The workshop was the first extensive initiative of Arundo industries and Mahlaseli Agricultural and Vocational Institute of Excellence (MAVoIE) at Liolong, Thaba-Bosiu. MAVoIE trains youth and adults in vocational skills for job creation.
It purports to close the gap between youth going for further education and those who drop out of school from primary up to secondary level for various reasons. Arundo industries is a little sister startup to Reed Basketry and Mankie Arts & Crafts. The three focus on renewable reed products.
The workshop was held at Mahlaseli Agricultural and Vocational Institute of Excellence on the 1st and 2nd of November, 2018. The aim of the design thinking workshop was to capacitate the students with Design Thinking Techniques in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (Agenda 2030).
The workshop was to arm the students prior to intensive hands-on reed propagation and cultivation projects for reed-weaved furniture industry and bio-energy crop production that are to follow post the workshop. The projects are meant to provide students with technical skills of the reed production industry.
“Apart from the normal saying that people are born entrepreneurs and that entrepreneurship is a talent, design thinking says individuals can learn creativity and practice entrepreneurship.” Rethabile Lesenyeho, one of the facilitators and the program director, said while opening the session.
The facilitators for the workshop were Ms Relebohile Sera, Mr Kopano Sekhoari, Advocate Thapelo “Donny” Ntsiki and Ms Mpho Molise on the first day and Mr Thabo Motaba, Ms ‘Mathekiso Ramositli and Mr Mohapi Leseteli on the second day.
Activities were carried out with the aim of equiping the students with skills needed to succeed in business. In the first activity, students were given a problem and a solution which required them to create bag prototypes. The first batch of the bags was destroyed without giving them a second glance and most students were sad because they had given the production their best.
They were given a second shot and their products were better and well planned out. From this activity, the students learned the importance of not allowing emotions to take precedence when dealing with clients as some clients may not be satisfied with their products and require them to be revisited again or for a creation of a different thing altogether.
With the second activity, a flexible drinking straw was punched once through a hard potato. The straw couldn’t go through the potato at the first attempt by students and it bent off. Through this, they learned that, the knowledge of a single strategy can open doors for new discoveries and that with a single strategy, what was impossible can be possible. The activity emphasised the importance of coming up with strategies to solve problems.
On the last activity, everyone was given a balloon, blown with just enough air, fastened on one foot. Music played for 5 minutes and allowed them to dance around with the instruction that the balloons should be safe after the dancing around the floor.
Most balloons were destroyed and from those that their balloons popped, the lesson was that, in business, the most important thing is to focus on our businesses and keep them safe and not go out of our way to pop other people’s balloons. This fostered the importance of not being jealous of others when they succeed and we fail; the importance of team building, focus and acceptance.
The students were introduced to Idea generation, Opportunity Identification and Exploitation, Entrepreneurial Skills, Economy and Finance, The Youth Policy, Sustainable Development Goals, the Business model Canvas as well as different Entrepreneurial stories from the facilitators.