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  • Writer's pictureDr Cherise Dunn

Embracing Design Thinking with 3D Printing: Empowering South African Youth for a Brighter Future

In an era of rapid technological advancements and evolving societal challenges, empowering South African youth with the right skills becomes crucial. Design thinking, when combined with 3D printing, offers a powerful pathway to drive innovation, tackle societal challenges, combat unemployment, and protect against automation and artificial intelligence. Let's explore the value of design thinking in fostering creativity, problem-solving, and collaboration, and how it equips young individuals with entrepreneurial skills, navigates the job market, and contributes to economic growth.


Unleashing Creativity through Design Thinking

Design thinking unleashes the creative potential of South African youth. By emphasizing empathy, ideation, and iteration, it encourages them to think outside the box and explore innovative solutions to societal challenges. With design thinking, creativity becomes a valuable asset in driving innovation and transforming ideas into tangible solutions. For instance, Nike has embraced design thinking and 3D printing to develop customizable sneakers, allowing customers to personalize their footwear based on their preferences and needs.


Problem-Solving for Societal Challenges

South Africa faces various societal challenges, including access to quality healthcare, education, clean water, and affordable housing. Design thinking equips youth with the tools to identify these challenges, deeply understand the needs of the affected communities, and develop practical and sustainable solutions. By incorporating 3D printing, they can create prototypes and bring their ideas to life, making a tangible impact on their communities. The consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble (P&G) has utilized 3D printing and design thinking to develop assistive devices for people with disabilities, enhancing accessibility and improving quality of life.


Collaboration for Collective Impact

Design thinking places a strong emphasis on collaboration and interdisciplinary teamwork. South African youth, through group projects and community engagements, learn the value of diverse perspectives and collective problem-solving. By working together, they can pool their skills and knowledge to tackle complex challenges, creating more comprehensive and impactful solutions. Walmart, a leading US retail company, has incorporated design thinking and 3D printing to facilitate collaborative product development, enabling teams to create innovative and tailored products for their customers.


Entrepreneurial Skills for the Job Market

Unemployment remains a significant challenge in South Africa, particularly among the youth. Design thinking equips young individuals with entrepreneurial skills that are highly valued in the job market. By nurturing an entrepreneurial mindset, they learn to identify opportunities, take calculated risks, and develop business models around their innovative ideas. This empowers them to create their own employment opportunities, contribute to economic growth, and become agents of change. The home improvement retailer Lowe's has embraced design thinking and 3D printing to empower customers to design and create customized products, promoting a culture of DIY innovation.

Navigating the Evolving Job Market

As automation and artificial intelligence continue to advance, certain jobs may be at risk. However, design thinking, coupled with 3D printing, prepares South African youth for the future job market. By focusing on the human-centered aspects of problem-solving and leveraging technology as a tool, they develop skills that complement automation. They become adept at designing, customizing, and manufacturing using 3D printing, ensuring their relevance in an automated world. Best Buy, a prominent US consumer electronics retailer, has integrated design thinking and 3D printing to offer personalized and on-demand products, adapting to changing customer preferences.



South African youth hold the key to a brighter future, and embracing design thinking can unlock their potential to drive innovation, tackle societal challenges, combat unemployment, and protect against automation and artificial intelligence. By fostering creativity, problem-solving, collaboration, and entrepreneurship, design thinking equips them with the necessary skills to navigate the job market, contribute to economic growth, and create sustainable solutions for their communities. Let us inspire and motivate South African youth to embrace design thinking as a powerful pathway towards a prosperous and inclusive future. Together, they can reshape their destinies and make a positive impact on society.


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