Continuing its ground-breaking efforts to develop a vibrant domestic entrepreneurial culture, Startup Sri Lanka recently concluded the first in a series of workshops under the Start Up Sri Lanka Next Generation program; teaching young Sri Lankans about the power of problem solving and design thinking to spark disruptive innovation.

The two-day workshop which was organised in collaboration with MiddyFund Inc NYC, was aimed at providing young Sri Lankans with the tools necessary to build a social-entrepreneurial mind-set, spanning conceptualisation of ideas into design and execution.

Open to children from the ages of 12-17, the workshops were conducted by MiddyFund founder Savera Weerasinghe, herself a dynamic young entrepreneur with a passion for environmental sustainability and a believer in the power of social entrepreneurship to solve real-world problems.

Commencing the first day of the workshop with a round of informal introductions and mutual sharing of aspirations and life goals, the sizable group of young and enthusiastic participants took their first steps towards developing their own unique entrepreneurial vision. Utilising conceptual tools such as mind-maps, the children were encouraged to develop their own ideas in a manner capable of having a real social impact and soon came out with a plethora of fascinating concepts – from founding their own international technology companies to developing augmented reality video games to discouraging people from littering.

Having been divided into working groups, the children were then tasked with developing their own video commercial depicting a day in the life from various different global lifestyles and cultures with a view to independently developing their awareness and empathy for the challenges that others face and form a deeper appreciation for the numerous unique opportunities available to them.

Next up was an introduction to design thinking and just out of the box thinking. Following that the day ended in introducing the kids to design thinking and how some of the leading brands such as Apple, Google and Facebook use design thinking when creating new products and services. The final day of the workshop was focused on pitch presentation and innovation creation. The children then created idea stacks of problems they wished to solve, huddled up into teams and focused on creating solutions to mitigate the greatest challenges currently facing mankind - war, pollution, deforestation and animal cruelty.

Using the internet and whatever information they could gather from their peers, the children were taught through practical application how to solve problems by breaking them down into smaller tasks, points of pain, goals and solutions. By the end of the day three teams pitched their ideas to Savera and her volunteers to show them how they’d pitch to a group of investors to gain investments. One group developed a fun game to stop people littering called trash and go which was based on a point system while another aimed to solve the problem of deforestation by partnering with the government to educate farmers and other influential stakeholders on the impact deforestation has in the world and its impact.

Startup Sri Lanka and Startup Sri Lanka Next Generation are both initiatives carried out by Sri Lanka’s apex IT and BPM Chamber, SLASSCOM. For more information on upcoming workshops and to register your child for the next program contact: anas@slasscom.lk