Why Diversity in Architecture Matters for Communities and the Bottom Line

Original article: http://brandnudesign.com/new-blog/why-diversity-matters

I’m honored to join thought-leaders Gabrielle Bullock and Lilian Asperin in the latest publication by Redshift,  “Why Diversity in Architecture Matters for Communities and the Bottom Line”. This conversation is a continuation of How Music Can Help Solve Architecture’s Diversity Problem and is a short preview of the upcoming South By Southwest panel discussion, Remixing Architecture with Hip Hop Culture, which includes Tiffany Brown of The Urban Arts Collective, University of Michigan professor, Dr. Craig Wilkins and Daniel Guillory, The Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Autodesk.

Photo: RedshiftPhoto: Redshift

What is process innovation?

Original article: http://www.innoviscop.com/en/definitions/process-innovation

“Process innovation means the implementation of a new or significantly improved production or delivery method (including significant changes in techniques, equipment and/or software). Minor changes or improvements, an increase in production or service capabilities through the addition of manufacturing or logistical systems which are very similar to those already in use, ceasing to use a process, simple capital replacement or extension, changes resulting purely from changes in factor prices, customisation, regular seasonal and other cyclical changes, trading of new or significantly improved products are not considered innovations.”

Scaling models through design

A tremendous deal of time is spent on the initial innovation of the product. Much thought should be given to how organisations can scale using innovative models.

This video explores:

  1. Scaling through distributed manufacturing,
  2. Scaling from transaction to collaboration,
  3. Scaling through new behaviours/new markets,
  4. From centralized scale to decentralised scale,
  5. Solving for the system,
  6. Scaling through trust – brand building,


Building a weather station

Open Data Durban in partnership with The MakerSpace Foundation hosted International Open Data Day in a dual-charged effort to ignite openness and participation in the Durban community. Together with environmentalists, ecologists, data wranglers, techies and active citizens we built an Arduino weather station. According to Arduino.cc “Arduino is an open-source electronics platform based on easy-to-use hardware and software.”


How did we promote diversity in the day?

On arrival participants had to select different coloured stickers of what they thought represented their interest and skill set, choosing either a data wrangler; a maker; an environmentalist; techie and more importantly learners.  The latter being an obvious choice to Mondli, Nolwazi and Nosipho three learners from Umkhumbane Secondary School, located in Chesterville, a township on the periphery of Durban CBD. We invited the learners as part of our data club’s programme, where learners will also be building an Arduino weather station which will be rolling out soon.

It was essential that the teams were made up of each of the skill sets above to: ensure the project speaks to the broader theme of informed decision-making through the micro-weather station data; assisting participants assemble electronics; make sure the IoT device is programmed through code; to gain critical environmental insights towards practical use of the tool and more importantly to enable and create a guild of new-age active citizens and evangelists of open knowledge.



Each team was provided with an Arduino weather kit consisting of dust, gas, temperature and rainfall sensors and all other relevant components to build the weather station. We did not provide the teams with step by step instructions for the build. Instead, we challenged them to google search the build instructions and figure out the steps. Within minutes, the teams were busy scouring the instructions from various websites such as Instructables. This emphasised the openness of sharing knowledge and introduced the learners to open knowledge and how someone from another place in the world can share their expertises with you.

What were some of the insights from the environmentalists?

Bruce and Lee, both retired ecologist and environmentalist respectively were charming in their approach to problem-solving and tinkering with the electronic parts. Although not well-versed in the Arduino toolkit their gallant efforts saw them learning and later tutoring the learners on building the weather station.

Their insights into the environmental status of Durban was unmatched and painted a grim picture of the Durban community’s awareness of the problems that exist.

What were some of the insights from the techies?

Often at our events, we have a number of techies come in who are brilliant at coding but have no concept of data science or how coding can be used to address various issues such as economic, social and environmental. This event helped to introduce techies to how coding Arduino boards and sensors can be used to gather weather condition data and further use to data to monitor the weather conditions in a given area. This data then allows the public to be aware of their weather conditions such as the concentrations of harmful gases in the air. The city can also map out pollution hotspots and identify trends which aid in decision making to eliminate or manage the air quality.


How did the learners participate in the session? What were some of their learnings?

There were many different languages spoken by the participants which made communication across all groups a challenge however the confidence and enthusiastic wanting to learn prompted the learners to ask some captivating questions for the group members more notably in their pursuit of understanding how things work in the space.

All the attendees were attempting to build the Arduino weather for the first time. The adult attendees were quite hesitant at first to share what they were doing with the learners because they were not certain if what they were doing was correct or not and did not want to confuse the learners. Once the adult attendees were confident with the method of building, they then began to communicate more with the learners.

