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Solve4Work Club (final update) 27.02

Diverse student teams collaborate with communities and businesses to solve local challenges as a way of making learners “future ready”

Photo of Isaac Jumba
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The Context

In Kenya, about 300,000 graduates enter the job market each year with less than 10% guaranteed of jobs. Over 50% of the graduates feel they are not prepared for the next phase of life. A prior project/work experience is often required, even for entry-level jobs from employers. Companies are increasingly looking for ways of cutting costs associated with recruitment and talent development. A disconnect between the learners and the local community is limiting innovation, collaboration and development. Learners are increasingly looking for opportunities to create impact, engage with each other and gain practical and life skills. Achievements and graded in school still matter to learners and to the society.

The Problem

  1. Students in higher learning institutions find it difficult accessing opportunities that will better prepare them for the job market while still in school.
  2. Local organizations and businesses lack adequate and trusted channels to engage with learners early enough.

Our solution is starting the Solve4Work Club for learners in Kenya.

The Solve4Work club seek to prepare learners to be “future-ready” both for the labor market and entrepreneurship. We are a trusted platform where students from diverse fields work together to solve real local challenges, with guidance and partnership of the local communities, local organizations/businesses and mentorship from industry experts.

Our goals are to:

  1. Enable students gain real-world experience by collaboratively tackling real local challenges and designing solutions that have social impact.
  2. Be a link between the learners, the industry and the local communities
  3. Spark collaboration among students from different fields and schools, something which is not being done at the moment.
  4. Equip learners with 21st century skills and have them experience a glimpse inside a company’s culture and innovation process.

For companies, we are connecting you with motivated, smart, innovative, talented and well-trained students who are your future talent.

For local communities, we are sparking innovation, development and impact, by connecting you with learners and businesses.

How it works:

Solve4Work- How it Works

People & Connections map

Parties in the Solve4Work club


This is an updated and revised version of our Solve4work submission. You can find the original submission of our idea here

Insights from our problem space validation

During the first and second week of February, we set out to talk to current college and university students (both junior and senior), recent graduates, startup founders, business owners, recruiters, ready for work organizations, lecturers and the community. The main goals for the field research was to:

  • Validate exactly what gap exists between higher learning and the industry
  • What current solutions are addressing the gaps
  • What the future ideal solutions could be

We also roughly validated our idea from our submission phase.

Here is the summary of the insights that came out of our field interviews.

We also took detailed notes (including audio in some cases) and insights during our interviews with the different targeted individuals. You can have a look at it here.

With the iterated solution, we see:

An all inclusive system that will enable learners be better prepared for the needs of the workforce and entrepreneurship where:

  • The industry and the local community are collaborators
  • The educators and experts are facilitators
  • Learners from diverse fields work together on real-world challenges
  • The system integrates with the existing higher learning approach, where grades, titles and degrees still matter; rather than replacing the whole education system.
  • There is flexibility for the parties involved (students, businesses and communities)
  • There is room for failure for the learners
  • Learners are excited about the challenges they want to solve


The Solve4Work idea has evolved mostly because of feedback from learners, the faculty, the local businesses. A big part of the concept is also credited to Anne-Laure, our team member, who is part of Design For America - New York University, an almost similar model with lots of successes.

What solutions currently exist?

Lots of programs, startups and initiatives have been set up to address the skill gap in Kenya.

  • The 2Jiajiri program by KCB which has picked 10,000 youths for its first cohort and aims at enabling youths to become self-employed.
  • The Presidential Digital Talent Program DigiTalent focusses on giving ICT graduates practical skills through placement in both public and private organizations
  • The Junior Achievement program, mainly focuses on high schools and enables students make the right career choices by giving them early industry exposure
  • Barclays Ready to Work program which is also being carried out offline at Strathmore University gives students life and work skills.
  • The TVET program by Kenyan Government and the DOT Kenya program
  • Yusudi - a startup providing skill development for those above 18 years old
  • Skilled-based institutions like Andela, Moringa School producing top class world talent
  • Hubs such as iLabAfrica, C4DLab are school hubs to incubate student ideas while in school.

Our uniqueness

While most current solutions mostly focus on graduates, we focus on learners. Also, for the real-world projects, we have a bias towards solving local challenges with the goal of connecting learners to the local communities. Lastly, interdisciplinary collaboration is aspect that makes Solve4Work stand out. Whether its undergraduate or graduate students or whether it's between junior and senior students, we provided the much needed environment for teamwork, failure and learnings.


Our ideal user

The user experience map

Insights from our light prototype experiment

On Saturday 25th Feb, we brought together 9 students to help co-create the Future of Giving Back, a design challenge by Chagua Charity. It was an amazing 3 hours for the students who did not realize they were using a HCD approach to problem solving.

