From the 31st of August to the 13th September 2020 I participated in the University of Leipzig SEPT (Small Enterprise Promotion and Training) Project Development for Knowledge Transfer Summer School. The summer school is a training program for Master’s and PHD students who are funded by DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) with the focus of disseminating knowledge on teaching skills and personal development. To deliver on these aspects, the training is focused on four pillars which are participatory teaching methods, academic writing and research project development, innovation management and entrepreneurship promotion. The fundamental aspect of the training and learning is that every participant has an idea that they applied with, which they will further develop during this period. The ideas are divided into three categories which are innovation, entrepreneurship and research. The Summer School is usually held in person at the University of Leipzig in Germany for a month however due to the Coronavirus pandemic it was converted to a first ever digital version for only 2 weeks. The other two weeks of the program have been slotted to the summer in the following year in 2021 to give participants with a chance to visit Germany. Twenty students participated in the summer school from Africa and Asia combined with Africa having the most participants.
The learning activities were centred around the submitted ideas with the aim of developing them using a holistic and business approach using various tools. The training activities commenced with lectures in the morning and then followed by personal coaching sessions in the afternoon. The lectures focused on teaching the tools which will be used to enhance ideas using real life examples. For the personal coaching sessions, we were divided into four groups with each group assigned an expert who would help and give feedback on the use of tools on our ideas. We learnt how to shape our ideas using tools such as the Persona, Value Proposition, Empathy Map and the Business Canvas. All these tools were taught in an incremental manner culminating into the pitch which was the final activity on the final day. Aside from the development of project ideas we also had sessions for designing academic posters where we designed posters for the ideas we were working on and also writing grant proposals which were useful for personal development.
An integral part of the summer school is to experience German culture and even though we could not do it in person, the organizers tried their best to let the participants experience a bit of German culture digitally. Activities like cooking, the online escape room and a theatre show were organized. Cooking sessions were organized every Thursday where we cooked German cuisine with a cooking instructor guiding the whole process. The first week lentil soup was on the menu and then for the second week we cooked Schnitzel with carrots and parsley potatoes. The online escape room was another activity in which the participants worked together to escape a room by finding clues and solving riddles with a time limit of an hour to escape the room. Lastly there was an Improvisation Theatre Show performed by Theatre Turbine were the participants interacted with the actors giving input to the story.
The last day of the Summer School was pitch day and we had the chance to present our ideas incorporating all the feedback and help with the learnt tools over the two-week period. An innovative ideas management platform was set up were we described our ideas and gave finer details about aspects such as milestones, target markets and expected outcomes after implementation. This platform was used by the judges to determine the winners of idea competition. We pitched our ideas to everyone including the coaches and judges with the pitch being limited to only 3 minutes long. My project idea titled “Plant Life” was chosen to be the winner of the competition.
Overall, the experience was very enjoyable, we learnt a lot, gained a lot of knowledge on how to develop ideas and made new friends in the process. I am indebted to DAAD for providing these opportunities of learning and personal development. The University of Leipzig SEPT Program for hosting us and facilitating the learning process even with the uncertainty due to the pandemic. I am also very grateful to Namibia University of Science and Technology for the support and enablement of us students to participate in these activities.