Indian Fellows in the Global Spotlight

Fellows from India have conducted design thinking workshops at several large global conferences. JSSATE Fellow Shivanika Shah shares reflections from several of those events.

By Shivanika Shah, Fellow, JSS Academy of Technical Education, Noida

The UIF program welcomed its first Fellows from India in Fall 2016, thanks to an international initiative supported by Google. Since that time, more than 300 Fellows from 40 institutions in India have joined the program. 

Fellows have been very active at their universities, holding workshops, creating organizations, and honing their facilitation skills. In 2017 and 2018, the UIF program team invited several groups of Fellows to help conduct design thinking workshops at large global conferences. Below are reflections on just a few of these events.

Google Developer Days, Bangalore

Google Developer Day events are web developer-focused gatherings around the world held annually by Google. They include seminars and codelabs focused on building of web, mobile, and enterprise applications with Google and open web technologies such as Android, HTML5, Chrome, App Engine, Google Web Toolkit. These events give participants an excellent chance to learn about Google developer products as well as meet the engineers who work on them. 

“This was the largest conference I’ve been to and it certainly didn’t disappoint!” said Fellow Asher John Sathya at CMR Institute of Technology.

Google conducted the GDD event on 1-2 December, 2017, in Bangalore, India. At the event, 16 Fellows conducted a design thinking workshop with the UIF Team. In order to take part in this opportunity, Fellows completed a challenge set by the UIF program to conduct a series of design thinking workshops at their own schools.

Attendees showed an amazing level of excitement and interest for the event. “I still remember that the seating capacity in the hall was for 120 and we had the longest queue of about 400 candidates waiting in advance to attend our workshop,” said Priyanka Srivastava, a Fellow at CMR Institute of Technology.

In addition to students, many tech enthusiasts and professionals were part of the 3-hour-long workshop.

At the end of the day, Fellows learned, networked and collaborated with tech professionals of various different companies and domains. 

“We acted as knowledge transfers to the working professionals.” said Fellow Siddhartha Mondreti of Godavari Institute of Engineering and Technology. “The most exciting part was that we learned tech opportunities from them and we gave them design thinking skills.”

The Fellows made the best use of this opportunity to create an impact.

“There are many people who are using design thinking as a part of their daily lives in different ways,” said Suchitra Nidiginti, a Fellow at Madanapalle Institute of Technology and Science. “After the workshop when all the participants in my team came and shared that his workshop had taught them different ways to implement design thinking, I felt happy.”

“Conducting a workshop for the experienced attendees was the hardest part,” said Fellow Sameer Ahmed M N of Madanapalle Institute of Technology and Science. “But after conducting the workshop, I learned that it’s not about age. Everything depends upon the worth of knowledge that you are sharing and the energy of positivity that you are passing on with confidence. Then everyone will be ready to accept what you are sharing with keen observation.”

“I feel that design thinking will surely help them in their fields, because in programming it’s 90% design and 10% coding,” said Fellow Sai Kiran of Madanapalle Institute of Technology and Science.

Developer Students Club Summit, Goa

Google India conducted the Developer Students Club summit for the first time February 23-25, 2018, in Goa. The goals of the event were to broaden access to world-class technology curricula for students and to make it easy for students and developers to gain the skills they need to be successful in the changing technology landscape.  

The attendees learned about various emerging technologies through a series of engaging sessions from experts from Google and industry as well as through one-to-one mentoring activities.

11 Indian Fellows had the opportunity to conduct a 4-hour design thinking workshop with UIF team member Ghanashyam S in Goa as part of the event. The workshop participants were 200 students from 98 cities across 170 colleges in India. 

During the workshop, attendees collaborated with a wide range of professionals from industries such as retail, travel, fitness, music, body art, and shipbuilding. The participants used design thinking on real life problems and designed multiple, scalable and reliable solutions for the professionals. 

