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11th Feb 2012 / ADA – DSI Event

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African Digital Art hosted a workshop in Nairobi following the successful #ADANairobi11 meetup in 2011. It brought together different speakers whose work in one way or another involved social innovation. The guest speaker, Cheryl Heller was set to deliver an enthralling in-depth talk about the process of Design + Social Innovation.

The speakers on the day, selected by Jepchumba & Barbara, organised by Barbara and emceed by Mark, we brought together the best to our audience. For those who were not able to make it, here is a summary of their presentations as well as Cheryl’s workshop.

Hot Sun Foundation: Lesson’s learned from Kibera Film School

A film school in the slums is unheard of, almost an anomaly. However the efforts of Nathan Collett have helped this vision become alive. This on-going school focuses on creativity and equipping their budding film students with applied skills in script writing, film direction,  production and editing. These students then can move on to creating their own short films and easily move on to employment in the field of film and TV. Kibera Film School provided us a place to find inspiration in naturing talent in an otherwise uncommon place.

A student from the graduating class of 2009, Josphat Keya shared about his experience through the school program and what he learnt from it.

(photo of Josphat via Kibera Film School)

Josphat’s main points included:

“Talent is universal but it is not enough”

Pushing oneself beyond the requirements and persisting at the craft is what ensures success.

“Film is a serious business”

It’s easily assumed a person carrying a camera in a slum area could easily be mistaken as a professional. Having or obtaining gear sometimes can pass one at a glance as skilled but the craft is in the doing. Film making he mentioned is one of those tough business that takes more that what the eye perceives.

Kuweni Serious: 3 Lessons from 125 Days with 100 Girls

Previous speakers at the 2011 creatives meetup and friends of ADA, Kuweni Serious were billed to give the second presentation. Kuweni Serious co-founders and members of Just A Band Jim Chuchu and Mbithi Masya talked the audience through one of their flagship projects from 2011 and that was 125 / 100. It involved a period of 125 Days teaching slightly more than 100 Girls. Kuweni Serious were succinct in the 3 lessons they learned :

“Give a Damn”

Kuweni Serious found it hard to stop once they started caring. The notion of care, concern and empathy when you are actually helping people and working in a community is hard to cultivate on the onset, however once you do begin to care, its hard to stop.

“Ask, Listen, Learn”

We all are guilty having pre-built prejudices and assumptions in new environments. Making up our minds or having our own opinions at first before encountering other people’s input. Having the courage to step back, observe and learn from other people soon teaches you how little you know and how more effective you can be if you put other people’s considerations and ideas alongside your own. Listening to others is more important then stumping your own ideas and voice into their world.

(photo via Kweni Serious)

“Get Out of The Way”

The magic of communities is that they organically work in their own fashion sometimes almost without interference of others. When adding input to a community and a group of people, you can almost leave them to accomplish their own goals without a lot of fuss because things simply work better that way. Remember its not about you.

Q&A with Yvonne Owuor

Next up was someone who we can’t speak highly enough of. A polymath in every sense of the word and a person responsible for shaping Kenya’s creative economy on a daily basis. A liberal arts educator, writer, a reformed development organiser, film enthusiast and film festival director, Yvonne is multifaceted and has worked in various roles creatively. Having recently set up a curriculum in a new arts university and working in the ICT Creative Task Force in Kenya.

Mark posed questions to her about the creative industry and the possibilities she continues to see in it. She pointed that design is HOT right now – design thinkers, creative innovators, content writers are what the market is currently seeking and will be buzzing about. More importantly she told people to exercise caution and take up their roles as designers and creatives in shaping the everyday experiences of Kenyans.

Cheryl Heller: Design for Social Innovation

As the board member of Pop-tech and now the Chair of a new program in Social Design & Innovation at School of Visual Arts in New York, ADA was honoured to have Cheryl Heller share about her observations and insights. In addition to her slide deck, she shared the following key points:

“Every living thing organises around an identity”

From the coo’s and cries of a penguin trying to find it’s child among millions of birds, design also follows a set of rules that define individuality, uniqueness and recognising and singling those things out is quite important.

“Everything we do has an impact”

It’s sometimes taken for granted that we as creatives produce things that have an impact and their are ways to increase that impact and benefit to others.

“Learn from nature not man”

(image from Cheryl’s presentation)

Nature can give us clues we can learn from without depending too much on our own thinking and sometimes miss-directions.

Social Innovation is our relationship with purpose. Design is the means and the method to make that purpose manifest.

Design is the bow that wraps the two together – purpose & innovation. The minute we can define our intent, understand where the needs are and engage the end user, we can communicate our ideas better and begin to relate purpose to design. Design plays such importance to communities, companies, NGO’s, governments and countries and it can make a difference in every place including health care, science, art and so on. Her examples and case studies reflected this as seen in her slides.

(image from Cheryl’s presentation)

Cheryl’s session had plenty of breaks, introspection, mixing up among participants and got people looking in to see how they could impact Kenya.

On behalf of the African Digital Art Team of Jepchumba, Barbara and Mark as well as the participants who shared feedback on the session afterwards, we’re glad to know it was a productive networking and learning event. Many thanks to the *iHub_ for hosting and to Cheryl for sharing and engaging our audience.

Look forward to more from African Digital Art and our events. Join our vibrant community, chime in on Facebook and share your thoughts with us on Twitter.

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Download Cheryl’s presentation

(Thanks to iHub for the photos.)

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