Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Day 3 - Team Building

Wednesday was an extremely important day for all involved in the 2008 IDDS conference. We had previously whittled down the projects to sixteen options from a huge list of over eighty. This morning the participants would finally be the ones to decide which ten projects IDDS will centre around for the next four weeks. The day began with a session where the projects were explained further by Amy with participants then being given the chance to raise any concerns or special interest they had in a particular project. One thing that emerged from this session was the fact that many of these projects had the potential to move in radically different directions. The questions asked by the participants about certain projects, including the system for flash heating of breast milk to help reduce transmission of the Aids virus, highlighted the creative space inherent within as there were clearly numerous angles of design that the teams could potentially take.

The participants were then tasked with choosing three projects that they would be interested in pursuing. This was preceded by as session on "What makes a good project?" to make sure that all involved were thinking clearly about whether or not the projects they had in mind were implementable and rational. Once the voting had been conducted the participants were then given time for lunch before hearing the verdict on the projects for IDDS 08'.

After lunch the atmosphere in room 32-155 was one of both apprehension and excitement. There was understandable worry among some participants that they would not be involved in a project they were interested in but thanks to the excellent system devised by Amy, Ben, Harald and our team of mentors, these fears remained unfounded. All of the particpants that I spoke to were happy with the projects they had been assigned and were looking forward to getting to know their fellow team members.

Here is the list of projects that we will be working on at IDDS 2008:

1.System for Flash Heating Breast Milk to help combat transmission of HIV
2.Incubator for low birth weight infants in rural zones
3.Hand held medical diagnostic tool
4.Micro Hydro Small scale water power
5.Power Generation from Mechanical Devices
6.Ropeway Transport system
7.Charcoal Crusher
8.Pearl Millet Thresher
9.Educational Television Computer
10.Interlocking Stabilized Soil Block Maker

Once we had the participants in their groups we began the all important team building activities. This session began with an innovative activity devised by Ariel Phillips, an organizer from Harvard who specializes in team dynamics. Each participant explained the origin of their name to their team, which then sparked further conversations about their respective families and upbringing. Some participants had some extremely interesting stories to share about their names and all involved found the activity eye opening due to the huge diversity in background of the partcipants at IDDS. One six member team, Micro Hydro Small scale water power, includes participants from four different continents!

The teams were then brought into Lobby 13 for our second, and more frantic, team building activity. Each team was given 100 balloons, a scissors, tape and fifteen minutes to create a free standing tower with the balloons. Once they had been given the go ahead to start the room turned into a frantic hive of activity as teams got to work blowing up their balloons and devising their strategies. All of the teams adopted quite different approaches to the activity and there were, as usual with IDDS, some innovative design structures!

Balloon Towers!

Teams were then given their most important assignment to date - finding a place to go for dinner together! Amy told them that this would be similar in many ways to working on a project with time constrictions(they had to be back by 7.30) and monetary constrictions(the teams were each given $50) both of paramount importance. The importance of the teams being given this time to learn about, and how to work with, each other as we feel that IDDS offers participants more thanb just the chance to work on exciting low cost technology projects. Many people involved in the conference are interacting with people from different countries and continents for the first time and as such IDDS hopes that they can learn as much as possible from each other. And, of course, if a team are working well together they are far more likely to have a successful project.

Anil Gupta, the founder of the Honeybee Network, gave an insightful hour long presentation to the group after dinner on his experiences in empowering, encouraging and documenting grassroots innovation in India. The Honeybee network is an organisation founded by Mr. Gupta which promotes people to people networking and represents the voice of creative grassroots innovators. Mr. Gupta called for the need to develop a "way of thinking" to combine innovative design with a knowledge of the nature and environment in which the work is done. He stressed that "concern, compassion and curiosity to get connected" were key to solving long standing problems.

He went on to identify some myths that currently exist in our collective mindsets. One key attitude that he believed we need to change is that of viewing poor people in developing countries simply as consumers. He argued that they could also provide knowledge, innovations and ideas if we could only open our ears and minds and commit to learning from them. He showed us soms short videos of projects supported by the Honeybee network that highlighted just how innovative the samll scale innovations that people design can be.

The organizing team are delighted that teams are finally together and all the participants I have spoken to can't wait to get down to strategizing and problem framing for their particular projects tomorrow. So overall, a very positive atmosphere prevades at IDDS!

1 comment:

Berry Winter said...

Sounds like you all had fun - an essential element in team building!