Design thinking is no easy task, yet this multi-disciplinary, innovative way of solving problems can develop and transform the future
By MANDY CHOONG MUN YEE
Service design thinking has become an innovative approach used by companies and organisations in business strategy planning and to create innovative solutions.
Although the practice of service design is still making its debut, the service industry is not. The service industry covers almost every aspect of our daily lives, in either tangible or intangible ways, from buying products in shopping malls to taking public transport or studying with an education provider.
Discovering service design
So, what does a service designer do? Normally, when a problem or issue arises, for example when patients at the general hospital complain about the long wait for check-ups, the service designer is one of the first to be called up to try and address the problem.
The service designer would collaborate with people from other disciplines and carry out research before identifying the factors that are causing the delay, and then going on to design a solution.
What they do is to basically connect the end-users (people who are going for the check-ups) and the service provider (the hospital) in more effective ways to make sure everything runs smoothly, and therefore users are provided with a pleasant experience which in turn would help build trust.
In a recent competition organised by Genovasi and the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, my group and I acknowledged the potential of design thinking in shaping society and creating a better future.
Among all the creative entries, our idea was awarded the best prize for the category of encouraging social entrepreneurship. Our team (there are five of us) were second-year students from KBU International College, pursuing our degree for graphic design.
It was the very first time we had been introduced to the concept of design thinking. During a workshop at the Genovasi’s headquarters in Petaling Jaya, we were taught how to formulate effective solutions to common problems.
We were taught that a solution sometimes does not need to be fancy or complicated, it should be user-centric and practical. We applied what we learnt from the workshop, into the Weekend Heroes project.
Understanding social entrepreneurship
According to our chosen brief, we recognised that the challenge of this project was to cultivate a network of social entrepreneurs and to also create a system to support and encourage their growth.
Before stepping into data research, it was very important for us to get an understanding of social entrepreneurship and what social entrepreneurs do.
To summarise, social entrepreneurs are people who use innovative business techniques to solve societal problems, and who do not normally focus on profit.
For example, the Embrace project, founded by Jane Chen has solved the troubling issue of newborns dying of hypothermia in developing countries by creating a low-cost baby incubator called the Embrace Warmer.
Another example is the KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Programme), founded by Richard Barth that runs on a simple idea: Keep kids longer in school so they can learn more. KIPP provides education services to kids from underserved communities with one goal – to bring everyone to and through tertiary education level.
Our strategic thinking process
We contacted a few local social entrepreneurs to collect information. We were so privileged to have the chance to speak with the chief executive officer of Leaderonomics, Tandemic and representatives from SOLS 24/7.
Sharing their insights, we witnessed their driving force to contribute to society. These social entrepreneurs are fighting for a change so the world can be a better place.
However, working in non-profit centred companies also brought them difficulties, such as funding issues, manpower difficulties, etc.
But to see their commitment to serve the community, we were inspired even more to work harder to create a system that would support them.
After knowing the entrepreneur’s side of stories, we wanted to listen to the voice of the community. We conducted random interviews and discovered that a huge number of people do not know what social entrepreneurship is.
Moreover, we discovered that Malaysians are constantly busy with their jobs and have no time or inclination for social work.
Some even have prejudices on volunteerism.
To promote social entrepreneurship, we needed to encourage people to do social acts by:
- allaying their worries on volunteer work.
- rewarding them for contributing.
To this end, we created a system called the Weekend Heroes.
The Weekend Heroes concept
Weekend Heroes is a non-profit organisation which serves to connect the public with social enterprises.
The name itself suggests a concept of doing good during the weekend, which helps to allay people’s worries about their commitment to social activities.
Working adults are apprehensive of over-commitment. They do not want social work to interfere with their daily routines. Therefore, the idea is to contribute only on weekends.
However, nothing starts without clear understanding. Participants are first encouraged to learn by watching videos and reading articles written by professionals on social entrepreneurship.
Next, they are referred to social entrepreneurship activities that are being organised by individuals or groups in their vicinity, and may register to participate.
For every participation and engagement, participants would gain points which are tallied by the Weekend Heroes Ranking System.
This point system builds up their personal portfolio which can later be downloaded in document form and used as supplementary information for job interviews or to secure loans.
Through implementation of this system, we hope to change public perception towards social work, and therefore widen the chances of social enterprises in connecting with underserved communities.
During the Genovasi competition, our idea was recognised by judges from strong backgrounds, and we were very honoured.
When I was preparing for the presentation of the Weekend Heroes idea, I was not very confident as it seemed too simple: encouraging people by rewarding them, and helping entrepreneurs by connecting them with people.
However after winning the category, my group and I realised that a solution does not need to be fancy or complicated to solve issues.
The evolving economy nowadays has made it possible for service design thinkers to transform the world!
Mandy Choong Mun Yee is a graphic design student from KBU International College. She is the team leader for a group of students which recently won the RSA x Genovasi Malaysia Awards in the ‘Encouraging Social Enterprise’ category. She learns and practices design thinking and believes it can aid in shaping a better society. To connect with Mandy, email email@example.com. For more Thought of the Week articles, click here.
Published in English daily The Star, Malaysia, 4 April 2015