Outcomes of the day

We eventually saw one complete weather station built by Sphe Shandu who stayed behind after some team members tinkered with other goods in the MakerSpace, minus the LCD component (no team figured this out).


  1. Lend an extra hand to students that engage with maker spaces for the first time in an urban setting, they have a natural innate understanding of the moving parts (3D printers, laser cutter, electronics etc) in the MakerSpace and not necessarily the context of new-age manufacturing, practicality and potential outputs.
  2. After lunch, the teams became quite weary. Progress dived down but the teams managed to pull through and complete as much as they could. Long events tend to be vigorous at the beginning and hit a stall towards the end. A possible lesson learnt is to host much shorter events.
  3. Teachers need to be incentivised to attend the programme outside formal school learning.
  4. Parents prove to be the most difficult stakeholders to engage – although involved in their children’s learning they need to be engaged to attend such functions.
  5. Attendance for community events on Saturday are most difficult to rally large numbers.

User Experience

Original article: http://www.crowddna.com/blog/

User experience provides a crucial competitive advantage for brands. Ocado, Uber and Airbnb – the biggest innovators of recent years became winners in their categories thanks to their user interface, and the experience these provide.

Even though UX design is often discussed in the context of digital services, it’s actually an umbrella term for human-centered disciplines like service design, information design and graphic design. Everyone can benefit from the principles of UX design that follow the classic ‘Double diamond’ process established by the Design Council.

The Design Council's 'Double diamond'
The Design Council’s ‘Double diamond’

The practice of UX is essentially about solving problems with design. Creating user flows, wireframing and usability testing are some of the main techniques to make sure the product is good and answers the needs of its users. UX is always subjective since there’s no universal taste, though creating personas can help take into account the needs of a range of people. UX design is rooted in psychology and its main areas of interests are understanding what users think, feel and how their instincts affect these. A well-known tool for marketers, Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of needs’ proves itself handy in the case of user experiences too.

Using Maslow's 'Hierarchy of needs' to create ux
Using Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of needs’ to create ux

Below are some top tips for designing better user experiences:

  1. 1. User research forms the basis to any design
  2. 2. Asking the right questions is key
  3. 3. Collaboration: incorporating all stakeholders in the design process brings in more ideas and insights
  4. 4. Affinity Mapping helps visualise and come up with themes when thinking of journeys and user insights
  5. 5. Personas help to empathise with different types of users
  6. 6. Prototyping helps thinking as ideas become tangible. All you needs is a pen and paper – if a picture is worth 1,000 words, a prototype is worth 1,000 meetings
  7. 7. Iterative process = design – test – learn: repeat

What differentiates Ocado, Uber and Airbnb from their predecessors – traditional supermarkets, taxi companies and hotels – is that they’re borne out of user needs (I need food, I need someone to drive me from place a to place b, I need a place to stay). Moreover, every little detail has been designed carefully to make the experience more satisfying and to involve the least possible effort for everyone using the service. Whether it’s a visual, audio or touch-based interface, UX should be at the heart of your decisions. They say that the best services are often the ones you don’t even notice.

Part of InterFace, a series exploring – across digital and physical – how our touchpoints with brands are changing…

What design thinking can do for Africa

Original article: http://www.designindaba.com/articles/point-view/what-design-thinking-can-do-africa


Design is thinking with your hands. Design is arranging the world around us to ensure the functioning and well-being of our communities. Design is the inherent human capability of understanding a challenge and its context followed by the instinctive act of rapid, iterative trial and error until a solution is found. Design is having trust in your intuition to take non-linear creative leaps in order to beat habit. Design is never finished but constantly adapting to a world in flux.

Growing up in Northern Malawi, Ackeem Ngwenya experienced first-hand rural farmers’ difficulties of bringing goods to the market with their villages being cut off from the country’s designated road networks. An experience that followed him throughout his life, he was eventually empowered to address the problem while studying at the Royal College of Art in London. Under the name Roadless he is designing a shape-shifting wheel that is able to adapt to different, previously impassable terrains, providing market access for rural communities.

While the linear approach would be to wait for those roads to be built, the designer’s nature is to make their own way to overcome the challenges at hand.


Design today knows no perfect solutions, but only continuous adaption to constantly changing environments. Considering the abundance of infrastructure vacuums across the continent, Africans have to be creative in every aspect of their lives in order to survive. Broken or non-existent structures – from government and transportation to education and health care, to name just a few – force people to adopt inquisitive, entrepreneurial dispositions in order to work their way around the system.

