Ashesi University and MIT D-Lab Host Lean Research Workshops for Public

NEXTi2i, a collaboration between Ashesi University and MIT D-Lab, hosted eighty-one participants in four Lean Research workshops led by Kendra Leith, Co-Founder of Lean Research and Associate Director for Research at MIT D-Lab, at Ashesi University between June 10 and June 17. Ms. Leith developed the workshops and content with Roxani Krystalli, Kim Wilson, and Elizabeth Hoffecker of MIT D-Lab. The workshops followed NEXTi2i’s first annual convening Unlocking the Potential of the Hybrid Entrepreneur on June 6, 2019 and provided participants with resources and tools to implement Lean Research in their own work and research.

Each workshop was created to target the needs of participants groups: incubator fellows of Ashesi Venture Incubator and other incubators fellows in Ghana; university faculty and staff; managers of hubs, incubators, and accelerators across Ghana; and managers of NGOs, development agencies, and community-based organizations based in Ghana. 

The workshops received favorable feedback. Although participants recognized the relevance of Lean Research for carrying out research with communities living in poverty, participants realized that the approach could also be applied to market research in other contexts. For instance, a participant noted that Lean Research “is relatable and practical to various sectors and will be beneficial to others”. Another learned “how to conduct research by not only considering my needs as an entrepreneur but also that of my subject”. MIT D-Lab co-developed the Lean Research approach in collaboration with colleagues at The Fletcher School at Tufts University to help researchers more effectively collect data from marginalized populations. Today, Lean Research has been implemented a number of projects in East and West Africa and South Asia. The collaboration with Ashesi University is the first institutional international collaboration. 

Lean Research for Entrepreneurs 

On June 10 and June 17, twelve fellows from Ashesi Venture Incubator and one MasterCard fellow participated in an interactive workshop session to learn how to utilize the Lean Research framework in market research to enable more customer-centric data for business development. They participated in a role play, a skit, and other discussions to understand the concepts and identify how they could be applied to their enterprises. The fellows were also provided with tools to develop an outline for how they would perform research this summer to jumpstart business development as hybrid entrepreneurs. 

Lean Research for University Faculty and Staff

On June 12, sixteen university faculty and staff participated in a Lean Research workshop. To kick the day off, some of the participants discussed how they have integrated Lean Research into their courses. In addition, Ms. Leith reviewed specific exercises that have been implemented at Ashesi and created an opportunity for faculty and staff to create their own exercise. In the session, the group also reviewed feedback from the students on the utilization of Lean Research in previous courses and capstone projects.  Ms. Leith used a “data party” format (similar to an exhibition) to help participants identify trends, surprises, and questions from the data. Ms. Leith also facilitated several interactive team and partner work sessions to brainstorm how to apply Lean Research in each faculty member’s course and how it could be implemented across the Ashesi curriculum. All participants indicated at least an 80% likelihood that they aim to apply Lean Research to their courses and research in the next few semesters. The faculty and staff also brainstormed how they could incorporate the Lean Research principles into their own research. 

Advancing Entrepreneurism with Lean Research: Lean Research for Hub, Incubator and Accelerator Managers

Thirty of our representatives of a cross-section of hubs, incubators, and accelerators from across Ghana gathered to network and learn how to apply Lean Research principles to their programs and the support they provide to entrepreneurs  June 14. These representatives were guided through several interactive activities to give them tools to understand and start using Lean Research in their organizations and to support entrepreneurs. Many participants expressed eagerness to learn how to apply the 4Rs of Lean Research to market research, business development, and add value for clients and other stakeholders. The participants also discussed plans for how they could apply the concepts and stated that Lean Research is adaptable, more effective, and makes research easy. 

After the workshop, managers attended a social networking activity to build relationships and community with other hub representatives from across Ghana. Since these representatives provided services to emerging, new, and existing entrepreneurs in Ghana, they were motivated to create a resource network for stakeholders and create opportunities to continue fortifying relationships between members of their ecosystem. This is an ongoing project with a goal to better connect Ghana’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Bringing Lean Research Into Our Communities: Lean Research for NGO, Development Agency and Community Based Organization Managers

NGO, development agency and community-based organization managers participated in an interactive workshop that focused on applying Lean Research to program administration and data collection on June 17. These managers participated in several high-level, interactive activities including a role-play, a skit, and group discussions to understand the Lean Research concepts and identify how they might apply Lean Research to their work. Some aimed to “understand and apply practical tools in designing and delivering research relevant for business decisions and social impact” of their organizations. Almost 90% of the participants responded that they most likely will start using Lean Research principles with an 80% likelihood. Participants noted that the workshop was practical, result-oriented, client-centered, and impactful.

Recap 

Overall, the workshops were very engaging for a number of reasons. Participants quickly connected to the problems in conducting field research – which Lean Research seeks to solve – and contributed effectively to the discussions and exercises. Ms. Leith provided scenarios for participants to role-play in order to illustrate issues in the field. It was a surprise to see how well participants built up role plays and actually demonstrated the issues in well-coordinated drama skits. It revealed their understanding of the issues on the ground and their connection to the 4Rs of Lean Research. Many participants stated that they found the interactive skits and role-playing the most insightful and many looked forward to sharing the principles with their teams and entrepreneurs. 

Building an Ecosystem Takes More Than a Day: Connecting Ghana’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

NEXTi2i and participants from workshops are continuing discussions about how to integrate Lean Research into the quantitative and qualitative market and other research, business development, and operations. Many participants are using at least one Lean Research principle and those interested can receive support from NEXTi2i to develop case studies that can be presented at next year’s Innovation Ecosystem Convening and distributed throughout the networks of Ashesi University and MIT D-Lab.