From Your Heart to Your Hands: Perspectives from Creative Capacity Building Participants

June 6, 2016

Note: This is the third 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 second post highlights the role of CCB in the upcoming PIA Co-Design Summit.

The Creative Capacity Building (CCB) training held at the IDIN-supported Kafue Innovation Center in Kafue, Zambia in April 2016 was a bit unusual, both in the number and types of participants (read more from Amy Smith about the CCB approach and history here). In addition to a number of local community members including secondary school students, farmers, entrepreneurs, product designers, and more – participants also included D-Lab friends who are learning to be CCB trainers. Among those training to be CCB trainers were staff from World Vision and the National Technology Business Centre (co-hosts of the PIA Co-Design Summit in Zambia to take place later this year), staff from UNHCR (who will collaborate with D-Lab to expand CCB trainings for refugees), and International Development Innovation Network (IDIN) chapter members from Botswana (who are starting a local innovation center there).

Teams of participants learned about the design cycle and practiced metal working and woodworking skills to design and prototype projects ranging from a cassava press, row planter, sterilization system for reusable sanitary pads, chlorine production at the household level, and making egg crates from recycled newspaper. Below, you can read about the workshop experiences of some the amazing participants.


Benson is an 18-year-old student in his final year at Kafue Day Secondary School. After graduation, he hopes to study aerospace engineering at the University of Zambia or at a school in another country. His words to capture his CCB experience are “great love.”

Can you tell me about your experience in the CCB training and at the Kafue Innovation Center?

This is the first time I’ve participated in a workshop. I’ve been collaborating with the Kafue Innovation Center, especially when I’m making my school projects. I was working on a fertilizer applicator that uses simple materials such as the wheel of a bicycle. The Innovation Center is a great place to learn and create things. You meet creative people and creative minds, they teach you a lot, it’s just so great.

This week, the workshop – wow – has really taught me a lot. I’m already feeling like I’m a manager or something – I’m an innovator, an artist, a carpenter, metal fabricator, everything. It’s just so great, the learning – actually it felt like we were just playing – but at the end of the day we are doing something. That makes it very interesting to me and just so great.



Euphrasia is a development facilitator with World Vision in Zambia. She has a powerful way of encapsulating her CCB experience: “This has been something that captures you from deep down in your heart, because in order to do anything, it has to come from you – from your heart to your hands.”

What brought you to this CCB training in Kafue, Zambia?

I was a participant in this CCB training because of the role I play in my organization, World Vision. I work in collaboration with a community to help put development in their own hands and make their lives better.

Did you have any “aha” moments while participating in the CCB training?

Learning the design process itself was an “aha” moment. When you work in a team to think about something, make a sketch, test it … you see yourselves get stronger together and have the courage to start something. As much as we failed several times in working on our project, because of the teamwork, we didn’t give up. We held on and just made sure we could show what we were planning to do. So I think this is one thing that I have learned, coupled with tangible design and tangible items.

I was also excited with everyone I met, especially the women that to me look vulnerable, but they have so much courage, so much enthusiasm, that despite not having financial means you still see the life in them that says, “I want to do this.”

So I think that has really taught me a lot. I have personally learned a lot, even for my own personal programs and growth. I think this has been a great time.



Rachel is a 13-year-old student in 11th grade at Kafue Day Secondary School, and was the youngest participant in this CCB training. “Come and see this place,” is the message she wants to share about her CCB experience at the Kafue Innovation Center.

Can you tell me about your experience in the CCB training and your team’s project?

It was great to be here. I learned a lot of things I didn’t know like how we could recycle paper by making trays, about pad sterilizing, and how to produce chlorine. Our project was about chlorine production at a household level. You only need salt, electrodes, and two batteries. It’s possible, if your batteries are 3.5 volts, you can use one battery. Our experimenting and prototyping gave me an idea for another project: I saw we were using a lot of batteries, so I was wondering about people who don’t have batteries, how can they still produce it? I was thinking we could use solar from the sun.

Can you tell me about other projects you’ve worked on recently?

I won a prize for a project I did, an agricultural pesticides project. We heard many people complaining about the price of pesticides, so I decided to use a pesticide with local materials like chili and tobacco. You just mix them together and use it as a pesticide to kill all the bugs on the plants. We won second prize in agriculture for the district.  I have another project this year – I’m trying to improve the design of a ground nut sheller.

What did you learn, and what do you hope to do next?