Here were the key highlights:

  • Students found the approach really interesting and helpful, and different from their traditional approach to problem solving
  • They highlighted the aspect of collaboration as also being key to their final ideas
  • As some noted, they felt the 3 hours were not enough, but they liked the constraint on time
  • Since they came up with the final ideas, they were interesting in actually prototyping and testing out the ideas. “What Next?” is what most of them asked.

Some of the key questions we asked were:

  • Why they had signed up for the event
  • What stood out for them during the workshop
  • What would be their next steps after the workshop
  • What was difficult during the workshop
  • What other sort of challenges they would like to solve
  • Whether they are interested in future meetups
  •     What would motivate them to be part of the Solve4Work club

A key learning was that motivation and commitment for the students to stay engaged in the club is something we really have to think about. 

Here is a summary post about Saturday's design event.

Also here is a short video on part of the feedback we received.

Potential Revenue Streams

  1. Consultancy fee/commission on sponsored challenges
  2. Company membership/subscription fees
  3. Student registration fees
  4. Revenue from research reports and publications
  5. Shared revenue from learners on maybe securing a paid internship/job through the club

The next big steps

The bigger steps

Who is your idea designed for and how does it reimagine higher education to support the needs of tomorrow?

The idea is designed for university and college students (mostly), local organizations and the local communities. We are providing opportunities for students to go outside the classroom and put their learning to action through innovation that creates impact while fostering interdisciplinary collaboration and connecting learners to the local community and the industry.

This idea emerged from:

  • A group brainstorm
  • An individual
  • A Design Jam or Workshop event

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

For now, help in understanding the value the club will have for the local businesses and how best to approach them. I'm working with the local OpenIDEO chapter here in Nairobi in helping prototype and test the idea. Another help would be questions/comments on why the idea will/will not work.

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

We have facilitated a design challenge in partnership with Chagua Charity - a community platform whose goal is to make it easier and fun for individuals and organizations to give back to the community. The challenge sought ideas on how to better engage Nairobians in giving back, and with the goal of getting members to fully implement the ideas generated from the workshop.

Tell us about your work experience:

I love using technology and design to solve local challenges. I'm currently a co-creator at Mideva Labs ( working on introducing and incorporating design thinking in schoools in Kenya. I have previously co-founded two for-impact startups.

How would you describe this idea while in an elevator with someone? 2-3 sentences.

We create viable transition from school to the job market for learners by providing a platform where learners can gain real world experiences, collaborate with each other, get connected to the industry and create social impact in their communities.

What is the specific problem your idea is trying to solve? 1 sentence.

Students in higher learning institutions find it difficult accessing opportunities that will better prepare them for the job market while still in school.

How is your idea different or unique from what is currently on the market?

Our uniqueness: While most current solutions mostly focus on graduates, we focus on learners. Also, for the real-world projects, we have a bias towards solving local challenges with the goal of connecting learners to the local communities. Lastly, interdisciplinary collaboration is aspect that makes Solve4work stand out. Whether its undergraduate or graduate students or whether it's between junior and senior students, we provided the much needed environment for teamwork, failure and learnings.

How do you plan to measure the impact of your idea?

Number of students who get jobs/internships or go ahead to start their own businesses. Measuring the number of participating organizations for the challenges The level of investment by the school Successful prototypes from the challenges

How might your idea be transferable to a large number of people?

The Solve4Work club can be replicated across the campuses and schools in Kenya and Afrca. Also an online platform will have the power to reach a bigger population

What are your immediate next steps after the challenge?

Basically set up the Solve4Work club. Get a local university, work with 2 faculty members, approach 2 local organizations and have about 12 students to begin with. Also collaborate with the local OpenIDEO chapter when starting. Try it for a few months.
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Attachments (8)


Next steps over the next 2 years


Eventbrite Photo

Co-create Chagua Charity DesignBrief.pdf

Light Experiement - Co-create the Future of Giving Back by Chagua Charity

user experience map.pdf

User journey for Solve4work - 1st draft

Summary Persona.pdf

Our targeted users for the Solve4work club


Insights on problem and solution validation


Original idea for the challenge submitted for the first time


Information gathered from interviews and research


Join the conversation:

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Isaac Jumba sorry to see that the idea was not selected as a top idea but this should not prevent you from keep iterating and refining. I'm always happy to give feedback if needed. Please keep us posted on your progress. Solve4Work really has a potential to make an impact. Team it was nice working with you!

Photo of Isaac Jumba

Hi Anne-Laure Fayard thanks. I will keep refining it and testing it out to get it running. Thank you for your great contribution and help, and it will be great to continue having your input.

The Team did an amazing job and I'm really grateful I got to work with each one of you.

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