Capitalising on the Power of Diversity to Create Acceptable Solutions for Unmanaged Waste

June 22, 2020

finding solutions that will uplift the lives of those affected by unmanaged waste

We have a Chichewa saying that goes “mutu umodzi susenza denga” meaning one person (or literally one head) cannot lift the roof of a house alone. It emphasizes the need for collaboration to successfully carry out challenging tasks. As UNDP Malawi’s Accelerator Lab, we had this in mind when we started preparing for a design workshop in collaboration with UNICEF human centred design experts. Our aim for the workshop was to identify specific solutions based on the broad potential solutions on waste management that we had identified earlier in our sensemaking workshops.


To select a diverse group of relevant participants for the workshop, we customised a people mapping tool from Nesta's Collective Intelligence Design Playbook.

We also adapted the questions to:

  1. Who is already trying to solve this issue?
  2. Who thinks about it in a different way or is solving related problems?
  3. Who else can solve this problem?

This led us to invite 35 participants from non-governmental organisations, academia, entrepreneurs, civil service, community representatives and journalists. Obviously, every participant had direct experience with waste; some even make a living from it!

Understanding and Defining the problem with waste management

On 9th and 10th December 2019, we facilitated the design workshop together with the team from UNICEF, leading participants through a review of ideation and prototyping phases of designing solutions.

We gave an overview of waste management, its key drivers, and the five categories identified during sensemaking workshops:

  •  Awareness and behavioural change strategies.
  • Collaboration platforms to foster linkages.
  • Innovative funding models.
  • Innovations to avoid, reduce, reuse and recycle waste.
  • Policy review and reinforcement.

All participants were randomly put into five groups and assigned a category to find solutions in. Each group reframed the category into a Point of View question to define the problem being solved using “How Might We [do an action] [on what] for [which stakeholder] in order to [change something]” structure.

Ideation and Prototyping Solutions

The groups used sticky notes to brainstorm as many ideas as they could come up with in a specified time before clustering them on a flipchart board. From the clusters, they picked their top three ideas and reviewed how much impact they would have versus how much effort they would require to implement. With a preference for high-impact low-effort ideas, each group picked their best idea which they prototyped, pitched to all participants and developed a work plan for. The five best ideas from the groups were:

  • Community action for awareness and behavioural change,
  • A waste app to connect and promote waste management services and best practices,
  • Waste sorting machine to promote recycling of waste and generate revenue,
  • Innovation challenges to identify waste innovations, and
  • Review of city council by-laws.

Next Steps

We were amazed at the diversity of ideas the groups came up with during the workshop. By using tools, methods and knowledge of various individuals and institutions from various sectors, we brainstormed, reviewed and co-designed potential solutions to waste management issues in the city of Lilongwe. We thank everyone who has directly and indirectly contributed to finding solutions that will uplift the lives of those affected by unmanaged waste in Lilongwe and beyond.

The journey of addressing waste management challenges is not yet over for the UNDP Malawi Accelerator Lab team. The design workshop acted as a springboard to further test and experiment on some of the solutions proposed during the design workshop.

Stay tuned ...

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