COMESA LLPI/COMSec workshop @ Kigali: ecosystem thinking for regional design studio

Kigali, Rwanda November 10 – 11. What type of ecosystem mapping needs to take place in order to uncover various pathways across East & South Africa’s leather product and associated services sector, to be relevant for geographically dispersed end-users?

Common Market for East and South Africa Leather and Leather Products Institute (COMESA LLPI) and the Commonwealth Secretariat (COMSec) delivered an interactive workshop with colleagues drawn from the private sector across nine countries to explore ‘user-value’ driven design and situational ecosystems. This workshop is second in a series of a multi-staged problem solving process initiated by COMSec and COMESA, to dimension an operational model for a Regional Design Studio (RDS).

This problem solving approach is multi-staged around structured processes and a range of tools in order for us to continually reassess the relevance and efficacy of the design strategy concept at each stage. One of the challenges we have is to ensure that design strategy, through this series of work-shops, follows the structured processes even when bureaucratic processes throw up uncertainties.

We focused on visualizing and making explicit connections between supply, linkages and demand across a visual framework; regional design ecosystem.

Consideration for situation-centric analysis of each country continues to be necessary, as this is an intervention grounded in an understanding of “user-value” as beyond one homogeneous demographic.

How we might close the gap between the demand side (mechanisms for understanding markets, immersion in future trends and global consumption patterns), linkages (value-chain; integrating parts, components, and systems, sometimes software, data automation and data capture capabilities into user-literate physical objects/product systems) and the supply side (multidisciplinary value creation, communication channels critical to knowledge creation and industry specific learning) stimulated co-thinking and emergence of alternative ideas.

Emphasis was placed, by colleagues, panels and moderators on developing value by not only closing gaps across and within the connections, but aligning them as outputs, inputs, outcomes, assessments and activities designed to respond to the complete experience of geographically dispersed consumers.

What barriers across COMESA may constrain the creation and delivery of user-value and situation based ecosystem? Through this series of work-shops, our ambition is to leverage existing constraints regarding support towards the integration of design in user-driven and situational innovation processes of regional SMEs.

In outline this project aims to intervene through the following set of activities (not exhaustive):

1. A prototypical evaluation of programs that have been developed in order to support user-driven and situational innovation in SMEs, in context.

2. Using a ‘service-design’ approach to develop the provision of user-driven design and situational innovation; production of user-relevant meaning and support strategies contextualized across different countries within COMESA. The service design approach is likely to consider various stakeholders in a set of co-design sessions structured to address existing constraints. The process will aim at establishing relevant user-driven services, trends-informed and situational design pathways.

3. Repeated testing, feedback loops and refinement of service-in-development, in a variety of situational contexts for feasibility throughout this project’s life-cycle.

Issues that arise from these interventions will likely prompt broader definitions of leather products associated services and the design function of a studio from COMESA’s perspective; the customer experience, and industry, and usher in the need for a systematic view more indicative of how design strategists or service ethnographers might scope out an ethnographic study.

As far as this project is concerned we are in agreement that demonstrative learning (broadly termed) is a valid, necessary and indispensable requirement to dimensioning a model for its operational logic, as well as build RDS organisationally to support a customer service blue-print.

We did not arrive with answers, this is a learning process. Outcomes and outputs of this session (as with the previous workshop in Addis Ababa) is helping us with managing uncertainties and co-exploration of different perspectives around what is essentially a social process; use of a variety of actors – people, place based situations, technology and mobility by foot as a cultural subject (for example) – to develop a regional applicable knowledge resource base.

Thanks to:

1. Design For Impact Group re: Creative Commons access to adaptive visual frame-working tool, for explaining information where complex ecosystem relationships needs to be explained immediately and clearly.

2. Gill Wildman at Plot London re: Conference Paper – ‘Live, Actionable and Tangible: Teaching Design Strategy’.

Project Team

Mrs. Tigist Hailegiorgis (Project Adminstration), Prof. Mekonnen Hailemariam (COMESA/LLPI Value Chain Expert), Mr. Francois Kanimba (Minister, Rwanda Ministry of Trade and Industry), Prof. Mwinyikione Mwinyhija (Executive Director, COMESA/LLPI), Ms. Estella Aryada (Trade Adviser, Commonwealth Secretariat), P.S.M Kinyanjiu (Chair, Akamswear Ltd, Kenya), Mrs Beatrice Kemunto Mochere (Managing Director, Sanabora Design House, Kenya Ltd), Awet Negusse Ghebretatios (Negusse Shoe Factory Asmara, Eritrea), Mr. Feraw Kebede (General Manager, Oliberte Ltd, Ethiopia), Mrs. Lucy Kiarie (Juasco Enterprises, Kenya), Phillipa Thorne (Khokho Leather Crafts, Swaziland), Ms. Mukashayaka Germaine (GBF Leather and Art Promoters Ltd, Rwanda), Mr. Clement Shoko (Leather Council Chair, Zimbabwe), Mrs. Victoria Senkubuge Byoma (Chair Person Uganda Leather Association), Mr. Prestone Viswamo (Copperbelt Leather Industries Cluster, Zambia), Nalina Rupani (Managing Director, Adelphi Leather Shop, Nairobi, Kenya), Ms. Agnes Gitau (Work-Session Co-ordinator, East Africa Business Network) and Ayodeji Alaka (Work-Session Facilitator, East Africa Business Network).

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