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With the rapid growth of urbanization in China, more people from rural areas are choosing to work in big cities in order to strive for a better life. The constant flood of migrants is feeding the labor force in big cities, but in the process, draining small, rural villages of their populations, as parents leave their children behind in order to provide better opportunities for them.

Deng Fei, a well-known journalist in China and an initiator of social welfare programs, hopes to address this dilemma by finding economic solutions that would help migrant workers return home to their families. Through an e-commerce platform called Hope Farm, Deng Fei wants to help farmers sell their produce from rural areas directly to urban consumers. This sustainable social enterprise model can help increase farmers’ income, grow rural economies, and enable more migrant workers to go back home. Sharing the same aspiration, IDEO was thrilled to be asked to contribute to Deng Fei’s a growth strategy for Hope Farm, and embarked on a two-week collaboration.

Sketch of the final ‘Cold Tea’ design direction

Given the limited timeframe, IDEO started working on one discreet project: to promote a lesser-known product called Cold Tea from Hope Farm. In addition to the design of the packing, which was the original project brief from the Hope Farm team, IDEO took a step further and looked into the purpose behind the brand, and proposed making the story of Cold Tea and its value better known to more people. Knowing Deng Fei’s sizable influence with his millions of social media followers, IDEO tapped into the goodwill of his network and turned the project into an open design challenge online, inviting the public to join in and become social innovation activists.

IDEO launched the design challenge via social media and involved online participants in the packaging design of Cold Tea. IDEO designers also shared their ideas on Weibo, China’s largest social networking and microblogging service, interacted with participants, and encouraged them to explore their ideas.

After just one week of co-creation, the outcome far exceeded the team’s expectations. The hashtag “Bringing the Warmth of Spring to Tea Farmers” on Weibo was viewed by 1.2 million people, and instigated more than 500 online discussions. And just as importantly, the challenge brought in more than 80 viable ideas.

This collaborative process has not only brought awareness to the Hope Farm program and the launch of a new design for Cold Tea packaging on the e-commerce platform, it has also opened up new ideas for ways of working for Deng Fei and his team. The success of the open co-creation process has inspired them to use social media not just to socialize, but to create something from the ground up.

Both Deng Fei and IDEO designers hope that this initiative will continue to add to the larger effort of bringing more rural parents back home.

 
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