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  • Writer's pictureChanné Suy Lan

Unleashing Innovation for Social Impact: Insights from Idea Sprint #1

Updated: May 22, 2023


Kawsang organized and facilitated Idea Sprint #1, which took place from Monday, October 24th, to Friday, October 28th, 2022, in Phnom Penh city. The event was funded by the USAID-FHI 360 CSS project Innovations Lab with the goal of assisting CSS civil society partners in identifying advocacy and capacity-building challenges while testing new approaches or tools for strategic communication and awareness raising. This blog post provides an overview of the activities and outcomes of Idea Sprint #1, highlighting the selected ideas for further development and the valuable insights gained from participants' feedback.

Recruitment and Selection: Ensuring Diversity and Expertise

The recruitment process for Idea Sprint #1 involved CSS's network of organizations and an open call for participation. We made efforts to ensure diversity by reaching out to women, youth, people with disabilities, and individuals from rural areas. However, the applications received showed a higher percentage of male applicants and individuals aged 36 or older. We received a total of 61 applications, with 40 coming from local CSOs and the rest from various categories of organizations. Ultimately, we selected 40 participants based on their relevance to the project's focus areas and their expertise in communications and technology.

Figure: Applications Received

Preparation and Design: Creating an Interactive and Engaging Program

The facilitating team for Idea Sprint #1 consisted of experienced facilitators and coaches who aimed to create an interactive and engaging program.

Outline of the 5-day Idea Sprint:

Day 1: Getting to know your challenge

Day 2: Getting to know your users

Day 3: Thinking while making

Day 4: Testing, learning, and adjusting

Day 5: Presentations of your prototype

Key Highlights and Innovative Ideas

Six teams were formed to work on six challenges during the Idea Sprint.

Blue Team:

Challenge: Promoting digital literacy for online advocacy for farmers facing land-ownership challenges.

Solution: Equipping farmers with social media and video storytelling skills to advocate for themselves and create a support network for documenting and gathering cases for policy change.

Orange Team:

Challenge: Inclusivity for children, the disabled, and ethnic minorities.

Solution: Developing an app to identify and track less-obvious disabilities, providing education and support for the District Technical Monitoring Team responsible for data collection on disability accessibility mandates.

Pink Team:

Challenge: LGBTQI+ awareness raising in educational settings.

Solution: Creating a "Pride Corner" in public schools, curating a small resource library to raise awareness and provide support for LGBTQI+ students and teachers.

Red Team:

Challenge: Online child sexual exploitation.

Solution: Online chat for victims and supporters, along with an awareness-raising campaign to educate the public about the issue.

Yellow Team:

Challenge: Gender issues.

Solution: "Our House, Our Chores" campaign to challenge the unreasonable expectations placed on working women in Cambodia.

Green Team:

Challenge: Natural resource management.

Solution: Promoting community-based ecotourism to connect urban youths with indigenous communities, fostering skills exchange, and raising awareness for policy change.

Idea Sprint I Activities

Selected Ideas for Further Development

After each team presented their prototype pitches to the panel of judges, two ideas were chosen for further development. These are:

  1. The Orange Team's idea focuses on developing a data-collection app for teachers to accurately identify and collect data on disabilities in classrooms. The goal is to improve awareness and resources for identifying "invisible" disabilities, leading to better data collection and informed policy decisions at the district level.

  2. The Pink Team's initiative, called "Pride Corner," aims to enhance LGBTQI+ education in school libraries. Their plan includes curating resources, providing training for "librarians," and setting up resource kiosks in semi-rural public schools. This initiative aims to foster inclusive environments through educational resources and community engagement.

Participant Feedback: Lessons Learned and Insights Gained

Participants provided valuable feedback on their experience during Idea Sprint #1. Notable highlights included collaborative brainstorming, engaging discussions, and learning from diverse perspectives. Lowlight moments included challenges in testing with users and handling disagreements. Participants emphasized the importance of unlearning, empathy, and maintaining a positive attitude toward ideas.

« My favorite moment was when we broke down and brainstormed issues and solutions with my team. Despite our different backgrounds and areas of focus, my team members were incredibly supportive, open-minded, and able to motivate each other on various levels. »

I hope the Idea Sprint happens again with new participants so they can learn and gain more experience from it. It should be offered to all groups.
I appreciate the fact that there were very few presentations.
This is one of the greatest events I have ever attended. It was engaging, fun, and I had the opportunity to meet many inspiring young people. I feel inspired and motivated.

Lessons learned from this Idea Sprint have highlighted several areas for improvement in future events:

  1. Provide a clearer message about Idea Sprint to appeal to a wider range of NGO participants. Clearly communicate the purpose and scope of the event from the beginning, avoiding misleading notions about support and funding.

  2. Enhance understanding and cooperation from each Cluster Anchor organization by conducting informative sessions before recruitment. Consider involving external partner organizations to leverage their networks. Establish clear guidelines for networking activities and determine the responsible party.

  3. Ensure a more streamlined and straightforward approach in the next iteration. Assign formal roles to facilitators (assistants, venue liaisons, etc.) for better organization and coordination.

  4. Incorporate existing data and field insights to enhance program effectiveness. Explore creative ways to integrate user research despite resource limitations.

  5. Strike a balance between collaborative and experiential learning and the creation of practical, impactful solutions. Teach the creative process while focusing on tangible, real-world effectiveness.

  6. Find a more accessible venue, especially during rush hour, that better suits the needs of participants.


With two ideas and teams identified for further support, 36 participants representing 32 organizations (34 of them fully participated in all 5 days of the program), and 5 full days of programming, we consider this program a great success. Idea Sprint #1 demonstrated the power of collaborative innovation in addressing pressing societal challenges. The selected ideas for further development, focusing on disabilities in classrooms and LGBTQI+ education, hold significant potential for positive social impact. The feedback from participants highlighted important lessons learned and the value of continued collaboration and learning. The success of Idea Sprint #1 encourages the continuation of such programs to foster innovation and bring about social change.



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