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TiLD in Malawi - the social impact of Design Thinking

Last week, our co-founder Ann-Sophie Mante conducted the second Design Thinking workshop in Malawi within Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH – this time on development capacity building.

Malawi’s donor community and implementation institutions offer numerous capacity trainings in different industries aiming at improving skills, sharing knowledge and perspectives. From nurses to government officers to teachers – stakeholders are needed at development organizations’ tables to achieve fruitful long-term output.

In spite of the well-intended mutual benefit to advance the country’s overall development, many stakeholders view capacity building as a mere opportunity to improve poor salaries. In Malawi as well as in other African countries, it is common to request and provide allowances and other financial incentives for the attendance of workshops. This often leads to participants checking in and being present only physically. Others spontaneously follow the invitation of a simultaneously scheduled event promising higher allowances.

This frustrates capacity builders and workshop designers and is the reason why some organizations collectively opted out of this practice. Nonetheless, they continue to face allowances being requested or having to cancel events last minute due to low or no participation for that reason.

To address this dilemma, 6 GIZ employees with backgrounds in social protection, business, finance and law participated in redesigning the broader challenge of getting stakeholders to the table – without providing allowances. The two teams explored the topic at a deeper level to shift the monetary focus to a more demand-driven participation of stakeholders.

They narrowed down the challenge into the questions "how might we shift the motivation of participants towards attending workshops?" and "how might we take our government officers’ needs into account when designing a workshop?". While brainstorming potential solutions resolving the challenge, they focused on how to up-level stakeholders’ motivation and needs. Once more, the teams came up with aspiring prototypes:

One included advertising collective prize-winning when eg. inviting teachers to teacher trainings: ‘the team most meaningfully contributing to the workshop will win 10 tablets for the school community’ – instead of providing allowances. This solution drives stakeholders’ motivation to (actively) participate in trainings in speaking to community sense and collaboration.

Another prototype included crafting and using detailed questionnaires with potential stakeholders prior to designing capacity trainings to find out about their needs and interests regarding the planned workshop. The questionnaire would be as open as to ask whether the workshop topic itself would be helpful. This solution aims at developing training concepts that participants find engaging and useful in the Malawian context – even without allowances being provided.

We ended the session with a fruitful round of feedback on the prototypes and future iteration options. As it stands, the questionnaire-solution will be tested by a wider team on the next capacity training to be conceptualized!


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