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Since I was introduced to Design Thinking two years ago, it became a great passion of mine. Having a design background probably helped me to fall in love with it as it follows the natural way of working in our area. But the truth is that Design Thinking, on the contrary of the wide-spread belief, is not only about designing beautiful, user-friendly applications, it also comes in handy when you want to solve any kind of complex problems and it may show you the right path to success or your customers’ hearts.

Talking about the benefits that design thinking brings with its methods, it is needless to say that it may be applied to wide variety of problems. In fact, we tried this in practice few months ago and we proved that it is working perfectly for cases with a social impact.

Business with a mission
As part of our partnership with BCNL (Bulgarian Center for Not-for-Profit Law), together with Monika Kovachka-Dimitrova, a fellow colleague and lead DT coach in our local community, we took part of one of the first educational sessions, included in their social entrepreneurship program "Business with a mission". This program supports mission-related business activities of nongovernmental organizations in our country.

We were part of the first stage of the program. Our main task was to introduce Design thinking to a group of preselected social entrepreneurs from our local NGO ecosystem and give them guidance how to validate their ideas and reach out to their potential customers.

The setup
The training was organized as a whole-day hands-on workshop with 24 participants. Each NGO was presented by one member, which means that we had 24 different real cases on our hands to work with. The participants were divided into 4 groups, depending on their area of social impact. Each group was facilitated by one DT coach. The extra two coaches were external for SAP, but few months ago they took part of our summer DT camp as participants.

The workshop
Before diving into the depths of the exercises Monika gave the participants a brief introduction to the methodology. During the hands-on session we as coaches were responsible of giving the right methods to our group to define the problems they are trying to solve and to see their solution from a different perspective.

The cases
Being a social entrepreneur means that all you do as a business initiative is focused on helping the society with various causes. The group I was working with was consisted of NGOs that are working in a field of Health and Social Responsibility.

  • Healthy eating and gymnastics - this idea was represented by the youngest member of our group - 18-yeas old student.

  • Sexual education for teenagers - a package of video lectures.

  • Mobile clinic, dedicated to help people from small and distant villages to get easy access to medical specialists.

  • Greenhouse project that will give a chance to people with intellectual difficulties to work. The main goal was to find a way how they could contribute to society and live a normal life.

  • Print materials, which sales will contribute to an orphanage for its daily expenses. In fact, this idea was already implemented and the person, who represented it, was looking for more options to expand it.

  • Social cafe - this idea came from an organization, dedicated to help people with their reintroduction to the society after a successful drug dependency treatment.

By the end of the day
The day was long and full of emotions, but it was worth it. The participants were happy that they were able to talk about the things they care, and they want to make better. They had the opportunity to hear the other perspective on their work and receive some new fresh options to explore.

My little reward for facilitating the small, but diverse group of people, were the smiles on their faces and their positive feedback. And one bird told us that most of the social entrepreneurs share that our workshop was one of the most useful and interesting sessions from the entire program.