Building Empathy: IntoActions offers innovation lab for social entrepreneurs in São Paulo

Building upon the first innovation lab for social entrepreneurs for Social Good Brasil (SGB) in Florianópolis, IntoActions offered a second version of its innovation lab in São Paulo, working with over 50 social entrepreneurs over an intensive three-day period that also included field-work in the Jardim Ângela community.

Day 1: Laying the foundation for Human Centered Innovation

The day started out very early. Participants — or ‘Labbers’, as SGB calls them — already arrived at the Centro Ruth Cardoso before 8:00 o’clock, eager to meet their colleagues, some of whom they already knew through SGB’s virtual platform.

After an opening activity during which participants shared their background, the objectives of their social enterprise, but also their expectations for the three days, Reinhold Steinbeck and Edgard Stuber, founding partners of IntoActions, provided the group with a brief overview of Design Thinking, a human-centered approach to solving complex challenges. Key techniques and tools, such as stake-holder maps, personas or brainstorming techniques were introduced in a hands-on way. The focus of the first day, however, was on building empathy, meaning how can you understand the problem space, how can you identify the real needs of your target group, and how can you go beyond your own preconceptions.

Day 2: Field Day – Jardim Ângela

A bus took the group of 50+ entrepreneurs and coordinators to Jardim Ângela, a low-income community located in the south-eastern part of the metropolitan area and about 30 kilometers from the center of São Paulo. In the early 90s, according to UN statistics, Jardim Ângela was considered one of the most violent neighborhoods in the world. Today, much has changed for the better, though the Human Development Index (HDI) for that region is still far below the Brazilian average.

Some of the players that have contributed to the positive changes that have been happening in Jardim Ângela over the years are NGOs such as Fundação Arco and A Banca. Fundação Arco has been working in Jardim Ângela for over 20 years, providing primarily educational services and programs for children and young adults. A Banca started out in 2000, offering cultural and musical events, such as Hip Hop workshops and other exchange experiences to connect youth in Jardim Ângela with youth from various parts of São Paulo and beyond around urban culture.

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During the field-day experience, participants worked closely with members of Fundação Arco and A Banca. In groups of five, participants met with various small businesses in Jardim Ângela to better understand their needs and challenges. The goal was to apply the empathy tools that the lab participants learned during the first day of the workshop and then brainstorm for solutions, together with members from the community.

After a long day that culminated in a Mini Design Expo on the premises of Fundação Arco where the various groups together with their local counterparts presented their solutions, participants returned to the Centro Ruth Cardoso by 20:30, tired and inspired to work on their own projects during the third and final day of the workshop.

Day 3: Connecting the dots

The activities of the third and final day were designed to help participants to connect the dots – to bring together what they learned during the first day with what they experienced at Jardim Ângela during the second day, and transfer that knowledge and experience of human-centered design to their own projects.

By Andressa Trivelli, Coordinator of Social Good Brasil in São Paulo