there are many design thinking tools that are really useful. It will be good for us as a NGO to use them in every aspect of our work, to empower next generations development in Kosovo.”, puts the finishing lines Dina.
Written by launchlabs’ Sofia team