Nine things I learned designing in Africa during 2018
What is it like design thinking your way across Africa as a new member of ThinkPlace’s Kenya Studio? Eliot Duffy shares the lessons he’s learned in 2018.
In my 27th year on Earth, my life has changed more dramatically than I ever would have guessed.
I've moved my life to Kenya, stepped into a senior role with ThinkPlace, worked across five countries and grown a hearty beard. I've been lucky enough to see the opportunities available to me increase tenfold – but so has the scale of the decisions I'm making.
Taking on the goals we share at ThinkPlace – moving the needle on the UN Sustainable Development Goals and using design to create positive change -- is a serious responsibility.
Earlier this year I was sent to Nigeria as part of a project to change behaviours relating to tuberculosis. It was my first international project. First time in Africa. First time for a lot of things. About two weeks out, the person who was to lead the work was unable to go. We found a backup who would be flying in from the USA.
Before I knew it, I'd landed in Nigeria, been informed our program had been pulled and urgently called my new project lead to tell her not to board the plane. I soon found myself leading discussions with the donor to convince them of our approach, then running two days of workshops with materials I was barely familiar with. On my own. In Nigeria.
There were plenty of unknowns those two weeks, but that experience propelled my confidence in my ability to tackle uncertainty. Working across Africa, I'm constantly visiting countries I've never been to, to run complex projects on subjects I'm no expert in. Every time I jump in, I get a little bit better at dealing with uncertainty, working through our proven methodologies, and delivering high-impact work.
It's been a year of huge growth and hard-won lessons. Here are some of them…