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Effective open innovation using human Centered design

As the Uganda In-country manager for Amplify, my goal was to conduct outreach, gather and share information on human centered design, while incorporating more people into our global conversation. My biggest learning was that I got to know how to effectively practice open innovation in any field using a human centered design approach. Something I had tried a year ago using a quite similar approach. Open innovation is a process that enables an organisation leverage it’s internal resources with external resources to uncover new ideas and reduce risk.

Photo of Richard Zulu
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Initially, I set out to reach as many people and organisations as possible to participate in the challenge. This involved meeting with them, writing and even organising meetups about the challenge for them.

For the challenge, I did outreach to a number of individuals and organisations working in early childhood development. This was through email and physical meetings. Twenty six (26) participants later joined me for two OpenIDEO meetups to learn more about human centered design and the challenge.

Within the meetups, it was great to see the participants embrace the design thinking process and learn at the edge. Terms like prototyping, user experience mapping were all new to them. But the mindset exhibited by the participants was already that of a designer.  

I would like to think that as a result of my efforts, I created an avenue for many more people within my local community to learn about human centered design and how they can use it within their work.

Working with community was a learning experience for me too. My biggest takeaway was the importance of sharing all the information related to the challenge with a beginner’s mindset.
What do you mean by Innovation? What is prototyping?  What is user-experience mapping? These were some of the questions asked by the participants in our first meetup. The terms I always use in my work on Human centered design. These seem like concepts one in human centered design will understand however, to someone exposed to them for the first time, keep it simple.

As such, to further demystify these concepts, Solve: Two legumes, One cereal meal for smart children team invited me to their offices to further help them brainstorm their user experience map. As a result of this, they were able to further add other important aspects to their idea and better manage it’s scope. For example, the user experience map evolved to show how fathers played a critical role in their idea.

As a result of my experience as an in-country manager, I have learnt how to use human centered design to support organisations interested in leveraging their internal resources with external resources to innovate effectively. Prior to this, I managed an open innovation process with a media house on how to effectively improve news dissemination and engagement. If I were to do that initiative again, I believe I would do it way better thanks to the Amplify challenge and

The Amplify challenge provided an opportunity to further grow our human centered design community in Uganda. During the meetups, some of the participants had concerns about putting their ideas up on the platform early in the ideas phase. However, after the meetup, all the attendees put their ideas on OpenIDEO. This was only possible because the participants got to learn the values of participating in Amplify. It is all about collaboration.

Participants in the community should continue to further modify their ideas by tapping into the OpenIDEO network online. A number of contacts were built during the meetups which can be leveraged by each of the participants to further refine and launch their idea. For example, Fostering father’s involvement in children’s early childhood development through ICT and Are father’s important in raising a child had similarities in their ideas. The next step would be for me to connect these two ideas in order to have them determine if working together is something they are interested in.

One thing that really stood out was the way initiatives by each of the ECD innovators overlapped. In my opinion, this provides a great opportunity for ideas to be built upon each other. I will keep the conversation going with participants in the challenge so that they can further leverage each other’s work.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Side Effect


Photo of Meena Kadri

Great to hear of your progress, insights and collaborations, Richard.

Photo of Richard Zulu

Thank you for the opportunity Meena. I look forward to further working with you

Photo of Shauna Carey

Thanks for all of your hard work, Richard!

Photo of Richard Zulu

Shauna, You are welcome. Thanks for the opportunity too.

Photo of Luisa Fernanda

My biggest take away working with you has been seeing you be entrepreneurial at teaching HCD and seeing how you go the extra mile to support challenge participants in the idea development and prototyping process. When you told be that you went to the office of the guys from 2 legumes to help them out with a brainstorm, you blew my mind. This went beyond what we expected from in country managers and from the program ; but you have helped create a supportive network of collaborators.

Thanks for representing our process and program in Uganda so well.

Photo of Richard Zulu

Luisa, thank you for the feedback on where you believe I have been inspirational. I have also loved the experience of working with you. Your attention to detail has made me appreciate the importance of documenting each and every activity that ones undertakes in a project. Thank you

Photo of Joanna Spoth

It's so inspirational to hear of your work and collaborations, Richard. Keep up the great work!

Photo of Richard Zulu

Joanna, Thank you for the opportunity too.

Photo of International Youth Empowerment Network

Good job Richard. Thank you for having inspired us throughout the challenge. We look forward to the continued collaboration in HCD and also ICT. By the way, we look forward to connecting with Catherine for the video!