The 2018 Practical Impact Alliance Co-Design Summit, organized by MIT D-Lab and Moroccan PIA member the Phosboucraa Foundation in the city of Laâyoune, convened a group of local and national stakeholders, PIA members, MIT D-Lab staff, and aspiring entrepreneurs, in order to create collaborative solutions to economic and social development challenges using D-Lab's participatory design methodology. The summit focused on youth entrepreneurship with the goal of catalyzing innovation and entrepreneurship in the region.
The city of Laâyoune was chosen for this summit on the recommendation of Phosboucraa Foundation. As Saida Benhayoune, Co-Lead of Innovation Practice at MIT D-Lab, explains, “Our work in general focuses on areas where there are needs in terms of economic and social development, and the choice of Laâyoune came through Phosboucraa Foundation who asked us about the need to develop a new strategy to promote youth entrepreneurship.” The summit was an opportunity for these young, aspiring entrepreneurs to be in the spotlight, supported by local and national ecosystem actors. She went on to note that this is a way to “bring these young people on a path to creativity and innovation.”
The aspiring entrepreneurs who participated in the summit had the opportunity to create solutions to socio-economic challenges in their region. When asked about his experience during the Co-Design Summit, Mohamed Fadel, a young entrepreneur from Laâyoune, noted, “It’s not just about the opportunity to grow a business and the potential increased income – it’s also about opportunities and identifying your own potential and building confidence.” The summit stressed the importance of co-creation with regards to entrepreneurship, attempting to change the perspective of the participants towards a more collaborative approach. Mohamed Fadel acknowledged how his thought process changed saying, “I initially thought to try my ideas for a business on my own but now I see that it is easier and there is greater potential to advance further as part of a team.”
While the summit had a primary focus on local entrepreneurs, the experience proved to be a growth experience for all participants involved. Naa Ayeleysa Quaynor-Mettle, Sustainability Project Manager at Fan Milk Ltd, a subsidiary of PIA member Danone, remarked, “The biggest learning [from the week] for me was how to have the entrepreneurs go through the steps of the design and mindset tools … [and] then use the tools themselves…it was an example of how I can support and learn by leading from behind and encourage them to own their decisions.”
Several PIA members learned new strategies from the summit to apply towards their own development work. Stephen Njuguna, Project Coordinator and Consultant of Safe Water Enterprise (SWE) Project of Siemens Stiftung in Kenya, explained, “After going through the co-design process, one is able to come up with solutions that will address the needs of the target audience. In the ordinary way of designing we tend to rush to the most obvious solutions at the very beginning due to their convenience, cost, attractiveness, and ease of implementation.”
Now, MIT D-Lab staff and the Co-Design Summit participants are looking to the future. According to Saida Benhayoune, “The summit is just one step in the process, [local] trainers have been trained and the idea is that they will take this methodology and continue to teach it in Laâyoune.” In this way, the summit creates sustainable solutions to challenges, and the work that was started in Laâyoune during the summit is only beginning. D-Lab will observe the progress in the region and report back within a year after the summit takes place. As MIT D-Lab looks forward to the future of entrepreneurs in Laâyoune, we are encouraged by the words of another participant and aspiring entrepreneur, Sabah Aamar, “I want to follow one of the projects that I will work on during the summit in order for it to become a business and [to] share my experience with new young people so they can do the same thing and eventually enrich the local economy.”