Creative Capacity Building and the PIA Co-Design Summit

June 6, 2016

Note: This is the second in a series of three posts exploring Creative Capacity Building (CCB). The first post describes the background, philosophy, and future plans of CCB as a grassroots approach to design and development. The third post features the perspectives of a diverse set of participants in a recent CCB training.

The MIT Practical Impact Alliance (PIA) Co-Design Summit is a hands-on design experience that will bring together a diverse group of people from PIA member organizations, Zambian entrepreneurs and innovators, and members of a local community to co-create solutions to pressing local problems and catalyze an innovation ecosystem more broadly. In April 2016, the Summit co-hosts (MIT D-Lab, PIA member World Vision International, and IDIN partner National Technology and Business Centre) met in Kafue, Zambia to plan for the summit and meet with local community members from Naboye, a nearby community with which World Vision has worked for some time. Staff from World Vision and NTBC also took part in a Creative Capacity Building (CCB) training led by Amy Smith, Founding Director of MIT D-Lab, to better understand the CCB methodology and prepare to run a training in August in Naboye in preparation for the PIA Co-Design Summit. Read on to learn more from Amy about the role of CCB in the Co-Design Summit.

Can you explain the role that Creative Capacity Building (CCB) will play in the PIA Co-Design Summit that will take place in Zambia in October 2016?

For the upcoming PIA Co-Design Summit, we’re working with World Vision International and the National Technology Business Centre in Zambia to run a CCB training in the community in which the summit will be held. This will help lay a foundation of design within the community so that community members feel confident in their own abilities as co-creators. Our goal is that when they join in co-creation with PIA members and other participants, they feel like they’re doing so on equal footing. A lot of times people from rural communities feel marginalized when they’re working with highly educated people from different areas, so CCB is a tool to make them feel really confident in their capabilities as designers. Additionally, the CCB training will serve as an opportunity to engage members of the Naboye community in identifying and scoping the issues to focus on during the Co-Design Summit. This will all lead, I think, to a much richer experience for everyone at the Co-Design Summit.

Can you speak to the importance of World Vision and NTBC as co-hosts of the CCB and the Co-Design Summit?

We’re really excited that World Vision and NTBC are co-hosting the summit with us because they bring such a strong set of complementary skills to the team. World Vision brings with them a long history of community development work. They have a strong presence in this community – and so many communities around the world – and they have built up trust, which helps to lay the foundation for a really positive co-creative experience. Also really importantly, they’ll be there to work with the communities to follow up both with the projects and with individuals who want to continue to be innovators and creators. I’ve really enjoyed working with the World Vision staff here in Kafue; they seem so energized and enthusiastic about the CCB approach and how it can fit in with the work that they’re doing. I think this will be a very strong and powerful partnership.

NTBC adds another dimension to the partnership. They have been the implementing partner of the International Development Innovation Network in Zambia since the program began in 2012. They have tremendous experience in working with local innovators to help them refine and commercialize their products. Not only can they help nurture the designers who emerge from the CCB training, they can connect them to the network of innovators that has developed as part of IDIN.

I think the importance of doing follow up to CCB trainings and co-creation workshops cannot be underestimated. We often say that CCB is like a match: It starts the fire, but if you don’t keep putting in fuel and fanning the flames, it will die out. The follow up, especially by local partner organizations, is really what keeps the fire burning.

The PIA Co-Design Summit will include participants with a wide range of backgrounds from corporate employees of multinational businesses to local NGO staff to community innovators and social entrepreneurs. Does this make the training more challenging or richer?

We believe that diversity gives rise to all sorts of interesting perspectives and innovations. Everyone brings different skills, knowledge, and ways of looking at things to the table, and when you can promote work at the intersection of disciplines, you’re more likely to find creative and innovative approaches. So I think that bringing together members of the Practical Impact Alliance with community members and local NGOs and other local stakeholders will make an incredibly rich environment for innovation.

What do you hope PIA members will leave Zambia with following their summit experience?

I hope that PIA members will leave Zambia with an appreciation for local innovation, many new ideas for products or programs through interacting with their end customers, and I really hope that they leave with an enhanced view of their own capabilities as creators and designers.