Workplace Strategies

WATER INNOVATION THAT CHANGES THE LIVES OF OTHERS  
Sydney Water Supporting WaterAid
A Bahuguna, A Kinner, B Devi, C Peters, E Camilet, E Ryan, F Jo, F Mackenzie, R Llave, S Lin, W Nadesan
Publication Date (Web): 8 January 2018
DOI: https://doi.org/10.21139/wej.2018.004


Have you recently done something good, thinking it was no big deal, only to find yourself amazingly surprised by the immense effect on others?  We can never know ahead of time which tiny drop, which goodness will ripple out and swell an inspiring wave.

Joining WaterAid’s Water Innovators Challenge last year, a team of 11 Sydney Water employees, also known as Team LaBobo, was given a wonderful opportunity to work on solving a real problem in the developing world. Team LaBobo’s challenge was to design innovative solutions to improve the appeal and design of an existing handwashing unit, deliver a cost-effective solution and increase the uptake of this handwashing unit among Cambodians.

Team LaBobo placed emphasis on full understanding of the Cambodian experience through observation, interaction, and immersing themselves in their experiences. The goal was to develop sufficient background knowledge through these experiences and use these insight as a springboard to address the design challenge. By exploring the contributions of team constructs and design thinking to innovation, Team LaBobo realised the critical parts of social systems, connecting experiences and fostering creativity.

In applying the principles of design thinking and agile development, Team LaBobo developed a customer journey map to understand the Cambodian people’s journey towards engaging with the handwashing unit as a product. Understanding of the customer’s needs inspired Team LaBobo to come up with initial hand-drawn designs that were further refined. The iterative approach permitted Team LaBobo to observe, emphasise and leverage stories to learn and form insights, provided a strong platform to frame the right problem and create the right solutions. 

Adhering to the principle of Human Centred Design, Team LaBobo produced actual physical prototypes based on the criteria of desirability, feasibility and viability. Through stakeholders’ feedback, 3D printed models validated and tested the physical properties of the designs in real life. The transformation was achieved by creating a low cost, multi-purpose hygiene station with integrated functions that extended beyond that of handwashing unit. A fully functional hygiene unit that is intended to be a staple to family homes, schools and local health care centres.

Team LaBobo's Applied Methods
Figure 1: Team LaBobo's Applied Methods

Team LaBobo actively demonstrated Sydney Water core values in completing this innovation journey by having the customer at the heart of everything we do, by achieving as one team, by caring for one another and the community, by making every decision and every dollar count, and by creating new and better ways of doing things. In October 2016, WaterAid as the organiser of the Water Innovators Challenge announced Sydney Water Team LaBobo as joint winners of the Water Innovators Program 2016. 

For Team LaBobo, this is a journey that started with little knowledge of how it would unfold, that turned into the most inspiring way and making a positive difference that have a rippling effect that potentially changes the lives of others.

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