A Throwback of Saleema Vellani’s Design Thinking for Social Innovation Workshop at the iCampus

Updated: Jun 28, 2019

An innovation strategist and social entrepreneur, Saleema Vellani visited Monrovia, Liberia, during the week of March 26. During her stay, she hosted a half-day workshop for a cross-section of iCampus community members, social entrepreneurs, international development professionals, as well as the media. The workshop focused on building participants’ knowledge on how professionals can apply the design thinking process and innovative approaches to solve complex development challenges.

From her expertise as an Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship at Johns Hopkins University and the Co-Founder and COO of Innovazing, which educates, empowers and connects changemakers globally, Saleema expanded participants’ knowledge and helped cultivate a mindset shift, which is much needed across the African continent with the rise of entrepreneurship and its importance in the economy.

Saleema invited her colleagues, Weiyi Wang and TianYu Dong, to help facilitate the team discussions during their trip to Liberia under a World Bank Youth Innovation Fund program, called The 100-Day Challenge: Promoting Sound Environmental and Social Practices in Road Construction in Liberia. Participants included over 35 locally-based professionals, members of civil society, and media organizations convening at iCampus.

On the day of her birthday, Saleema felt honored to facilitate a Design Thinking workshop for social entrepreneurs and innovators at iCampus Liberia to solve some of the country's most pressing challenges. The workshop cultivated lots of "aha" moments and mindset shifts, which is the first and most important step to sustainable change across the continent. Towards the end of the activity, the teams participated in an engaging discussion as a large group and shared their insights and the lessons they learned by developing empathy and designing solutions for each other. The role-play activity helped the participants understand the perspectives of different stakeholders, including government agencies, the private sector, the local community, and nonprofits. Watch a short film of the role-play activity on youtube here.

Currently, approximately 50% of Sub-Saharan Africa's population is less than 18 years old—making it the youngest region in the world. These young people are demanding a greater voice in their communities and are using their unique talents and innovative ideas to address their nations’ challenges. Investing in innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology, is key for economic development across Africa. Innovation has multiplier effects and can open up new opportunities for entrepreneurs and create new jobs for unemployed youth, along with relevant skills development.

Before closing out, Saleema Vellani gave her special thanks to Blair Glencorse, Accountability Lab Global Director, Craig Zelizer from PCDNetwork, her co-facilitators Weiyi Wang and TianYu Dong, all the staff at iCampus Liberia, The 100-Day Challenge, and the World Bank Group Youth to Youth (Y2Y) Community.

iCampus is a shared innovation, co-working and community space for organizations focusing on the intersection of technology, business and social change in Liberia. It acts as a physical and virtual space for youth-focused ICT and governance training; a networking and innovation hub; and a focal point for social entrepreneurs and change-makers. iCampus is co-managed and run by Accountability Lab Liberia and iLab Liberia and includes a variety of partners from across the civil society, business and government sectors. iCampus moves beyond the co-working space model. It is a collective and intentional effort to support the next generation of Liberian change-makers in meaningful ways over the long-term. Since 2016, iCampus has hosted over six thousand young changemakers in over two thousand events, hereby supporting knowledge in selected development topics. iCampus is in need of sustainable support to enable it to continue to grow its programs and make a greater impact in addressing Liberia’s critical social needs.

By: Janet M Kamara

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