However, this may turn out to be Africa’s greatest advantage over the next decades, since less defined structures allow for greater systemic change. As more and more Africans gain access to the internet and thereby a pool of nearly infinite knowledge, tools and communities, the ubiquitous challenges at hand could serve as fertile soil for groundbreaking technologies and innovations.

In fact, if harnessed effectively, Africa has an unprecedented opportunity to grow more organic, agile, citizen-centric infrastructures, emerging from and thriving through the entrepreneurial endeavours of its people, by turning their ideas into the very fabric of their societies.

Witnessing migrant workers’ difficulties in Mozambique to send remittances and goods to relatives across the border, Suzana Moreira founded moWoza, a mobile phone-based supply-chain solution allowing product orders through a simple SMS and subsequent delivery to merchants in the families’ home villages. Moreira saw poor and insecure infrastructures making product delivery a costly and risky endeavor – a vacuum that she succeeded to fill with a 21st-century digital solution that is rapidly expanding even beyond African borders to places such as India.


With the youngest population in the world, and currently the only one growing younger every day, one of Africa’s main challenges is its unemployed youth. What it takes is a mindshift among the continent’s young people to raise a generation of job creators not seekers, a deep-rooted belief that with the world’s knowledge and resources in their hands, and a community of like-minded individuals around them, they can be the designers of their own futures.


  1. A common challenge that gives purpose and direction and ensures the varied passions and energies of Africa’s young leaders are channelled for the benefit of a prosperous continent and all of its people. A challenge embodied through role models such as Obinna Ukwuani, who epitomises this spirit and the realm of possibility. Ukwuani embraced the responsibility bestowed upon him and used his time at MIT to set up Exposure Robotics, a summer programme teaching high school kids in Nigeria computer programming and engineering fundamentals through building and operating robots. After testing the model since 2011 he is now building an entire school dedicated to his venture.
  2. It takes resources that allow these entrepreneurs to swiftly move from idea to action, giving them courage and freedom to quickly iterate and scale their ventures into sustainable businesses. These resources include tangibles such as grants, capital or scholarships, but also intangibles such as trust, mentorship and encouragement. There is no doubt that Africa has all the resources it needs to overcome its most severe problems. What is needed is a concerted, strategic effort that is able to attract and maximise such investments.
  3. It requires filters to create a culture of action-oriented, determined and collaborative values nurturing Africa’s change-makers with only the most relevant information and resources necessary to advance their ventures. In times of an interconnected world and growing internet access across Africa, it becomes increasingly important to create spaces and tightly knit communities that ensure unnecessary information will not get in the way of those few individuals determined to embark on the courageous and risky entrepreneurial route of designing their own solutions to Africa’s challenges.

What is needed is a generation of young Africans with integrity, willing to take on the less-travelled road and do something hard over something efficient. A cadre of young risk takers for whom planning and making goes hand in hand, who are audacious enough to take the first step.

African Innovation Outlook

Original article: http://www.nepad.org/resource/african-innovation-outlook-ii-0

Science, technology and innovation (STI) are engines of growth in any economy. Realising that Africa can also benefit from STI activities, in 2005 the African Ministerial Council on Science and Technology (AMCOST) adopted Africa’s Science and Technology Consolidated Plan of Action (CPA) which articulates the African Union (AU) agenda for harnessing STI to boost economic growth and improve the lives of African people.

The challenges are how to link science, technology and innovation to poverty reduction, job creation, sustainable livelihoods and the improved well-being of citizens. How should capacity and competencies be built in order to innovate? As countries engage in knowledge intensive activities, how will Africa expand its knowledge?

Understanding the concepts of STI should support prudent policy formulation and research agendas that address economic and social challenges. Assessing STI is fundamental to formulating policies but in the absence of relevant indicators this is difficult. Most African countries do not have STI indicators or adequate means to produce them, with the reasons for this inadequacy differing from country to country. The lack of STI indicators is of serious concern when evidence-based decisions and policies have to be made. The development of the CPA, which outlined among other things the need to develop STI indicators in Africa, is a result of this concern.

The implementation of the CPA to develop STI indicators bore fruit when the African Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators (ASTII) initiative was launched in 2007.

The first phase of the ASTII initiative was implemented in 19 countries: Algeria, Angola, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. The outcomes of this phase include building STI capacity and related activities in Africa and the publication of the first African Innovation Outlook (AIO) in 2010 (AU-NEPAD, 2010). The AIO was launched as a first of the series aimed at publishing STI indicators in Africa. The publication presented research and development (R&D), innovation and bibliometric indicators. The baseline year for the data was 2007 although some countries submitted data collected for the 2008 financial year. The report also highlighted structural issues that constrain economic growth and human development and the role of STI in resolving some of these issues.

