Social innovation solutions for the intellectually disabled community: #ActionWeekforCOVID19

Maria Cecilia Flores
University of Bologna

#ActionWeekforCOVID19 is a Social Innovation Hackathon born within ALMALABOR, the co-working and Maker space of the University of Bologna, in collaboration with Learning by Helping, a Spanish Social Innovation Lab.

In crisis contexts such as those presented by a pandemic, social services collapse and civil society collaboration is needed. The key in these cases is to be methodic and use expertise in the topic to be approached.

In the COVID-19 emergency context, GDR (Genitori di Ragazzi Down), an Association that helps the intellectually disabled community presented to the Italian government serious problems suffered by their community in this context. In response, the local government asked the University of Bologna to work together with the Association to try to figure out a solution. The University invited Learning by Helping to codesign a one-week programme.

The association proposed 2 challenges:
Challenge 1: Help people with intellectual disabilities to have better digital communication.
Challenge 2: Help people with intellectual disabilities to continue the accompaniment they received before the insolation

After 5 days of daily online classes, several hours of student teamwork and daily mentoring sessions, 4 teams of students developed innovative solutions together with GDR and social innovation mentors. The students used the Learning by HelpingĀ® methodology that contemplates the participation of the association, generating a high level of empathy and validation of ideas in the process. This methodology also combines Lean Startup, Design Thinking and Sprint methodologies.

The outputs of the program were:
Challenge 1
Re-directing: App that detects the abusive use of digital communication by people with intellectual disabilities, and automatically puts them through psychology students, that will handle the situation through dialogue.
Talk-Roulette: Platform that invites people with intellectual disabilities to connect randomly with other users and professionals anytime they want to. To access the platform it is necessary to have a password that is created by the association.

Challenge 2
Co-design19: Educational platform, where design professors offer daily courses to people with intellectual disabilities in order to create graphic design works, which will afterwards be sold by the association.

40Challenge: Gamification platform that offers daily challenges, generating motivation in users with intellectual disabilities and allowing educators to better group monitoring. The content is the same as that the users received before the insolation in the specialized centres.
CoLab4Action: Platform that connects families with intellectual disabilities members and Bologna University students to create, on-demand, safe objects for the home. These products are designed and prototyped in the maker space of the university.

Three of these solutions are being currently developed with the Social Partner, the Comune of Bologna and University of Bologna