“In my team, they were trying to solve the problem of a musician who’s passionate about passing on his knowledge in music to others,” said Sai Kiran, a Fellow at Madanapalle Institute of Technology and Science (MITS). “He was not able to find ways of doing so. He said that teaching music to others is what makes him happy.”

“My team interacted with a gym instructor whose major problem is advertising,” said MITS Fellow Suchitra Nidiginti. “The solutions for the same ranged from giving free gifts to customers developing an app for the gym. Students felt very happy when they figured out solutions to a problem.”

In general, the Fellows had a great experience conducting the design thinking workshop. It was a unique opportunity for the Fellows to learn, collaborate and create impact.

“As we are dealing with the actual problem solvers, the thing we have to do is to show them the path to find the best possible solution. From that point, the ball will be in their court, said Fellow Sameer Ahmed M N of MITS. “Teaching that proper and effective connection to bridge the gap taught me how to understand the recipients’ requirements and to model the teaching methodology.”

“I was thrilled and super excited by the idea that people use coding to make a difference in the lives of others,” said Sai Kiran.

Fellow Priyanka Srivastava was impressed with participants’ desire to tackle and solve real world problems. “The feedback I got from the attendees at the end of the workshop was that his is an  innovative approach, and an interesting and interactive way of prototyping for real world problems.”

Deshpande Foundation, Hubballi

Indian University Innovation Fellows had a chance to facilitate a design thinking workshop in the prestigious Deshpande Foundation’s Development Dialogue on the 3rd and 4th February, 2018 at Hubballi, Karnataka.

Development Dialogue is an international social entrepreneurship ecosystem conference that brings together numerous social entrepreneurs as well as those who believe in and are involved in creating ecosystems to nurture innovation and entrepreneurship. The conference is attended by participants from for-profits, global visionaries, impact investors as well as local communities to share proven models, innovations, and transforming perspectives.

The Fellows held 5 sessions, each 2 hours long, for diverse groups of people like leaders of the Deshpande Foundation, participants of conference and students from various organizations.

“I facilitated for groups of 6 to 22 students!” said Fellow Asher John Sathya. “Each group was unique. There were groups of college students, high school students and other groups had members from the various programs run by the foundation.” 

The Fellows familiarized attendees with the design thinking and then asked them to apply the methodology to the various problems they face in their daily lives.

“Students came up with different problems like communication, stage fear, pollution, lacking practical knowledge, smart village, etc. They came up with crazy solutions to the problems they defined,” said Fellow Sindhu Bhonsley. 

The Fellows faced the challenge of communication as a barrier while interacting with the attendees, as some of them spoke local languages which Fellows weren’t fluent in. But being the true Fellows, they didn’t stop; they adjusted and collaborated with the attendees and made the event a success.

“I was able to explain to them in Telugu and Hindi very well, but my Kannada was not that fluent. Somehow I managed to explain them in Kannada and they helped me to explain to them in their language.” said Sindhu Bhonsley.

At the end, the event was a success and Fellows experienced both a challenging and life changing event.

“This event is one that has totally changed the way that I look at people and the way I think,” said Kollu Nishkala. “This is a place where I met students from different educational backgrounds. There were some students among them who can not even understand what others speak due to lack of basic communication skills and lack of basic knowledge on things. After this event, I have started going to some government schools in my locality and started interacting with students and teaching some spoken English and technical classes.”

“Though it was a bit difficult to conduct workshop for almost 80 students for each session, I got inspired by their energy levels. They were very happy about the workshop and most of them said that they have come out with great insights and learnings related to leadership. Overall it helped me connect with the people’s problems and get to know more about the issues they are facing in their lives,” said Anitha Narnavaram.

“Facilitating design thinking is always a fun learning for both the facilitators and also for the participants because it always makes us to learn how to deal with many different types of people. We received a good feedback from the attendees who participated in the workshop we could also see the zeal in them to learn more about design thinking,” said Sindhu Bhonsley.

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