The number of countries participating in this phase increased from 19 to 35 between 2011 and 2013. New countries joining the project were Benin, Botswana, Burundi, Cape Verde, Chad, Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Liberia, Mauritius, Namibia, Niger, Rwanda, Togo, Tunisia and Zimbabwe. Focal points were identified and training on how to conduct surveys was provided.

The first intergovernmental meeting on ASTII held in Maputo in 2007 decided that countries should use the already established Frascati and Oslo Manuals to collect data while efforts are made to develop guidelines for collecting and interpreting data for indicators in African countries (NEPAD, 2007). Both the first and second phases of the ASTII initiative used the OECD’s Frascati Manual for conducting the R&D surveys while the innovation surveys used the OECD/Eurostat Oslo Manual.

This report presents the results of the R&D and innovation surveys and bibliometric studies as well as information on the status of STI policies and/or strategies of each country.

In the case of R&D surveys, the baseline year is 2010, though some countries provided more recent data. Angola, Cape Verde, Egypt and Lesotho provided R&D data for 2011 and data from Zimbabwe is for 2012. Six countries (Egypt, Ghana, Mali, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia) provided innovation data for the period 2008-2010; Gabon and Lesotho data are for 2010-2012; while data for Kenya, Senegal and South Africa is for 2008-2011, 2009–2011 and 2005-2007 respectively.

Bibliometric data was sourced from the study undertaken by AOSTI and the results presented in this report are for the countries participating in the ASTII initiative. Chapter 2 generally speaks to STI policy activities in the selected African countries.

Is Africa leading the innovation revolution?

Sourced from: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/01/is-africa-leading-the-innovation-revolution/

Necessity is the mother of invention, and in Africa it has been the mother of innovation. While the continent is vastly different, the level of innovation has been interesting to watch, largely fueled by the equalizing nature of technology and mobile telephony.

Over the last 15 years, African economies have enjoyed growth above the global average. This has largely been fuelled by mineral agriculture, with growth linked to China’s demand for raw materials. While this demand from China is now slowing down, the rise of African countries is a new story.

It is estimated that in 2016, the African population will reach 1,069 billion people, the majority of whom are under 30. Africa has the highest rates of urbanisation; its poor infrastructure, which has previously hampered growth and development, is now a catalyst for innovation. The mobile phone in Africa has become a game-changer for the continent. According to Ericsson, the technology company, by 2019 there will be 930 million mobile phones in Africa, almost one for every person on the continent. There is greater mobile penetration than electricity penetration. Now, people are able to connect, get news, trade, get access to healthcare and even transfer money.

(In Africa, mobile phone penetration is higher than electricity penetration. Graphic by Jon Gosier of Appfrica Labs Public Domain, The Guardian)

One of the biggest innovations to come out of Africa is mobile money transfer, which has disrupted traditional financial models. The technology behind it has now been exported to the West. The continent is starting to see the rise of e-healthcare solutions and online education solutions, two of the biggest challenges on the continent.

For the first time, we are seeing a trend of being technology generators rather than just adopters, and we are seeing more innovators from the west move to the continent due to an easier, and in some cases non-existent, regulatory environment, which enables greater experimentation in the market with few competitors. These include new drone technology for the delivery of goods to leapfrog the infrastructure divide.

Overall, there seems to be good news for the continent, as Africa looks to technology to catalyse new areas of growth, a good example being East Africa, with Rwanda and Kenya in particular championing the need for an enabling environment.

“We need to ensure women are part of this revolution”

However, as the technology and innovation boom hits Africa, there is still a gender divide, and we need to ensure that women and girls are part of this revolution. It’s a prime opportunity to use technology as a catalyst to create inclusive economies, and income inequality. There is a need to create gender-inclusive technology and have women become part of the design and development of technological solutions. There are many programs on the continent leading this charge, and there is an opportunity for Africa to become a leader in gender equality in the technology sector.

The other challenge for Africa is to preserve its ecosystems, which have been under threat due to rapid urbanisation and economic development at the expense of the environment. The latest WWF African Ecological Futures Report makes it clear that we are at a pivotal moment in our development trajectory to balance growth with conservation.

It is an exciting time for the continent. Under the Africa rising narrative, in the coming years we will witness how technology can transform the way Africa works and revolutionising the continent.