I learned a lot from other people – I saw how everyone was coming together, there was love, they couldn’t work by themselves. I will definitely come back to the Innovation Center – actually I will be back here on Monday to finish my project.



Corinne is the Innovation Engagement Officer at UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees). She sums up her experience at the CCB as “empowering.”

Can you share why you’re participating and what your impressions are of the CCB training?

I’m here to learn the CCB technique because I’d like to adapt and replicate it within refugee communities. What I love about the whole process, as compared to similar trainings we’ve tried, is that participants actually make things and learn tangible manufacturing skills that are transferable. To me, this is what makes CCB stand out as truly empowering. The feeling that I had after making something for the first time was, “Oh my god, I actually made something!” And I think that’s a very powerful feeling to have.

Were there any surprises or “aha” moments for you this week?

I would say that my moment was when I made the charcoal briquette press – that was an “aha” moment for me because that’s when I realized the feeling that someone gets when they’ve made something with their own hands. This is a feeling that stays with someone and gives the confidence to solve challenges that are unique to his or her community. That for me was somewhat of a surprise because I wasn’t expecting to feel so proud and excited to have built something relatively simple. I realized how much this actually gives people that confidence. One thing that we’ve heard from refugee youth in Uganda is that they struggle with not having the self esteem needed to become changemakers in their communities. This is where CCB can be truly powerful.

Can you talk more about how you might incorporate CCB trainings in your work?

I want to take this training to refugee communities. At UNHCR Innovation, we’ve been involved in a lot of ‘top-down’ innovation. Yes, we’ve worked with refugees along every stage of our projects, but I think we can push ourselves further and truly foster user-led design among refugees. Beyond the trainings, I think it’s equally important to provide a space like an Innovation Center so that it doesn’t end with training. What I realize and have learnt from the Kafue Innovation Center is that it’s not enough to do trainings and workshops. If communities don’t have the resources of tools after the training, the impact is not the same. So for me, next steps are to see how I can help to create some innovation centers in refugee communities, and spread these learning tools as far as possible. To me, the ultimate goal is to completely eliminate the need for my work. I’ll be successful if refugee communities are doing all of the innovating.



Joseph is a Zambian product developer, currently focusing on products in the sanitary industry. His key takeaway from his CCB experience is “the design process improves every product.”

What brought you to this CCB training?

I’m a chapter member of IDIN Zambia through the National Technology Business Centre (NTBC). IDIN has a liaison office in Zambia, so it’s through that network that I got an invitation to participate in this program.

What project did you work on in this CCB, and what did you learn?

My team’s project was chlorine production using available local resources and at the household level, particularly for areas where it is not readily available to buy. It was great working with my team – a lot of discovery, both in the work and with the individuals we were working with, so it was exciting. I learned a lot, especially with our project – we thought it would be much easier to produce it, but with local materials it takes much longer than the industrial kind. It was a challenge, so finishing the project felt great. When you’re given a challenge and you come to the end of it successfully, that’s a great feeling.

Did you learn anything or meet anyone that might help you with your work?

The project for sanitary pads: I’m keen to find out what solution the team came up with to sanitize the sanitary pads, because these are not pads that will be available in a supermarket. They will be in rural areas where ladies can use liquid from ash and water, so I want to find out about the disinfectant that the team tried this week.



Joyce is a food processing entrepreneur from central Zambia. She processes a variety of foods, currently working on a fumpe (highly-nutritional porridge made from a variety of local grains) product, which was recently tested and approved by the Bureau of Standards and Food and Drug in Zambia. Her key learning from the CCB training is, “group work is very good.”

Will what you learned in this workshop help you in the future, and if yes, how?

This workshop will help me a lot. It has been an eye opener to me. There is a lot I didn’t know, but now, as I go back to my district, I will really have the capacity to teach my friends how we made mistakes, how we should go about some of these technologies. I could even develop my own program.

The lessons we have been having with Amy about the design cycle, especially where someone has to think about an idea, then start developing, until you end up making something – I think all of these things are going to build me up.

Did you have a favorite part?

The group part was my favorite part. When you work in groups, you find that everyone has something to talk about, something they think. You take all of the ideas, you share, you build together until you come up with something that is tangible, that you can start working on.

Group work is very good because you learn a lot from each other and you develop together. Because on your own there’s nothing you can do. It takes a lot of time. But when there are a lot of people working together, you work very fast and you come up with very good ideas. You even learn things that you didn’t know. Sometimes you are thinking of something that you never thought could work, but your friend can come with a new idea and it’s like a dream come true.