Sunday, July 26, 2009

Learning 'How To'

The teams had Saturday completely free and many of the participants took the opportunity to go down to Cape Coast to see the beach and to visit the slave castles that Barack Obama visited on his recent trip to Ghana. From all accounts, it was an eerie experience for all involved. Tombo Banda, an organizer and participant from Malawi, said that seeing the dungeons where they used to keep slaves before sending them off, and the awful conditions that they suffered there, really impacted upon her and made the historical episode much more real. Definitely something I’m planning to check out after the conference is finished.

Sunday was another day off, but this time the focus was on knowledge sharing, an integral part of the IDDS experience. A number of the participants and organizers had agreed to organize ‘how to’ sessions, teaching their fellow participants about their area of expertise and in some cases, actually building some cool technologies! The how to sessions were thought up by Amy at the first IDDS, as she realized that with participants coming from such a huge range of disciplines and backgrounds, they themselves could actually teach each other about cool technologies, rather than simply learning from Amy and the staff. Judging from the enthusiasm that was brought to bear upon the whole event, it seems that everyone is eager to imbibe new skills and methods!

Learning ‘how to’ draw like Nathan

Nathan, just so you all know, is the awesome photographer who has been taking nearly all the pictures on my blog. He is also a participant and an organizer and somehow manages to find the time to sketch during this manic five weeks we call a conference. He decided to attempt to teach a group of us how to sketch like him, and over twenty of the participants turned up to find out the secret behind his cool drawings. Of course, there was none. He started out by outlining the basic shapes that comprise all objects in the worlds which we draw, and how to draw them. He moved on to the methods of shading and outlining that form a central part of drawing caricature, before finishing on showing how to draw inanimate objects, something that could prove exceptionally useful for the participants sketching out their designs.

Nathan instructs his aspiring arttists

Marketing for BOP Technologies led by Bon Nanes

Bob Nanes, from International Development Enterprises (IDE) Ghana, has been at IDDS for a week and a half now, providing informal advice to the teams about potential markets for their products. In the spirit of the ‘how to’ sessions, he gave a superb session on the ways in which to approach marketing for the ‘bottom billion’ and I think the two quotes below are the basis of what he was trying to teach:

"You don't sell people a product, you sell them a dream. You may be making a chlorine water purifier, but you are selling them the vision of healthy children."

"Don't reinvent channels. There are hundreds of companies marketing to the BOP: soap, cigarettes, beer, buckets and batteries. NGOs always want to start a new channel, and it is usually a big mistake. Better to piggyback on what is there."

AS these two were going on, there were also som pretty cool demonstrations taking place concurrently, all around the hostel. Miguel presented the idea of the solar water heater, made out of simply 21 empty 2-litre water bottles, PVC pipe and tetra cartons. Using only this cheap material the device can heat the water past 55C, which is pretty cool! Other how-to's included a bamboo bicycle, pedal powered machines, biogas digester and a ceramic water filter. The variety on offer meant that every participant could find at least one session they were interested in and even though the sessions were optional, almost everyone made it to both sessions.

Miguel explains the Solar Water Heater

"Here's one I made earlier..."

Lisa and Jodie with the Bamboo Bicycle

Later in the evening a group of the participants set about making one of Carla's cool designs using recycled material. I think the results below speak for themselves!

Carla's group worked for five and a half hours to construct this!

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