top of page

Suné Stassen and Open Design Afrika

Updated: May 31, 2023

At Oribi, we are on a mission to revolutionise and create alternative systems that empower a better society. We are thrilled to announce our partnership with Open Design Afrika, an organisation that shares our values and is driven to bring about systemic change for the greater good of future generations.

The words of Suné Stassen, CEO of ODA, resonate deeply with us: “Today we have the most important design brief to develop and execute in the history of mankind – to design a future world that’s conducive to life and wellbeing, where people and the planet not only survive but thrive for 10 000 generations and more. We believe this is the most powerful and impactful legacy worth aspiring to.”

Suné Stassen is a visionary futurist, design educator and social impact entrepreneur from Cape Town.

Her lifelong dedication to creating impact and accessibility for developing future-making life skills in all children and citizens is truly aspirational. She has championed the inclusion of design as a subject choice in secondary schools in South Africa – at the time of launch in 2006 this was the first design curriculum at the secondary school level in the world. She also collaborated on a ground-breaking support program for the new design curriculum. She was the contributing co-editor of the grades 10 – 11 design textbooks and high school teacher manuals for design. These 12 publications continue to inspire and educate South African learners today. So far this has been an exciting platform to expose young teens to the world, value, and power of design, and to help them develop future skills like critical thinking, sustainable and innovative thinking, empathy, and agility just to mention a few. Overall, it is still a great vehicle and opportunity to contribute to developing young innovators and entrepreneurs for the future and to enable them to add impactful value to the economy, society and our environment.

Suné realised early on that many educators not trained in design might struggle to implement the curriculum without textbooks and would need additional support and guidance. So, in 2005, Suné started designing a support program called “Making the Difference Through Design”, in collaboration with Woolworths. The 85 featured case studies of top South African designers in this publication

represented diverse sectors, cultures, and backgrounds. The content was created to develop local role models and to inspire educators and teens; for them to learn from some of the best South Africa has to offer and to gain a greater understanding and insight into the world of design, its power, value and impact, the design process, and how design can be a powerful tool to create change and transformation across diverse sectors to design a more prosperous world that everyone can benefit from.

Within the first year, more than 400 schools across three provinces joined the “Making the Difference Through Design” program, exposing more than 18 000 young people to the world of design. By 2009, the same program was nominated for an INDEX Award and was eventually celebrated as a finalist. Situated in Copenhagen, the INDEX Award was at the time the biggest design award platform in the world, acknowledging products, systems, environments, services and community projects that improve life.

Inclusivity and reach lie at the heart of Suné's and Open Design Afrika’s mission. Recognizing the importance of developing Creative Intelligence and future-making life skills in all children and citizens, regardless of their perceived creative abilities, gave flight to a new platform called Open Design Afrika. The annual ODA festival launched in Cape Town in 2013 as a vibrant and interactive celebration, capturing the attention of the media, the public, youth, entrepreneurs, innovators, and creatives alike, and providing a platform that showcases and demonstrates the importance, value, and impact of creativity in a fun, engaging and memorable way with accessibility to all who want to participate.

ODA's festival is designed to be completely inclusive and engaging, welcoming individuals from all walks of life. It sets a design brief in itself, namely, how to create a festival or a public activation that promotes inclusivity, engagement, and accessibility. Making everyone feel welcome, valued and exactly where they belong in a fun, playful and exciting environment. Since its inception, the ODA festival has been a conscious way of designing greater social cohesion. The experiences offered, from talks to family makers' weekends and makers' spaces, workshops and the city activation week are intentionally designed to accommodate and engage with people of all backgrounds and social levels, encouraging active participation and greater collaboration across many social divides.

The festival's talks and inviting lounge pockets go beyond the conventional approach to foster greater engagement between festival goers and speakers, or as ODA prefers to call them, 'inspirators' and storytellers. Instead of focusing solely on professional fields, speakers share personal experiences and stories of using their professions and creative intelligence to add impactful and sustainable value to businesses, communities or environments through their products, systems or services designed for example to transform a space or a community, user experience, education, transport, or healthcare. The emphasis is mostly on human connection and storytelling, fostering relatability and inspiring and including a wider audience.

ODA goes beyond creating spaces for conversation; it actively works to remove barriers between ‘inspirators’ and the audience, promoting complete engagement and greater social cohesion. Community changemakers who typically lack access to such platforms are sought after and invited by ODA, creating local role models and inspiration that ignites an impactful ripple effect across their own communities. This ripple effect contributes to the much-needed systemic change we want to see in this world.

One of the remarkable aspects of ODA is the marketing and media opportunities it provides to changemakers who contribute to the festival, various associated activations as well as its annual collaborative and partner projects like #GirlsInBusiness, MyMachine South Africa, and Girls Make the City. By increasing visibility and creating year-round initiatives, ODA amplifies the valuable voices of many that’s usually overlooked and ignored. These strategic collaborations align perfectly with ODA's call to create a circular ecosystem that can fuel the design of a future world where all people and the planet can truly thrive. Suné expressed “a world we can all feel proud to live, work and play in”.

ODA has previously featured the former MD of Oribi, Louis Prevost, as an ‘inspirator’ at the 2020 ODA Virtual Festival. The partnership with ODA through #GirlsInBusiness is a natural fit. It enables both ODA and Oribi to continue driving skills development in the social and entrepreneurial spheres for greater impact. As a learning facilitator, Suné's masterclasses on creative intelligence, critical thinking, and future-making life skills provide valuable guidance to young girls, nurturing purpose-driven social enterprises, and authentic emotional connections and understanding of the fears, aspirations, needs and desires of their target audiences.

ODA and Suné have been instrumental in the program so far. This partnership between ODA and Oribi is like a perfectly fitting glove, seamlessly blending our shared values of social entrepreneurship and impactful opportunities. Together, we are building a thriving ecosystem driven by intentional design and innovation, nurturing creative confidence, and equipping young changemakers with the tools they need to navigate the future better. Our goal is to create lasting change that stems from their greater holistic understanding of possibilities within the bigger picture and to empower them with the skill set that will enable them to make a positive impact.

We are honoured to embark on this collaborative journey with ODA and look forward to the exciting possibilities that lie ahead. Together, we will shape a future where the planet and financial and social prosperity go hand in hand, leaving a legacy for generations to come.

By Christian Mpazayabo

71 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page