Written by Priyanka Patel, Innovation Officer at Kenya Red Cross Society

Design Thinking and Innovation, words that seem so simple, yet are very complex. Innovation is often categorised as technology, and digital solutions, but to the humanitarian sector, innovation is all about creative thinking, developing solutions or trying things in a new way to benefit the community. The Austrian Red Cross through their Skybird program implemented two boot camps on design thinking and innovation, one virtually for 6 countries in the East Africa Region, and a physical workshop for 6 branches of the Ethiopian Red Cross. The aim of the boot camps was to give space and guidance to the National societies to develop innovative and gender sensitive WASH solutions. The two 5-day long workshops were facilitated by the Kenya Red Cross Society Innovation unit through the IOME005 Innovation centre based in Lamu.

Ample time was spent to support the teams to understand the problem at hand and design possible solutions to it based on end-user suggestions (user-centred approach), for better ownership, as well as sustainability of the developed solutions. Our internally developed user centred design approach supports in coming up with real time solutions that can be tested with end users for better understanding of its effectiveness and areas of correction.


Continued mentorship after the bootcamp


The 6 Regional teams and 6 Ethiopian teams were taken through a series of virtual mentorship after the boot-camp, where their problem statements, possible solutions, prototypes, and proposals were guided and supported by KRCS staff. The mentorship sessions went on for 5 weeks, starting off with understanding the problem on ground in more detail, with teams visiting the community, collecting real time data, interviewing end users to understand their needs and suggestions. Followed by this was mapping their resources, partners, stakeholders, needs and gaps that could be filled with their suggested solutions that were developed into full proposals submitted to the Austrian Red Cross.


The goal behind I.O.ME005


Ideation is key to forming solutions for the community. Challenges faced at the community level are best understood by the community members, and therefore they are best placed to form or suggest solutions for strengthened ownership, increased learnings, opportunities to scale out with best practices. The goal of KRCS innovation unit is to build capacity of the community members, youth, partners and stakeholders with more innovative approaches and processes in delivering humanitarian services at the community level. The IOME005 innovation lab, a fabrication and ideation space owned by the KRCS and based in Lamu, Kenya supports youth with skills around innovation management, and building prototypes to developed ideas to address existing challenges.

Part 2 of this blog post will discuss the approach, how the teams were selected and how the mentorship looked like in more detail next month. 

In the meantime you can find IOME005 on Twitter @iome005, on Instagram @iome005 and on our website: https://www.iome.ke/