FIP 129: Using Design Thinking in the Needfinding Process 2/3, with Juliana Proserpio of Echos Innovation Lab

In this episode of the Finding Impact Podcast I talk to Juliana Proserpio, Co-founder and Chief Design Officer of Echos Innovation Lab, on using Design Thinking in the needfinding process. Juliana talks about her work at Echos Innovation Lab and how it supports organizations and entrepreneurs to use the design thinking mindset for accelerating cultural change and creating new services and business models to create desirable futures.

On this podcast you will learn:

  • How Echos Innovation Lab has built a for-profit business that works with organizations to create and foster innovation initiatives, as well as building the design capability of individuals and organizations to create better and human-centered services through its School of Design Thinking. (01:30)
  • Design thinking is a way to understand people and people’s needs that helps develop solutions which address these needs better. The design thinking mindset is thus based on empathy, collaboration and experimentation. (02:37)
  • The double-diamond methodology of design thinking that focusses on using divergence and convergence methods for expanding knowledge of user needs (also called “discovery process” or “empathetic research”) and then converging (“synthesis”) upon real needs and specific ideas or insights that create value for the user. (04:15)
  • Tools for synthesizing, such as systems map, personas, etc., that can help in developing insights by understanding information patterns and interconnections. (11:30)
  • Key suggestions on how to manage the ideation stage of design thinking by thinking about quantity and not necessarily only quality (“you can only get to an amazing idea once you get some absurd ideas”). (15:36)
  • That design thinking is an iterative process where you ideate, prototype and test, while iterating and going back and forth between the various phases. (19:27)
  • Why social entrepreneurs need to have creative confidence for re-imagining how the world can be, and how design thinking aids in developing creative confidence. (23:21)
  • Advice for students and young founders looking to develop social ventures on how they can use design thinking to identify challenges within their communities (“near their doors”) – acting locally, starting small, and helping create value within the community first, and then aim at creating bigger impact (“dream big and start small”). (24:55)
  • About the School of Design Thinking at the Echos Innovation Lab, that helps individuals and organizations become better innovators through classroom programs and online courses on various design thinking topics. (26:30)
  • Examples of participants in the design thinking courses (such as Insecta Shoes) who have applied design thinking to their needfinding process and how it has helped them deliver the desired outcomes. (28:44)
  • Advice for first-time founders and social entrepreneurs to navigate the lockdown and the post COVID-19 situation – it is an opportunity for each one of us to re-design our world, where every assumption is being challenged, and the need for businesses to pivot their product or service in order to remain relevant. (30:52)

Resources from this episode:

Connect with Juliana:

FIP 124: Using Design Thinking in the Needfinding Process with Elizabeth Knight

This week on the Finding Impact Podcast, we find out how design thinking concepts can be used to improve the needfinding process and ideation. We talk with Elizabeth Knight, Founder of Purposeful, a new social enterprise empowering young people to create careers driven by purpose. Purposeful gives young people a structured way of finding their purpose. It’s their mission to help an entire generation feel confident, motivated, and excited about their futures.
They’re founded by young people, for young people and they’re launching their first series of programs in 2020.

On this podcast you will learn:

  • How Andy and Elizabeth are dealing with the new world of COVID 19 – structured journaling with pen and paper. (3:55)
  • What is needfinding and why is it important? (4:30)
    • It’s important because it’s a shift in terms of how we think about entrepreneurship and creating value as an entrepreneur; building a business or enterprise around a need (real problem) rather than a singular idea gives greater scope to produce value and to solve a problem in a sustainable way; it’s about core needs and what people are willing to pay for.
  • If you take away the beginning pressure of having to come up with a business model that’s going to be profitable but focus on finding a real need that people are experiencing then you get to know that problem in a lot more intimate way and the more you become the expert on that problem the better; potential profitable is short-term thinking nowadays. (7:05)
  • If we’re designing solutions for lower income people in informal settlements (11:03)
    • Design thinking gives you a tool / framework to explore that problem in more detail.
  • How design thinking has helped Elizabeth. (13:57)
    • Helpful for simplifying her problem down into its core essence which helped in communicating to other people; but also challenged her biases, assumptions, etc.
  • When does she know that enough is enough and when to move on? (20:20)
    There is a tipping point where you’ve done so much validation that it can become confusing; when you get to that point that is when strategic thinking is important particularly for early stage founders.
  • Tools that people can use in this process: (25:52)
    • Lean canvas – essentially a one page business plan which captures your assumptions, the problem you’re trying to solve, your solution, your customers, revenue stream, unique value, etc. all on one page; does not account for the role of the individual and does not allow you to explore what you’re passionate about and your strengths.
    • Empathy – not a bad thing to overcompensate; always put yourself back into your customers shoes.

