Designing a smarter way forward for local NPOs

Discussing design thinking: (Left to right) Workshop facilitator Jill Ruijsch van Dugteren, TSiBA Education Marketing Manager Sandi Sher and Inyathelo Programme Co-ordinator Lizel Shepherd.

Design is no longer seen only as a way to create better products. It’s increasingly viewed as a more effective process to better understand users’ needs, and then shape experiences, services and products more effectively around them.

Accordingly, this approach – known as design thinking – was introduced to a group of non-profit organisations (NPOs) by Inyathelo: The South African Institute for Advancement on Tuesday March 13.

The workshop took place at the Inyathelo office in Woodstock and was facilitated by Jill Ruijsch van Dugteren, who holds an MPhil. in participatory design education from the University of Cape Town. Ms van Dugteren is a highly experienced lecturer in design education, research and facilitation at higher education institutions and NPOs.

The workshop attracted participants who work across a range of sectors – including health, education, social enterprise and mental health. Inyathelo has been discussing design thinking with Ms van Dugteren since 2014, considering how its processes, methods and tools could help address challenge areas for NPOs.

“In the last year or so, the curiosity around design thinking has intensified in both for-profit and non-profit spaces. We thought it would be a good idea to present a day-long workshop as an introduction to the approach,” she said.

“Our team’s initial conversations on running a workshop like this centred on how it could lead to rejuvenated creativity, enhanced critical thinking and improved decision-making in, for example, strategy, planning and programme design. The workshop showed, though, that design thinking is a discipline that can be applied across various areas of work, and on both broad, specific and practical matters.”

Participant Sandi Sher, marketing manager at TSiBA Education said: “Design thinking is still so under-used in South Africa as a new way of thinking and running of organisations. It’s going to be a critical method of managing the rapid technology changes faced by everyone way into the future.”

Marieta de Vos, programme director at NACOSA (a network of civil society organisations addressing HIV/Aids and TB in Southern Africa) said: “I will consider using creative processes with groups to unravel complex ideas and get to new and innovative solutions.”

To find out more about Inyathelo and its services, facilities and courses see or follow them on Facebook.