Thursday, July 24, 2008

Day 11 - Speakers and Team Dynamics

Following on from our weekly evaluations from Week one we decided to organize a team check in to make sure that the teams were happy with the way their projects were going and also with the working dynamic within their team. The day began with a two hour follow up session given by Paul Hudnut and we then had our team evaluation session. The teams were encouraged to be honest with each other about how they felt they were working together but we also told them to come up with a myriad of positive aspects about their team dynamic.

All the participants I spoke to found this session extremely useful as the importance of good team relations as the foundations of a successful project was not lost on them. We then provided an ethnic lunch for the participants and our two guest speakers for the day, Ruth Mufute and Harish Hande. Columbian, Chinese, Indian and Brazilian food was ordered and there was no surprise when the Brazilian food once again turned up late! After lunch we all convened on room 66-160 to listen to presentations from our two guest speakers.

Ruth Mufute, currently the Regional Director for Africare in East and Anglophone West Africa, spoke to participants about her experiences in empowering women in Africa. Africare is an organization which works in partnership with African communities to promote health, education and productivity. Ruth talked about the need that exists to respect traditional culture in the face of globalisation, and numerous other factors. Find out more about Africare at http://www.africare.org/ .

We were then treated to an extremely interesting lecture from Harish Hande, co - founder of SELCO. This is a sustainable energy based company whose mission is to empower the lives of under-served populations throughout the world by selling, servicing and financing services that improves their quality of life in a holistic manner. Harish talked to us about his experiences with SELCO and then went on to outline what he felt were the key issues surrounding entrepreneurship in developing countries.

video

He argued that what was needed was a renewed focus on consumer need, rather than simply creating new products for the sake of innovation. His key points were that barriers are functions of human resources and not of technology, that money is best put towards services and letting word of mouth speak for itself, over unreliable marketing, and that increasing production doesn't increase income. He made the point that sub par answers to real world problems were simply not good enough and that innovators need to work with communities, rather than simply providing them with Western solutions. Find out more about SELCO by visiting http://www.selco-india.com/.

The participants then broke into their teams for their afternoon workshop session. The teams have been working hard for the last few days to create presentations and basic concept sketches and prototypes for the first design review this Friday. The participants are excited about hearing from design experts about their respective projects and are looking forward to learning about some technologies in the "how to" sessions during the weekend.

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