Continuing from our previous update, 10 teams with a total of 31 participants were identified through a judging process from a pool of 93 applications. Out of the 31 participants, 49% of which were youths with disabilities: 10 visually impaired, 4 deaf, and 1 disabled people; 19% came from disadvantaged backgrounds and living in different social protection centers in Ho Chi Minh City; 29% were students majoring in social works, and we even had a high school student as a team leader!
These 10 teams continued on with their UPSHIFT journey through 2.5 day intensive bootcamp at the end of November 2015. In this phase, teams were exposed to the skill-sets they need to design, build, and test their products as well as how to execute and manage their projects. If this sounds like a lot of things to learn over 2.5 days, you are right. Going into the bootcamp our team was worried that the participants wouldn’t be able to keep up, or that the lessons wouldn’t be adapted into the projects. Through the extensive preparation and the outstanding commitment of the participants, mentors, and speakers our fears were unfounded.
Creating a support network for participants
Many of our participants in UPSHIFT are encountering the methods of design thinking, lean startup, and basic finance for the very first time. For this reason, it is vital to the program to create a strong and stable supporting network around them. This creates consistent opportunities that are a freely available to them whenever they need support. In the creation of this support network in Vietnam, we needed to identify ways for the teams to get support beyond the days of the workshop. This support not only had to be technical in nature (i.e. knowledge transfer), but also provide empowerment, encouragement, constructive criticism, and be able to build trust.
We built a support network with a multi-stakeholder approach: with local experts and volunteers from the for-profit and non-profit sector including startups, entrepreneurs, industry and civil society leaders.
Each team was assigned one mentor and supporter, and were required to attend the entire bootcamp. In addition, we had a speaker for each section of the curriculum. Some supporters had relevant skills for the team projects, and others had experiential knowledge to share.
Besides the mentors and speakers, Viet Youth Entrepreneurs built a supporting volunteer team. Each supporter was available to help a specific team throughout their learning and executing process. The volunteer squad also ensured that all elements of the workshop were accessible to all participants. This was critical as we didn’t expect to have such a strong presence of participants with physical disabilities.
Orientation & Stakeholder Mapping
The teams were assigned ‘homework’ to encourage real life user testing and validation.
After meeting with their mentors and supporters, the teams started their first lesson: creating a stakeholder map. This stakeholder map is used extensively in the early sections of the UPSHIFT curriculum to keep track of the people benefiting from the projects.
After the first orientation lesson, our supporters saw that the teams were able to identify core stakeholders very well, but secondary and other influencers were harder to nail down. Each team had wonderful ideas, the desire to change and to bring meaning and impactful projects to the community. However, they were lacking the experience and skills to gain the broader perspective they need to make their projects real. To help the teams expand their understanding of the different actors and their perspective of the problem, they completed at least 5 stakeholder interviews between orientation and the workshop. .
Workshop: 72 hours to make it real
Understanding the Problem
A quote attributed to Albert Einstein goes — ‘If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.’
While we didn’t quite spend the majority of our time thinking about the problem, the first step of UPSHIFT is to go back to that original problem statement and dig deeper and iteratively refine it using real stakeholder information and further insights. Teams refined their problem in a logical way, such as: a problem tree, stakeholder mapping, and personas for each target group. Each team was able to identify a clear problem statement, whom it was impacting, who the beneficiaries were and how they might behave, and what impact the team was hoping to create.
UPSHIFT is a “Problem-centric” curriculum, meaning that teams must first define the problem before they develop a solution. Even though some teams suggested a solution in their applications, the criteria they were judged by was the clarity and impact of their problem. We asked the teams to put off all thoughts of a solution until the Design Challenge portion of the Workshop. The main goal was to brainstorm, without judgement, and to create and build ideas for their products. From those ideas, they were lead through a process to help prioritize ideas that would best impact on their problem.
Prototyping and Testing
Moving straight into prototyping our teams had to narrow down their focus and choose one thing to do. With their choice made, they could use 4 different ways to make their idea real: Role play, Story board, Method, and Model.
The room was filled with energy.The teams explored many ways to prototype. We had live demonstrations of self defense tactics, groups that created role-playing interactions between public servants and youth, and lots of storyboarding with great artwork.
Make It Real
It was time for the teams to take a closer look at their problem and solution to start the process of assessing the financial and operational feasibility of their ideas. Teams had to look at ways of achieving their tasks using non-money, how they would use startup capital, and how to continue their project once initial funding ran out (assuming they made the incubation phase).
UPSHIFT Workshop. Photo: UNICEF/Innovations Lab Ho Chi Minh/UPSHIFT Workshop/ Truong Viet Hung/ November 2015
After 2+ days of hard work, the teams were ready for the major component of the workshop: the pitch. Each team had 5 minutes to pitch in front of a judging panel and guests, followed by 5 minutes of Q&A. We selected 5 teams for further incubation.
Our Teams for Incubation
Team 1: Developing a job search website for blind people
Team 2: Developing a centre providing consulting services and advice for blind people to develop employable skills
Team 3: Making social media videos teaching sign language for public service providers and people.
Team 4: Training course for primary school children on respiratory health
Team 5: Training course for students to support people with disabilities to use public transport services.
The exciting journey ahead…
These 5 teams have now entered the incubation program during which they will have a total of 3 months to fully execute their pilots and showcase their products or services to an audience of potential supporters. UPSHIFT will continue to support them by providing extended training courses, such as planning and management, proposal writing, fundraising, networking, and communication. Their mentors and supporters will also continue to work alongside them to provide any guidance and help they might need. Even though 3 months is a short amount of time to grow their projects, both Viet Youth Entrepreneurs and UNICEF are confident that the teams can show real impact on their target stakeholders.
To keep in touch with the teams, follow their progress at upshift.vye.vn
Written by Thu Tran (UPSHIFT Coordinator) & Dai Cao (UPSHIFT Facilitator)
Edited by Brian Cotter UNICEF Innovation Lab: Vietnam