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Benjamin Mason
on Thu, October 9, 2014 at 03.13 am

Bringing it All Together – The Final Session

After a busy week of non-stop site visits, design thinking workshops and discussions, things finally calmed down in Beijing as our week-long innovation event came to an end.

The final day kicked off with a brainstorming session in the UN compound where the process of dissecting the services seen and analysing the new ideas generated continued at full pace.

There were many great ideas but they had to be prioritized in terms of which would be most useful in transferring to services in Bangladesh, with lessons learned and best practices from projects in Singapore and the Netherlands shared and singled out as good examples of design prototyping.

One Singaporean project which particularly interested the attendees was that of a new social service centre – completely empty save for pieces of cardboard literally cut out to stand in for the queuing system, the desks, facilities and other hardware. This would provide the prospective designers with a low-cost, high-effect way to experience for themselves the process of these service centres, enabling them to walk around and visualise what it would be like as an end-user.

This was of interest to the Bangladesh contingent because their big issue was the sheer number of people seeking these services back home. Whereas the Chinese centres might see several tens of people per day, on some occasions there may well be more than 3000 people pouring through the doors seeking assistance in a currently haphazard and unstructured process. Issues of service corruption abound too, with nepotism and cash playing a much larger say in the timely acquisition services than they should.

Thus being able to construct a prototype centre and systematically move or replace pieces as and when needed would allow the Bangladesh centre to be designed and constructed from a people-centred angle, facilitating the provision of services to those who need them most.

Later in the afternoon the true bilateral nature of this event became clear when a last visit to some Chinese CBOs turned the tables and allowed the Bangladesh contingent to teach a little about their own country’s notoriously strong civil society sector to the Chinese counterparts.

This summed up the nature of the week-long workshop neatly – an opportunity for different actors to learn not just unilaterally from consultant lectures but to engage actively in knowledge sharing and experience sessions, allowing all sides to come away with different perspectives and further enriched with cross-disciplinary information and knowledge to better enact their own projects on the ground.

And thus it was that our visiting guests departed tired but content. They had learned much from their time in Beijing and had identified several key areas of interest and concern. However, this is not the end of the endeavour but only the beginning. It remains to be seen whether the participants will be able to use, modify and adapt the useful processes in creating such a service centre for the urban poor back home but, judging by the enthusiasm of all participants, we have high hopes for successful implementation - creating a true urban service centre with Bangladeshi characteristics. 

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