From 27 to 30 July, In The Pocket brought together 10 students from diverse fields to create inventive digital solutions for Refu Interim, an employment agency for refugees.
In just 3 days, they went from understanding the problem, over exploring different possibilities, to prototyping and pitching the best solution.
Refu Interim helps asylum seekers gain work experience by employing them as volunteers in the cultural or event business. This gives them an opportunity to earn a wage for themselves and their families, but equally important: it facilitates their integration and active participation in society. By working in a diverse range of fields, refugees get to know their opportunities and grow a social network.
One of Refu Interim’s main challenges is reaching out to its target audience and motivating them to take action. Unfortunately, this isn't always as easy or efficient as it could be. That’s where In The Pocket comes in: we selected 10 of the best digital graduates and locked them up in a kick-ass mansion in The Ardennes (don't worry, they gave their consent).
The goal for our first Summer Academy: come up with innovative and impactful digital solutions to help Refu Interim and the people they work with.
To fully grasp a complex problem and solve it in the best way possible, in just a few days, is itself quite the challenge. Luckily, it's the kind of challenge we love at In The Pocket. Throughout the weekend, we engaged the graduates in a so-called Design Sprint. It's a format that borrows heavily from Design Thinking, and originated from Google Ventures. It's a way to discover and validate solutions in a few fast-paced days (normally 5, but we figured our talents could speed it up if we kept them properly fed).
It's characterised by phases of diverging (going wide) and converging (pinpointing):
- Empathize: understanding the target audiences' pains, gains, jobs, experiences, ...
- Define: which part of problem will we be solving?
- Explore: ideate to come up with many possible ways to solve the challenge at hand.
- Decide: select the best idea (or mash-up different ideas).
- Prototype: create a tangible artefact users can actually engage with (like clickable wireframes).
- Validate: put your low-fi solution in users' hands and see how they react to it.
In short, it's a toolbox for organisations big and small to kickstart innovation. Validation isn't even the end goal. It's about everything you learn at every step of the way.
Day 1: Off we go
Before jumping headlong into the work, our participants got to know each other a little more – and what better place to chitchat and mingle than at a barbecue? It’s summer after all.
The group consisted of eager and talented digital graduates, ranging from creatives over coders to designers: a fitting team for a complex challenge such as Refu Interim’s, where complementary talents may well be the secret ingredient to success.
Day 2: Understand & Define
In addition to getting to know their team mates, the students at our Summer Academy also learned about the challenge itself: what’s in it for the refugees and for Refu Interim? Our students listened to Raad’s story, a Syrian refugee. They used an experience map to pinpoint the obstacles he has encountered so far, making his journey more tangible.
Xavier Cloet, founder of Refu Interim, explained how his organisation currently goes about reaching these refugees, uncovering the gains and pains of the process, and the jobs at hand.
All this valuable information led to each team settling on one clear challenge statement. This challenge makes it really tangible whom your designing for, the need you will solve, and a really relevant insight. Something like:
"Micha, who spends too much time calling refugees, needs a way to keep an overview, but he's not the only one at Refu Interim so pen & paper isn't scalable."
Yet, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. So, our students took to the Maredsous Abbey for a beer and cheese tasting session, where even more ideas started bubbling up.
Day 3: Ideate & Decide, Prototype
Facilitated by our product & design team, the teams started exploring different possibilities. We engaged them in a lot exercises, some of which even feel somewhat counterproductive in a team context, like silent brainstorming or sketching for volume (how about Crazy Eights? 8 ideas in 8 minutes).
At the end of the morning, each of the team members had settled on their ideal solution, and put up their Sharpie & post-it creation on the wall. In this Idea Museum, everyone could dot vote on the different sketches. This way, the best ideas or angles surfaced, and each team put together the best parts. They now had a clear view on their eventual situation.
In the afternoon, they divided and planned the work to be done: who would refine the concept, work out screens, think about the technical architecture, etc.
The ITP team was there to assist them where needed, but we called in some special help too. Both Maxime De Greve (Marvel) and Tim Van Damme (Abstract, previously Instagram, Dropbox, ...) guided the students in turning those concepts into prototypes.
Day 4: Pitch, please.
After a short night, the teams now had a great idea and a prototype. Cool! But the success of many innovations hinges on the way they are sold to the audience. A perfect pitch is what it takes to get your solution into the world.
On the final day of the Summer Academy, our students presented their solutions to a jury of experts.
Curious to find out what the different digital solutions looked like, and anxious to know who won? Read all about that here.
Check out all pictures, taken by one of our Summer Academy winners Jonas Leupe here.