May 19, 2017, Accra – Over 150 people took part in the inaugural design thinking conference in Ghana at the China Europe Business School, East Legon. Co-organized by Ashesi’s D:Lab, Design Thinking Ghana Meet-up group and Ghana Design Network, the conference, the first of its kind in the country, created a platform for engagement and discovery of Design Thinking work in the Ghanaian community, particularly, on how the practice is being used to solve challenges in various fields.

Under the theme Winning through today’s challenges with Design Thinking, the conference was also an opportunity for participants and organizers to understand how people are using design thinking to enrich their business value propositions.

“The focus of the conference was to unearth local design thinking applications and also to expose the practice to a wider audience,” said Dr. Gordon Adomdza of Ashesi’s Business Administration department and lead faculty of the D:Lab. “Design Thinking is blowing through top business schools, companies and other budding organizations across the world, including Ashesi, so what we wanted to do was to bring together people who are doing design thinking work in Ghana to share and learn from one another.”

For participants, the conference was an opportunity to engage with thought leaders and experts from across the world, including keynote speaker Arne van Oosteron, founder and senior Partner of the Design Thinking Academy.

“Design thinking is still a very young movement that essentially focuses on trying to do or get things done in a better way,” shared van Oosteron, in his address to attendees. “Design thinking is not just for product development; it’s not just creating new services, it’s for changing behavior and culture within organizations and the society. Design thinking is behavioral change, it’s the way we look at things, it’s how we collaborate, it’s about empathy, it’s about speaking a common language and being able and open minded to listen to others and ask the right questions. It’s this movement of positive change, no matter where you are. The world really needs these change makers.”

As part of the conference which featured a mix of panel discussions and interactions with design thinking experts, participants also took part in workshops that allowed them to explore design thinking in addressing four areas of development namely: design thinking for service development, for product development, for program development, and design thinking for policy development and delivery.

Other areas that were discussed included gathering impactful consumer insights, new product ideation and prototyping, user interaction design, business model development and entrepreneurship, community engagement projects, policy development and innovative prize projects.

At Ashesi, the D:Lab is at the centre of design thinking on campus. Members of the community get the space to explore design thinking through a number of programs run.

“The D:Lab got involved in the conference because it aims to develop thought leadership in design thinking in Africa,” explained Dr. Adomdza. “Essentially, the conference was a good way to engage with the its target group and share the work that is going on in design thinking in the lab and at Ashesi in general.”