My experience with an innovation programme with Smart Seeds

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Earlier on in the year I took part in an innovation programme called Smart Seeds. It was twelve jam-packed weeks of researching, ideating, planning, meeting and presenting - and honestly it's still going many months later!

Smart Seeds is a worldwide, design-lead innovation programme focused on solving complex challenges facing the world and is targeted towards young professionals. It's all about getting upcoming leaders with a range of experiences to come up with solutions that benefit their community. I got to go through my work and was one of five people chosen from my work to attend, and one of around thirty who took part in the 2018 Wellington programme. 

The challenge I chose to tackle was about how the general public aren't actively engaged with climate change decision makers, five other great people chose this topic too and we formed a fantastic group. However, this topic was quite heavy and we had a lot ahead of us. Who are the decision makers? How do you even begin to define climate change and how specific do we need to go? Who is our audience? So many things we need to consider!

We spent weeks and weeks meeting with people and chatting about climate change and decision making processes. We were very thankful that so many people were so easily accessible - we were tweeting back and forth with our Mayor, had a one-on-one meeting with an MP (Chlöe Swarbrick is amazing by the way!) and going to talks that were lead by large environmental influencers... we really had so much at our fingertips but how can we even begin to tackle this topic?

We finally connected the dots and figured out that even though climate change is something that is happening here and now, the current (older) generations grew up not experiencing or knowing about it, and are therefore very difficult to convince it's a real thing happening. The answer we decided on was to educate our future generations so they can grow up understanding the importance of climate change behavioural change so they can make decisions that will better the future of our planet!

So following this epiphany, we came up with a programme called "Torokiki" (which is Te Reo Māori for regrowing, re-establishing and re-emerging) that will be implemented in primary schools to teach children about climate change, and the programme will have an inter-school competition aspect where schools will compete to reduce their carbon footprint to win sustainable prizes! Just like how my generation grew up learning the importance of using a seatbelt in a car, these children will learn about sustainability and climate change and behave as if it's second nature. Torokiki will have potential to expand and go into high schools and even workplaces, nationally and internationally!

Along with our research and presentation planning, we also decided to make a business case for our solution - this had things like a timeline, a budget and even a list of actual companies who were ready to throw money at this lil idea of ours! (I'm sorry for future teams for unintentionally setting the bar so high!)

With my love for and skills of graphic design I was in charge with creating the business case and the branding for our programme - which you are able to have a look at on my portfolio! I absolutely love this piece of design work, not only does it look pretty darn fantastic but it also has great substance inside the content and is something I am really passionate about!

Not only did we have to come up with a solution for our problem but we then had to present it in front of a panel of five CEOs and a room of a couple hundred industry representatives. I hate public speaking - my voice goes mono-tone, my body freezes up and I stutter. I was not looking forward to it. But somehow I managed to get through it and everyone said how well I spoke! And what really iced the cake was that my group and our solution was selected as the judges' winner!

What's even better than imagining Torokiki and all of it's possibilities, but it actually got picked up and is in the process of actually being implemented in the real world! A lot of the partners we spoke to during our research have committed to funding Torokiki and there's a business team who have taken over this project to make it happen! Unfortunately it's all hush-hush at the moment but it's still very exciting, keep your eyes out!

If you want to learn a bit more about my experience with Smart Seeds, check out their New Zealand highlights video - you'll get to see me walk in slow-motion and laugh in the background of a few shots!


I've certainly put my hand up to become an "alumni leader" to help out the groups who participate in Smart Seeds next year, it's such a great experience and I really encourage anyone who has this opportunity (it's a worldwide initiative) to give it a go!

Have you ever done an innovation programme similar to this - I'd love to know what you thought of it! Also, what do you think of this idea of ours?

- Louise x

(A special thanks to Smart Seeds for the photos from the night!)

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