Team MANCOSA has won the first South African Virtual Design Thinking Challenge which prepares students to develop solutions for local challenges.
The team of students, academics and staff from MANCOSA private higher education institution pitted their wits against 10 other teams from leading private and public higher education institutions, to respond to challenges around education, health care, business and community.
The winning MANCOSA team, a group of ingenious problem-solvers all set to help uplift communities, will receive incubation from international innovation organisations and is now eligible for an initial funding of 500 euros (approx. R10 000) to bring the idea to market as quickly as possible.
Design Thinking, which has a human-centred core, is a process for creative thinking and problem-solving. It encourages organisations to focus on the people they are creating for, which leads to better products, services and internal processes.
The contest is hosted by Impact Week, a non-profit programme that promotes innovation and entrepreneurship skills and progression in developing and emerging economies as a foundation for sustainable growth by establishing sustainable business models using Design Thinking.
MANCOSA is a member of Honoris United Universities, the first private Pan-African higher education network, which places a high value on Education for Impact whereby students are equipped to make a difference in the workplace. MANCOSA’s qualifications groom students to be analytical thinkers and problem-solvers, increasing their employability in careers in local and global environments.
Five females and four males comprised the team of students, academics and staff from MANCOSA who took part in Virtual Design Thinking Challenge #SOUTHAFRICAVSCOVID19. They were four students Yajna Sapna Premdutt, Alysa Jaidene Munian, Kerryn-Leigh Roos and Jeron Niveel Jayram; and three staff members Adhir Debiecharan, Shinaaz Zoutenberg and Muleka Nengwani. They were coached by MANCOSA academics Sooraya Ebrahim and Debapriyo Nag.
Following research into the challenges faced by the communities in South Africa amidst COVID-19, the MANCOSA team’s proposed solution was a sustainable feeding programme whereby educators, mothers and pupils would create urban agriculture initiatives on school premises to provide nutritious meals. Surplus produce may be sold, traded or bartered.
Muleka Nengwani said he was overjoyed that the MANCOSA team had swept the board.
“The experience was mesmerising, stimulating and impactful. I was able to soak in knowledge and add value simultaneously. The overall experience is what life-long learning should be like”, added Nengwani.
“The competition was tough, but at the end of the day, the best team won. I am grateful to MANCOSA for the opportunity to participate, and I must thank our coaches for their advice and guidance”, said Nengwani.
“This win truly proves that MANCOSA is fully geared to produce men and women with leadership qualities to make the world a better place,” concluded Nengwani.
Sooraya Ebrahim said the challenge gave MANCOSA and its students the unique opportunity to create an impact during a critical and challenging time and has served to endorse MANCOSA as an institution that prepares “leaders who lead with a unique difference”.
“The Design Thinking challenge has opened participants’ minds to new vistas, thus providing cutting edge solutions to challenges facing South Africa.”
Professor Magnate Ntombela, Academic and Social Purposes Initiative Director at MANCOSA, said: “As aptly put by Einstein, ‘education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think’.
“Our team’s exciting victory demonstrates that MANCOSA’s education does exactly that. Moreover, as a truly engaged institution, the teaching and learning as well as research experiences our students get are geared towards sensitising them to various societal challenges, and giving them the necessary expertise to address these in partnership with affected communities. This victory is an affirmation of good practice”, concluded Professor Ntombela.
Lakshmi Rao, the Lead Organiser for the challenge, said Impact Week wanted to give young South African people the opportunity to see the COVID-19 crisis as an opportunity for their creative and user-oriented solutions that can help to tackle the pandemic in South Africa and simplify life on the ground.
“We were able to prove that virtual collaboration can also help to establish innovation and entrepreneurship worldwide,” said Rao.