Innovation from DronePort Rwanda

//Innovation from DronePort Rwanda

Innovation from DronePort Rwanda


Is innovation purely the preserve of Silicon Valley? How can innovation at community levels across the globe be harnessed to provide solutions to current and future challenges?  What is the role of education in helping all citizens to realise their creative potential?  DronePort Rwanda demonstrates a range of 21st century skills, which when harnessed in a collaborative manner, deliver for the community. On hearing Jonathan Ledgard talk about his pitch to Lord Norman Foster at the Design Futures in Sub-Saharan Africa conference in December 2016 at the London College of Fashion, I realised DronePort Rwanda had the potential to model a range of 21st century skills for the creative classroom.  This post will suggest that education, but more specifically the creative teacher in collaboration with the wider community, is pivotal to galvanising innovation at school/community level, if we are to deliver on the 21st century agenda.

With Africa’s population set to grow to 2.5 billion by 2050, towns with a current population of between 20,000 to 30,000 people with soon have a population of 1 million plus.  Indeed, in the absence of an industrial base and a transportation infrastructure, the continent faces a youth unemployment rate of 70%.  Is DronePort Rwanda one solution to this complex challenge?  DronePort Rwanda illustrates how the convergence of futuristic technology can be adapted to a humanitarian context by technological leapfrogging.

To begin this process of exploration, the following question emerged:

How do you bring an initial idea into a wider conversation and then translate the emerging design concept into a reality? This in turn produced a collaborative process between students and professors at MIT, EPFL, Polytechnic University of Madrid, and The Institute of Technology in Architecture at ETH, Zurich.  It also brought in industry partners from The LafargeHolcim Foundation.  Together they created a low-tech structure that could be built by the local community using local materials.  Creating a modular building system capable of being constructed locally, ensured the buildings could grow organically.  The collective expertise and divergent thinking within the collaborative group also raised questions and some answers on the following themes:

  1. How can an understanding of geometry help the building to withstand the effects of seismic forces?
  2. How can you bring together the lush green African landscape with a brick that comes from the ground, to create a localized aesthetic?

While DronePort Rwanda began as a one-dimensional concept, it has become a catalyst for change with impact on industry, education, business, entrepreneurship and community centres.  In other words, all aspects of Rwandan society. Indeed, does it present a new kind of urbanism built with minimum imported products, but maximum engagement with local communities?  If so, how can this model be shared with schools, communities and creative teachers?  What are the thought processes behind DronePort Rwanda that need to be considered for project-based learning?  How do you create a collaborative team with a divergent skill-set to deliver a project?  What are the stages underpinning ideation? How can DronePort Rwanda be adapted for your own local context?

Using DronePort Rwanda as a model, Keywords English offers training on helping teachers, schools and communities bring ideas to reality.  It focuses on building the capacity of creative teachers to ensure all citizens can reimagine their future. 

If you have answers, thoughts, experiences in response to the question — “How do you bring an initial idea into a wider conversation and then translate the emerging design concept into a reality … how can this model be shared with schools, communities and creative teachers?” — please comment on this blog page.

If you think your teachers, school leaders or school would benefit from training in reimaging your school or community, then simply get in touch to find out how we can do this.  Write to

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