The Obama Administration’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) is a long-term effort to invest in the next generation of African leaders and strengthen partnerships between the United States and Africa. The network is comprised of young and ambitious citizens of Africa, designed to strengthen partnerships between the United States and Africa by building relationships with its young leaders.
For six weeks this summer, UVA is hosting a group of 25 Washington Fellows for a leadership, academic and mentoring program through the Presidential Precinct, a consortium that includes the College of William & Mary, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, James Madison’s Montpelier, James Monroe’s Ash Lawn-Highland and U.Va.’s Morven.
During their visit to UVA, the group took part in a Design Thinking workshop lead by Professors George Sampson and Christine Mahoney. The group split into around four smaller subgroups, and each group was then given a very rudimentary set of resources such as pens, paper, and pipe cleaners. They were instructed to select one “issue” that they were interested in and to build a prototype of a product to “solve” the chosen problem. The product did not have to be a physical manifestation of what its final version would be – it just needed to communicate the purpose. The diversity of prototypes was impressive – as was their intended impact.
Given the short amount of time and meager resources each group was allotted, the results were quite impressive. The premise of the exercise was twofold:
First, to highlight the ease of which prototypes can be built to communicate a certain point or to get an idea across.
Second, to emphasize the power of resourcefulness over resources – being resourceful is not only a way to deal with adversity, it also applies to making the most of opportunities.
YALI Fellows are likely well-versed in resourcefulness, as their resumes indicate, with professions ranging from teachers and journalists to human rights activists. Yet this short seminar on Design Thinking helped the young leaders to learn a new approach to design and problem solving.
To stay in touch with the YALI program, check out #YALI2014 on Instagram and Twitter or click here.