Reimagination — Our takeaways from the Sri Lanka Design Festival ‘21

Without Borders Sri Lanka
6 min readFeb 8, 2021


We were excited to partner with the Sri Lanka Design Festival and AOD to host a series of conversations on “Reimagination’’. We covered three domains under the themes of Learning, Healthcare, and Technology.

Our fabulous interns have curated their top 5 takeaways from each of the three panels:

The first panel focused on ‘Reimagining Learning.’ We were joined by:

Poornima Meegammana — Director of Youth Development at Shilpa Sayura Foundation and leading Next-gen Girls in Technology Initiative

Kalani Bandara — Head of Operations at Without Borders

Tharushi Weerasinghe — Journalist and Law Student

  1. Does proper planning and preparation prevent poor performance?

Poornima helped us understand how well-planned learning interventions around digital literacy helped them prepare for the new normal that COVID brought along. It wasn’t enough to simply move to Zoom but the programs had to be planned to fit this new reality.

2. STEM and STEAM, will they succeed in our rural areas?

Poornima pointed out that STEAM education which is the combination of Art with STEM education is an effective way to produce innovators who have qualities like empathy and creativity. However, language barriers in the absence of local language content, teachers not adopting STEM education to have a focus on problem-solving, and the lack of resources are shown as obstacles to connect STEAM education to rural areas in our country.

3. The secret to running a successful, long-term learning project

Kalani explained to us the importance of rigorous follow-up and an outcomes-driven approach to ensuring that learning interventions were sustainable and ended up having a long-term impact on learners and educators alike.

4. Youth engagement in the policymaking process

According to Tharushi, the weight should also be given to young people’s opinions in the policymaking process, because at the end of the day, policies are making for the children that will enter the job market nearly after ten years where they have to deal with a very different set of problems. And also she mentioned senior input only works if it emerges with new modern ideas and thoughts of the younger generation that understands the development of technology.

5. Is the new face of learning (e-learning) successful in our country?

As Tharushi pointed out, since only 13 million people in Sri Lanka have access to the internet, it is evident that we have an infrastructure issue in terms of accessibility. Poornima mentioned how access to devices didn’t give us a clear indicator of how individuals actually used the internet.

The second panel focused on ‘Reimagining Health & Well-being.’
We were joined by:

Dr. Arshath Zameek — Doctor, Clinical Researcher, and Educator

Kaavya Pathirana — Interim​ Shelter Lead and Communications Officer for Emerge Lanka Foundation

Lahiruni Poddalgoda — Founder of Project Bloom

  1. Innovating within a state bureaucracy

Dr. Arshath spoke to us about the digitized appointment management system that he pioneered at The Diabetes and Endocrinology Unit of the Kandy General Hospital. For him, it was about the importance of finding champions within the system and prioritizing the needs of patients. This system helped provide necessary medical treatments to patients even amidst the lockdown period.

2. The re-victimization of victims.

Kaavya explained to us that ‘shelters’ were institutionalized centers where survivors of sexual violence and abuse are placed after a court order. Usually, victims are sent to shelters when their current environment (usually their homes) is deemed unsafe. Organizations like Emerge Lanka Foundation are trying hard to ensure that victims are not re-victimized by the state and are given access to education and emotional support.

3. Let’s break the stigma. Mental Health matters

Lahi succeeded in touching an area that especially people in our society like to swipe under the rug which is access to mental health. According to Lahi, the main reason for adolescents to not seek help is the lack of mental health literacy in our society. Hence, it is important that young people and society as a whole, be more open and aware of mental health and wellbeing.

4. Battling COVID

Dr. Arshath’s advice to our citizens is to always follow the basic health guidelines that have been presented to us by authorities. If you want to tackle the epidemic, simply re-format how you spend your day. Always wear a mask, wash your hands at all times and stay 6 feet apart when you’re out in the public.

Day 03 was filled with young Sri Lankan technophiles talking to us about emerging technologies and how they were using these tools to solve pressing community issues from diabetics to environmental sustenance. The third panel focused on ‘Reimagining Technology’ and we were joined by:

Madhushi Welikala — Founder of DiabMate and Winner of the APICTA Gold Award (Tertiary Category)

Eyas Fazul — Mechatronics Engineer and Founder of RHODA AT, Sri Lanka’s first electric smart bicycle

Kishoth Navaretnarajah — Co-founder & Director Dream Space Academy; a community innovation center tackling complex local socio-economic and environmental challenges with challenge-based learning.

Sandaru Surangaya — Product Manager of IMI Games by Arimac — Sri Lanka’s Largest Mobile Gaming Platform

  1. Rethinking the way we move

Eyas is in the process of taking Sri Lanka’s first electric bicycle to everyday commuters. His solution not only tackles a pressing environmental issue but also gives a healthier alternative for our everyday commute. His message to those with ambitious dreams and ideas was just to go ahead and get started.

2. The untapped potential of Gamification

Sandaru spoke of the untapped possibility of games and gamification as a tool within education, healthcare, and entertainment. According to him, the inclusion of mixed reality in the gaming industry will open a plethora of possibilities to create multi-sensory experiences. While gaming often leads to conversations around violence, what we fail to see is the power it has in driving behavioral change.

3. Sustaining Innovations from Idea to Market.
As Madhushi voiced out if the curriculum (both in schools and universities)) includes modules that enable students to adopt a design thinking mindset and if students are given the time and creative space needed to build and test their ideas then research will go beyond remaining in research journals and as PDFs.

4. Making use of our Blue-Tech Ecosystem

Due to our strategic position in the Indian Ocean, according to Kishoth we have the rare opportunity to tap into a thriving blue-tech ecosystem. What is blue-tech? This includes a growing space comprising everything from maritime technology to aquaculture. It includes a broad spectrum of industries and innovative technologies focused on promoting sustainable ocean activities.

Three days passed with 10 amazing young panelists who aspire to change the world by reimagining their respective fields. As Margaret Heffernan once said “For good ideas and true innovation, you need human interaction, conflict, argument, debate”

Advice from all of our young panelists to the younger generation was to always think out of the box and come up with solutions to the problems you see. Be the master of your own imagination and work through what feels right, debate, argue with your own thoughts, and eventually, the bigger picture will draw itself.

Listen Better, Plan Better, Build Better


  • Articles written by Tharushi Weerasinghe:
    Wetlands again ravaged for illegal prawn farming
  • Eyas’s work in building Sri Lanka's first smart bicycle
  • Madhushi’s innovation on DiabeMate.
  • Two books suggested by Dr. Arshath: The Digital Doctor by Robert M. Wachter and The Patient Will See You Now by Eric Topol


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