A number of students from Laurea University of Applied Sciences, Finland, and students from Kiel University of Applied Sciences, met for the first time in a little seminar room on Kiel UAS campus. The goal: to revive Kiel’s outsider district Neumühlen-Dietrichsdorf.
Four teams of students, each with three to four members of different origins, worked with one of four business owners, whose businesses were located in the district. Every business owner had essentially the same problem – there was little to no life in the district resulting in low demand for their services. With help of the Design Thinking method, students generated new ideas not by firstly tackling the problem itself but by defining the problem first, and then analyzing it.
The intensive week consisted of five basic steps (according the typical Design Thinking Approach) – empathizing with those affected, defining the problem, generating ideas to approach the problem, prototyping the approaches and test them. The student teams had five days, more or less one day for each Design Thinking step.
After defining the problem, the first ideas were generated by using different ideation tools and after in-group discussions, the teams could focus on a handful of ideas and get more into depth to finally find one main idea and elaborate it. The first approaches were then already presented to locals and affected to get a first impression and different opinions. Some teams at this point needed to rethink their approach and partly rearrange to then move further to the prototyping step.
Creating videos, building models out of carton or drawing pictures – that is how the prototyping looked within the different teams in the seminar room. The prototypes were then used to test on the locals, students and people on the streets of Neumühlen-Dietrichsdorf. The interviewees were presented the different models and were asked to give feedback about what their thoughts about the usability and feasibility was. The results were voice recorded or even video recorded.
The final step was to present the results to the clients and interested parties. Most of the feedback was very positive and the clients expressed their gratefulness. Not only because they got to witness at close quarters how solutions to their problems were handled and managed, but also because they were indeed a part of the method and the process.
After the project finished, all materials were submitted to the partner. Also all teaching material was given to the main partner in order to support further activities and workshops.