Resources from this episode:

Connect with Elizabeth:

FIP 123: How this young founder is bootstrapping his EdTech Startup, with Cyril Michino of Chaptr Global

This week on the Finding Impact Podcast, we find out how a young founder bootstrapped his startup and the lessons he learnt in wannapreneurship. We talk with Cyril Michino, co-founder of Chaptr Global and hear about his entrepreneurial journey having founded 2 startups by the age of 21 and learn that capital is not a barrier for starting up. Cyril shares his experiences around the challenges faced by young founders and how he’s innovating around such challenges by adopting innovative revenue-sharing business models.

On this podcast you will learn:

  • How Cyril started his first business – Deliverus, an e-commerce platform in Nairobi, quite accidentally when he was just 17, based on an idea that he and his friends came up with for a high school business plan competition. (03:38)
  • Cyril shares how he overcame the challenge of lack of experience, being a young founder, and used tools such as YouTube videos for creating pitch decks, learning marketing techniques, etc. He also shares how he kept his curiosity levels high by reading blogs and articles to learn how things work out in a business and trying to find answers though online resources as much as possible. (09:47)
  • About what went wrong with Cyril’s first startup as they set out to focus on things such as getting the infrastructure ready, building the best mobile application, planning a big launch, etc., – things that Cyril calls “entrepreneurial naivety”, irrelevant from an entrepreneurship point of view and leads to wannapreneurship. Cyril also shares these, and many more insights based on this experience on what’s stopping entrepreneurs from actually starting up and also what’s holding back entrepreneurship in Africa in his TEDx talk (check resources below for the link to the talk). (13:26)
  • One of the critical things about being a young founder is to invest time in building a team with skills who solve the gaps that the founder personally has, like for example in Cyril’s case, he learnt that they needed people with real experience in managing deliveries, logistics, order fulfilment, things that cannot be learnt online but comes only with experience. (16:13)
  • Cyril then shares his journey of starting up his new blended learning edtech platform – Chaptr Global, that helps teach emerging technologies, such as AI, data science, blockchain to people in emerging markets, using an income sharing model, where students can sign-up for courses without upfront payment and pay later when they start earning upon graduation from the program. (19:34)
  • Finally, Cyril shares a powerful quote, based on his experience that says –“if you’re an entrepreneur and you cannot start off your idea in two weeks, then you’re probably not the best person for that thing”. As a young founder, it is important to be able to start work on something that the founder can personally start and build an MVP in less than two weeks. Once the MVP is built, the founder can then focus on learning aspects to improve the MVP, finding product-market fit and growing it into a venture. (21:50)

Resources from this episode:

Connect with Cyril:


FIP 119: Tips for young founders with Lamia Makkar who launched her first startup at age 13

This week on the Finding Impact Podcast, we’ve got Lamia Makkar and we’re going to talk about Lamia’s experience as a young founder, with the hope of inspiring and helping other young founders succeed at what they’re doing. Lamia started her first non-profit Haiti: Hands On, at the age of 13, when at times she had to skip school to present to CEOs in Boardrooms in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) where she lived. Fast forward 8 years later, to today, and Lamia has kindly come on to share her experience.

On this podcast, you will learn:

  • Why she started a non-profit at 13 years old
  • Challenges she had to overcome because of her age:
    • Basic infrastructure to run an organization: couldn’t open a bank account or register as a 501c3 in the US until she was 18 years old.
    • Getting people to take her seriously: validity of being recognized as a serious stakeholder while still not being able to register with proper documentation; fundraising; buy-in from Haitians
    • Opposition from parents: stigma surrounding Haiti; safety, etc.
  • Advantages, because of her age:
    • Able to answer questions about their doubt, ie. at their age, there was no social stigma around saying, “I don’t know.” Very easy for them to ask other organizations questions and interview them before building anything
    • High level contacts sharing information with them since they didn’t see them as a competitor nor us just trying to build their careers.
  • How to ask the right questions and who to reach out to:
    • Researching education nonprofits in Haiti and throughout the world
    • Sending out cold emails to ask how do you do what you do
    • Looking for potential partners in Haiti, and donors in the UAE
    • Practicing a phone script and writing a business plan and proposal
    • Getting people to understand your why, and understand that you’re serious, before they have time to ask your age
    • In the UAE and other fundraising markets, getting people to understand that this is something that is already happening; proof and a track record
  • Could not solicit donations online since they were not registered, but raised their first $100,000 over two years only from babysitting, tutoring, running events at school, bake sales, etc.
    • Used that money to start building, then recorded a lot of pictures and interviews of the construction so they could then go back to some of the same corporations and funders to show that they are actually doing something.
    • Raised $35,000 from that second round
  • How they hired older team members:
    • First team member to help with operations and logistics was in his mid 20’s and someone Lamia had met during her first trip to Haiti and was involved since the very beginning
    • Others included construction workers who reported directly to the local coordinators
  • Their balance and mix between cold calling, googling information, and having regular advisors
  • Lamia’s advice for other young people who have an idea for service to their community or other communities

Links to Resources:

Connect with Lamia: