Understading market for low-income housing

I’m André, originally from Brazil, student at Kaospilots Switzerland. Moved by impatience, I like to go out there and see how things work and what could make them better, a design thinking spirit.

What are you doing in Cape Town?

I came to South Africa aiming to get experiences on design thinking and business in developing countries, 2 areas of my interest.

I’m working with 2 design thinking projects with CCDI (Cape Craft and Design Institute). What could be better? And on this post, I talk about the Better Living Challenge.

The Better Living Challenge aims to discover the processes of the small scale builder in terms of access and usage of materials, financial ability, construction techniques. Through this discovery, acknowledge the role of small scale builders in developing low-cost settlements.

Our scope is to map out market around small scale building, basically the construction of shacks. We based our research and prototype in the township of Nyanga.

meeting scope

Apart the work and studies at Kaospilots, I go to the beach, exercise, drink South African wines! And I’m very happy to find places in Cape Town for salsa, kizomba and bachata! I love latino songs!

What are they doing that inspires you?

Businesses for the base of pyramid are always unique because of the challenges around low-income communities. And it’s not different in the townships! Financial constraints, cultural particularities, lack of infrastructure, historical segregation in South Africa. If you don’t pay attention to such aspects, you’ll never understand how the money circulates in the townships.

The business ecosystem operates in a way not understandable for the traditional business approach. One extra particularity, it operates under informality in most of the cases. How would you serve clients in townships demanding documents, proof of income and thousands of bureaucracies?

What are you (as a group) contributing with in this project?

Our task as a group is to map out the market for small-scale builders in the townships. Like many particularities you find in developing countries, the townships by themselves are huge markets full of business opportunities. In Nyanga, where we were basing our prototype, there are about 2 million people living.

How to serve customers with low-income, no stable job and no banking account? On the video below, a shack being built. What improvements to address for such constructions? What really matters for the people who live in shacks?

Due to an incident of robbing towards 3 of my colleagues while in Nyanga, we had to change our plans to don’t go there anymore. Unfortunately, crime is an issue in Cape Town and foreigners in a township are easy target by the criminals.

Anyway, we’re on the road and searching for alternatives to address how existing shacks can be upgraded. The challenge to understand the cultural aspects in the townships, their struggles and what is valuable for them is pushing for different approaches than usual business do.

What is the biggest insight of doing this project (from you or and the partner)?

Why is easy to get credit to buy a car, clothes, mobile phone? Why is almost impossible for a low-income citizen get a credit even to start a business?

People in townships live by today: carry the enough for today, buy only what they need for today… What would you do with no bank account, low-income and no fridge at home?

What else to say?

No romantic idea about Cape Town! Just don’t be silly and naïve, you can manage with the lack of security in the city. Social inequality in South Africa is huge, be aware to don’t flash valuable objects and where you put your shoes!


Outpost in Cape Town

It is going quite intense the Outpost, that is how we call our 3 months overseas program during the 4th semester.

48 students coming two Kaospilots schools: one from Switzerland and one from Denmark; mentored by two team leaders. As a result, an organization started up in order to manage 12 projects with local partners in Cape Town plus its internal activities.


Process facilitation during the creation of our organizational structure

By these last 2 weeks, projects have been selected by the students and are already with defined scope and starting execution mode.

Every student- out of 48 in the total – is involved in two external projects (executed with an external partner) and one internal project (within the internal organization).

Just to share a little of what we do in Cape Town, 3 examples of external projects being executed in the Outpost 2017:

  • #cocreateSA: in partnership CCDI (Cape Craft & Design Institute), it aims to show the value of a design-led process of innovation for understand recycling in Cape Town, throughout the design thinking method.
  • Dine with Khayelitsha: is a project that aims at bridging  the gap between townships and cities through setting conversational dinners that are driven by different themes ranging from social issues, social innovation, leadership, entrepreneurship and sustainability (of hope, positivity and change within townships).
  • SACAP:it is the South African College of Applied Psychology, that has been working to shift the current perspective about mental health care in South Africa, providing mental health care services to individuals who otherwise would not be able to access them in the township of Khayelitsha.


We intend to keep you updated about our next steps in Cape Town! For more details, you can follow up the Facebook page Kaospilots Cape Town.




Team SUI 4 preparing for Cape Town

Our students of Team SUI 4 who are currently in their second year at the KaosPilots are preparing for their Outpost in South Africa. They will spend the time from February to May in Cape Town, together with 38 students of the Danish KaosPilots who are in their second year, too.


What is the Outpost?

During the fourth semester – out of 6 semesters during KaosPilots – the students are moved somewhere else in the world for 3 months to apply their acquired skills on project and process design in an unfamiliar cultural and social environment.

Working with real clients and projects, they (from Danish and Swiss schools) will create an organization that helps them serve their clients’ needs. Each Oupost is unique, emerging along its own path.

Through a diversity of contents, the projects aim to create value and impact upon collaborations: amongst students in project groups, with project partners and local communities in Cape Town.

