SISTEER Study Group Session 3

Session 3 was indeed an interesting session to sit through. As STEER Nepal is heavily grounded in its aims in exploring the application of social innovation to solve Nepal’s developmental dilemmas, it was an enriching experience to understand in-depth the design thinking framework in the context of community engagement. Benson, the 6th Social Innovation (SI) Wing Director, took the lead in explaining how the SI Wing in CAPT carries out its projects whilst introducing to the STEER Nepal theme what SI is really about.

Social innovation is defined as innovative thinking used when finding novel solutions to existing social problems, and very much at times in the context of Nepal, we should all look at Nepal with the aim of finding assets and seeing the value behind these communities. What we know as the design thinking framework can very much have the potential to solve developmental problems. Under SI’s guidance, we are given a better notion of how we can use this framework to solve previously unsolvable problems just by using a different approach.

For the second half of the session, we had the privilege to join visiting university students from France, some of whom we managed to interact with during dinner, to hear a talk given by Bernise Ang, one of the co-founders of Zeroth Labs. Zeroth Labs is a new startup consultancy firm that heavily relies on the principles of social innovation and the design thinking framework to conduct research.

It was an indeed an impactful sharing session when she was touching on some of her experiences working with the community. There was a need, she has emphasised, to really get on the ground and to get to know the different stakeholders involved in the issue at hand. Understanding different perspectives and establishing different social networks are important in getting the fuller and complete picture. Imposing our own beliefs, whether subconsciously or consciously would become a barrier to properly help the target community when there is a mismatch between the help that is being given and their needs.

Other practical tips she has mentioned includes:
  • Blending methods (of data collection) is powerful and need not be scary. Translators are necessary to be put in place to narrow down the question of focus you are trying to find answers to. Be succinct and clear in what you are looking for.
  • Focus question should allow for an emergence of a solution. Scope the problem well so feasible answers can be obtained.
  • With regards to engaging “higher-up” bodies, giving understandable context with minimal jargon would be more persuasive in gaining participation.

Projects of change need not be big and of a large scale. Sometimes simple projects with a specific purpose to find a solution to bridge a gap is useful in its own ways. That was probably one of my main takeaways during this session overall.

Written by Stella