Beyond Design Thinking is a Slap of Truth and an Ounce of Hope - Jerome's insight of the Zühlke Innovation Academy

Jerome is a well-versed young man from Quezon City, Philippines. In his free time he enjoys reading contemporary books or watching television. He also explores new things like web designing and audio-video editing. Because of his love for film and musicals, he dreams of becoming an inspirational filmmaker. He believes in the capability of movies to become instruments and catalysts of change in society. They can be a driving force on improving the way others think of the world. Jerome participated in the Zühlke Innovation Academy last May. Read about his insight on the academy below.

Despite having attended two academies, and volunteering in one, the excitement and nervousness of meeting new people from different parts of the world has never been away. It was still there as I joined, yet again, another academy called Zühlke Innovation Academy last May 26 to June 1, 2019 at the International Institution of Rural Reconstruction (IIRR), Silang, Cavite, Philippines.

Zühlke Innovation Academy is a 7-day live-in academy that focuses on design thinking, global citizenship, global trends, and customer experience. Design thinking’s main thrust is to solve wicked problems using different approaches or ways of thinking than previous solutions. It utilizes technologies which have not been used before.

Equipped with this information, alongside the everyday input that foreign and local mentors have provided, we need to make a proposal on improving the land irrigation system in the Philippines. However, every one of us were not well-versed about the topic. Most of us were raised and have lived in the city so we do not have actual farming experiences. Hence, we invited actual farmers from IIRR to interview them about their farming and irrigation experiences. Some of the allotted time for coaching and working sessions was converted to interview sessions, which was one of the most integral parts in understanding our challenge.

ALL SMILES: Jerome (2nd from the left) smiles with his groupmates and mentor after a successful day of design thinking.

Initially, the interview was conducted to give a clearer context of the challenge that would help the groups ideate the prototypes. However, the interview gave me so much more than that. It led me to realize that these problems are prevailing, concrete, and actually affecting people. Aside from learning the art and complexities of design thinking, I was enlightened about the existence of these problems, that they are really happening and not just “events” I mostly encounter from the news and social media. Upon interviewing the resident farmers in the IIRR, it was established that they were well taken care off by the IIRR management. Then again, they recognized the problems of other farmers from different parts of the Philippines, particularly in the Tagalog upland farms.

There are existing land irrigation systems in the Philippines, but they are either outdated or do not cater to upland farmers. The farmers in the IIRR said that the main water source of upland farms is rainwater, which they store in a reservoir if the structure is present. However, small-time farmers do not have the capacity to build their own infrastructure. Hence, their problem with water source prevails. I learned that certain factors should be considered for a land irrigation system to work. Water pressure, the rate in which the plants should be watered, and what not should be considered when devising a land irrigation system. This was one of the highlights of my one-week academy experience which I would never exchange with anything else.

The academy gave me the chance to realize that I should not live within my own bubble but look into problems that I, most of the time, take for granted or overlook. I was so focused on my own difficulties that I neglected other people who suffer from the same or even worse than I experienced. I was given opportunities that greatly helped me overcome my difficulties, but they are still in the process of overcoming their difficulties. Being aware of their struggle, at the same time, appreciating their hard work is the least that I can do. It also made me think, empathize, and advocate for this sector and my country’s welfare in general, when given the right opportunity and support at the right time. The academy actualized the things that I mostly see in books, hear on the radio, and watch from the television.

Beyond design thinking, the academy gave me a slap of truth on injustice and inequality this wicked problem has given these people for years, if not, centuries. However, it also gave me an ounce of hope that amidst all these seemingly unsolvable problems, I can go above this by actualizing my ideas and realizing my potential. And that should be the case for you, too.

ON THE COUNT OF 2: Participants and mentors from Zühlke Innovation Academy 2 smiles for posterity.

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