The intentions of the Outpost can be summarized in 3 purposes:

  • Cultivate your craft: cultivating enterprise leadership combining the competences related to subject, action, relationship and change. And creating value in the context of a specific situation;
  • Collaborate & co-create value: create value with and for other people;
  • Navigate complexity & ambiguity: cultivate essential leadership competence of sensemaking and essential virtues such as lightness, openness, courage and patience.

The 3 purposes of the Outpost

Why Cape Town?

Cape Town has been the base for the Outpost in the last 5 years due to its diversity, energy, culture and potential to create meaningful collaborations with local organizations and interesting people in the city.

These years simply convinced us there is much to learn from the initiatives and people of Cape Town who have been creating a new reality for the city.


The farewell party of a previous Outpost in Cape Town, South Africa

From fibre to fabric

The Outpost 2017 is themed “From fibre to fabric“, as analogy to celebrate the cultural diversity in Cape Town, whose social fabric is made of many diverse fibres that bring a new set of unique traits if woven together.

We will surely keep you updated of what we do during the Outpost! See you in Cape Town!

Meet the Ninevites

Nonkuleko Mlangeni is one of the graduate from Team 2 at KaosPilots Switzerland. Moved by her passion for supporting and empowering young artists in South Africa, she’s been active with her textiles creations and willing to grow as a community builder and entrepreneur.


One of the creations designed by Nonkuleko. Picture taken from theninevites.net

Through the questions below, Nonkuleko describes about her projects Ninevites and how the Kaospilots contributed for make it happen. The Ninevites is a collaborative project and platform to explore under-told narratives of life from South Africa using textiles, images and design.

What is your project? And what is its purpose?

Nonkuleko: It is called Ninevites. We design textiles, curate events and it is inspired by black aesthetics. I work with weavers from South America and Africa currently making handmade rugs. The idea is to preserve the culture of weaving and also create work for them because textile making is a dying craft.

How Kaospilots was important to develop your project?

Nonkuleko: It gave me confidence to be able to communicate my ideas, to implement them and to actually not be afraid to try things out. Prototype and test it out. And as a creative I got to learn about business which came in handy.

What were the steps of your project until now? Milestones? Golden nuggets?

Nonkuleko: I’ve mainly been travelling around the SADC (Southern African Development Community) region trying to find weavers, learning about the process of using good materials to make the weaving, working with the right people and improving the brand. Golden nuggets, it is the importance of prototyping and testing.


Working with weavers during trip in South America. Picture taken from theninevites.net

Tibetan football team: an inspiring story of a Kaospilot

Do you know that the Tibetan Football Team was revived by a Kaospilot? It was in 1997 when the Danish Michael Nybrandt got the idea to revive the national football team in Tibet. Since the regime of Mao Tsetung and the Chinese Cultural Revolution, football in Tibet was reduced to a mere amateur league.

It is an incredible story of a young KaosPilot who had two deep desires: to play football and to change the world somehow. Michael brought his two passions together and founded the Tibetan Football National Team.


Before he started his education at the KaosPilots, he had a dream while on a bicycle adventure on Tibet that he was the manager of Tibetan national football team. Tibet isn’t recognized as independent state and the country didn’t even have any football team at that time.

As a KaosPilot he managed to overcome many obstacles and barriers to start this amazing project organizing one match with the Tibetan Football Team’s manager Karma Ngodup in Dharamsala (India, where is the home of Tibetan government-in-exile) to select the players who would represent Tibet internationally and be trained by the coach Jens Espensen.

In 2000, when the selection of players for Tibet had taken place, there was no internet connection yet. The contact and communication was only possible by fax and by phone calls. Anyway, Michael decided to go for this idea.

As Tibet is not recognized as a state, there were political and practical challenges along the way. Only to organize a football match! As shown in the documentary The Forbidden Team, it was a long journey with a lot bureaucracy to provide the travel documents and visa to go to Denmark, where happened the first match against Greenland.

From the selection of players until the match against Greenland, there were obstacles and refusals to play a match against Tibetan team regarding political interests, difficulties regarding visa and travel documents, practical challenges such as the lack of proper training infrastructure. Difficulties that in the end were overcome with the attitude, to allow dreams to come true; from the darkness to the light.

What is the essence of Michael’s project? It’s not about fighting against a political regime (Tibet is currently under Chinese control), it’s just about having the chance to play football, having the freedom to do what you like to do as human being. And that’s what makes an individual adventure a universal story to inspire people.

After the documentary The Forbidden Team, Michael has published a powerful graphic novel on this adventure: Dreams in Thin Air.

Michael Nybrandt will be at the KaosPilots school in Bern. In a public storytelling event on Sunday, 23rd October, 2016 he will be sharing his story and give insights into his inspiring journey. The event will happen from 16:30 h to 19:15 h.
Entrance fee is CHF 20, for students CHF 10. Confirm your presence by signing up with an e-mail to fly@kaospilots.ch.

