ACT’s 2019 Design Thinking training program…

Greetings fellow entrepreneurs!

Nearly a year has gone by since our last post. Time does indeed fly. We have so much to tell you!

2019 marked the beginning of a different approach to ACT’s programing. We decided to give Design Thinking the respect it deserved by separating it from our business growth program and creating a 3-week program dedicated solely to the training of Human-Centered Design (HCD) Researchers.

Fear not, we still run our business growth program, but this is in the form of a series of boot camps over an 8-month period, instead of the 4-week marathon we ran last year (we can almost hear your collective sighs of relief!).

The additional novelty of our programming is that participants in the business growth program receive support from the HCD researchers we have trained. More on this later!

As we have a lot to share, we will focus this post on the HCD training program Our next post will focus on the business growth program and how the HCD researchers interacted with it.

ACT’s 2019 HCD Training Program opened its doors to a select number of students of diverse ages and from different backgrounds (academics, professionals, students) from the 24th of April to the 15th of May 2019.

In the first two weeks students learned the fundamentals of design thinking, and how to empathize with the audience, test assumptions, generate actionable insights, ideate, and converge on ideas. The program was as interactive as it was practical, requiring students to use design thinking methods to improve the experience of public transport users. This simulation allowed students to practice their newfound skills on real people that use public transport, kombi drivers, conductors, and the infamous mshika-Shika drivers. The process of randomly approaching respondents was daunting if not scary for students as this method of research was new for most. The students learned that the most important question to ask during HCD research is “WHY?”.

The final week of the HCD training program consisted in our famous “corporate hack” during which students applied their newly acquired HCD skills to solving challenges for three corporate giants: Halsteds, Seedco and Simbiza Brands.


The corporate hack was a sprint as students had to conduct interviews, come up with prototypes to test in-store with customers, and give a presentation to the companies’ executives, all in the space of one week!

However, the 3-week training program was only the beginning! Over the next 2 months, our trainees were employed by ACT to provide HCD research support to the start-ups coming through our business growth program. Yes, you read that right: ACT provides high-quality training and then offers employment on top. How’s that for value? We will describe how our HCD trainees interacted with the business growth program in our next post. In the meantime, we leave you with some feedback from our 2019 HCD training cohort:

“…When you’re in the interview, it is crucial that you forget the assumptions. You need to be completely open. You do not ask questions that define or influence the answers the person you interview can give...”

Student X, 2019 Cohort

“…As a researcher, you then need to be creative and improvise, while still respecting the core research principles that we were taught in the training...”

Student Y, 2019 Cohort

“…My mom asked me what this programme was about - and I explained it to her this way: usually, when an NGO comes, they already have a product and they want you to use it. What we do here is that we ask you first what kind of product you need and how you want to use it…”

Student Z, 2019 Cohort

We will be running our HCD training program again next year, so if you are interested please sign-up to our mailing list!

Onward and Upward,

The ACT Team

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