PS: You can also check Michael’s interview for the KaosPilots in Denmark about how he made his dream come true.

How to design a social business

Tools and frameworks that help you create solid social business concepts.

Guest blog by Meret Nehe, who hosted a two-day workshop on social business design at Kaospilots

It’s a myth that social business ideas just fall into the founder‘s lap just like that. In most of the successful  cases there is actually a lot of thinking, researching and prototyping happening before the actual launch of the organisation or project. But (speaking from my own experience) it’s not that easy to know where to start and how to navigate through the jungle of information when you want to explore and develop your own social business idea. That is where we can let ourselves be inspired from how designers work. So did the Rotman School of Management. Their methodology of the 3 Gears of Business Design is inspired by the innovation method Design Thinking and provides you with an actionable framework to orientate yourself when you are developing a business (or project) idea.

Source: Rotman School of Management (2016): What is Business Design?

Source: Rotman School of Management (2016): What is Business Design?

I like to introduce the 3 Gears of Business Design simply as a framework and structure that gives us an orientation in our process of developing an own social business idea. For each of the three phases of the development process (the three gears), I will give you some tools that will help you develop your concept further.

Phase 1: Empathy and need-finding

You need to know your potential customer, your beneficiaries, your stakeholders etc. very well to be able to provide a product for them that actually meets their needs. Instead of just scratching the surface (which usually happens with a lot of market research tools), I’d recommend that you take time for the following research:


Phase 2: Prototyping and experimentation

In case you feel like you learnt enough from the first phase, you can now start translating your learnings into a concept. For that, based on insights from your research, you can ideate new ideas and develop existing ones further.

You can later sketch out these ideas using e.g. the Business Model Canvas which is a great tool to visualise business model concepts. Do not make the mistake to think that a business model on paper is a concept that will work in reality! You now need to make sure that you test the underlying assumptions of your business model. Create prototypes (mock ups, storyboards, role plays…) and go out with them into the real world to see if the concept works with your customers and if it creates the social impact you’d like to see.

Phase 3: Business strategy

Only now, after you have prototyped, tested and evolved your business model it’s time to set up the strategy. It might be useful to write a Business Plan at this stage or make use of a more detailed business model canvas to translate your full idea into a strategy. And only then (and let me tell you, this is the real hard work) you put your strategy into practice. You will notice that not all parts of your strategy go according to plan. Be open to go back to the first or second gear again and again, making smaller or bigger adjustments. Only fitting first gears will make the third gear run smoothly!

I cannot promise you that following the suggested steps will automatically make you the next social entrepreneur of the year. But trust me, when you stick to the key steps of the process and when you remember that one gear depends on the other, you will have high chances of avoiding big mistakes that entrepreneurs before you did (me included).

In case you have questions about specific tools or need help guiding through the process, you can contact me through my LinkedIn profile.

About the author

Meret Nehe is a consultant in social innovation/entrepreneurship and strategic sustainability and also works as a Design Thinking process facilitator. In the past couple of years, she has been coordinating and hosting training programmes at a social business incubator in Switzerland which allowed her to coach and accompany numerous social enterprises in their development process. During her studies, she co-founded a textile business herself and later worked as a project manager in charities and sustainability organisations in Germany.  She studied in the Netherlands, Chile and Sweden and holds a MSc in Strategic Leadership for Sustainability.

What Kaospilots really is?

Adapted from an article written by The Changer, a German platform for social impact careers

BusinessWeek has recognised Kaospilots as one of the best design schools in the world, and Fast Company has named it in its Startup Leagues Big 10, preparing you for the fast moving startup economy. Moreover, The Changer mentioned it as one of the best alternative schools for changemakers. What could explain such repercussions?

The Kaospilots is an international school for creative business design and social innovation. Originally founded in Denmark in 1991, more than 600 students have passed through the doors of this alternative business school – over a third of which have gone on to found their own businesses or NGOs. The methodological focus is on learning by doing, constant reflection and iteration, and collaboration. They acknowledge the role of human nature in making business decisions and interacting in the work environment. Rather than trying to suppress them, they guide their students to make productive use of their own and others’ values, beliefs and dreams in all of their tasks.

The students work with real world challenges not just theories and essays. They develop ideas, concepts and business plans for clients. They create prototypes, facilitate workshops and make graphic recordings. A KaosPilot is trained to communicate their ideas, design strategies and implement campaigns for actual projects and products.

On their fourth semester the students spend in an external classroom, the so-called Outpost, in Cape Town, South Africa. The purpose is to get to know a new landscape and to develop and implement their tools in business projects in an unknown territory.

In Switzerland, Kaospilots is based in Bern and the curriculum is based on the same education which the school in Aarhus/Denmark is offering as a 3 years program. In addition to that, students in Switzerland go through the Council Guide Training, which is a personal development training and a teaching on how to move as tribe. Below, a description about the Swiss school by the headmaster Matti Straub: