GSIF Blog #4

By: Ami Yoshimura (Team Copra)

1.*Based on your life experience, skills and interests, what would a design process that is both uniquely yours and effective look like?

Our group will look to learn from and build off of other projects that have already attempted to improve the processing of copra. It has already been shown by other research groups that there is a way to improve the system that is currently being used. Where our design process will differ from these groups, however, is in the approach of the problem. Our goal is to improve the livelihood and income of small landowner coconut farmers in the Philippines. Simply designing a cutting edge, all-weather drying technique to generate more consistent quality copra (based on moisture percentage) is a major step in the right direction. However, to truly achieve our goal our product needs to do more than just produce better copra. It needs to be easy to use, affordable, and durable. Additionally, our design process will look to, in any way we can, give the smallholder farmers the ability to generate additional income other than just coconuts. We’ve looked into ways to add value to waste copra, such as copra snacks. We’re exploring ways to allow coconut farmers to add value to their finished product as well; smallholder coconut farmers usually sell raw copra, which sells for much less than refined coconut oil itself. If our product in some way enabled farmers to process their copra into a finished coconut oil product, they could feasibly earn much more for their product. 

This design process will follow a cradle-to-cradle strategy in which our goal will be for all outputs to enter into another system as inputs. In order to do so, we must change the way we view sustainable systems. In nature, the fallen blossoms of a cherry tree can be seen as waste/output or they can be seen as input for the next generation of cherry blossom trees. By applying this analogy to our project, we will plan a design process that creates economic growth rather than restricts it. Instead of minimizing consumption to create a cradle-to-grave design process, we will work to improve methods that will allow for increased consumption of coconut products while also creating a system that is sustainable.

2.*Identify your three most important stakeholders and list five UNIQUE attributes for each one of them. 

  1. Copra Farmers
    1. Directly using copra processing techniques
    2. Feels the effects of their business(efficient/non-efficient process)??
    3. Major Coconut producers?
    4. Will feel the direct impact of our work
    5. People that we will be working with the closest
  2. Philippine Coconut Authority
    1. In charge of developing the coconut industry to its full potential
    2. Has a say in the regulations of copra farming
    3. Is researching and trying to develop ways to increase copra quality
    4. Working to develop and expand foreign markets
    5. Works to ensure the socio-economic welfare of coconut farmers
  3. Coconut Consumers
    1. The consumption of the product keeps the farmers in business
    2. Consuming coconut products puts money back into the economy?
    3. Their needs are working to be met  
    4. Their demand quantifies the amount of copra that needs to be produced
    5. Consumerism has a major effect on the pricing of coconut goods


  1. *Identify three ways in which you will validate your project concept, technology, usability, and business model. 

“Are we building the right product…with valid requirements, features & performance?” This is the question that we should ask ourselves as we validate our project design and model. Three possible validation pathways that we come up with are:

  • Write down our basic assumptions and test: Who are our customers/consumers? Who are the stakeholders?  What problems are we solving? What is the economic problem? What is the engineering problem? Does addressing the engineering problem solves the economic problem? How does our product/design/approach solve the problem(s)? What are the key features of the products?
  • Reach out and interview our networks, including friends, mentors, investors, partners, and others for feedback. The interview questions should be (1) open-ended, (2) help uncover pain, value, or motivation, and (3) challenge our previously held assumptions. Come to the interview with a curious mindset about the stakeholder’s problems and needs instead of a sense of cursory will help us gain valuable insight.
  • Find the value(s) proposition of our product/design/approach. A value proposition is the expected gains that our customer/consumer will gain from using our product/design/approach. Values can be both quantitative and qualitative, and by thoroughly understanding and documenting these quantitative and qualitative values through the fieldwork and stakeholders interviews, we can push our design closer to the correct features, performance, functionality, and other requirements.
  1. Give three examples of something very interesting you learned from a friend that was a completely alien concept to you: 1. Albanians nod their head up and down when saying no, and right to left when saying yes, 2. You are allowed to feed animals in Ethiopia, even hyenas, 3. There are restaurants in which you order for the person eating after you.

GSIF Blog #3

List the top 20 questions your team needs to answer to advance the venture forward.

  1. What are we impacting?
  2. How are we impacting?
  3. Where/why are we impacting?
  4. What makes copra so important?
  5. How many lives can we impact?
  6. How will our work have an impact outside of the Philippines?
  7. What are the different ways we can have an impact?
  8. How do we make our impact sustainable?
  9. How do we quantify impact?
  10. Can we generate a negative impact as well?
  11. Will the people in the Philippines be open to our ideas?
  12. What will be the obstacles that prevent us from making an impact?
  13. How long until we are able to deliver impact?
  14. How will we adopt their cultural habits?
  15. What are people doing to create an impact now?
  16. Who are these people?
  17. How personal is the process to them?
  18. How do we adjust our solution to their culture?
  19. How can we make people happy?
  20. How can we improve ourselves through this project?

Develop and Visualize the Theory of Change (Logic Model) for your venture.


– money

– time

– knowledge

– expertise

– materials

– equipment

– partners


– research

– prototyping

– designing

– networking

– visit farms

– educate

– propose ideas


– money

– research



– consistency in copra quality (and higher quality)

– reduced copra waste

– maximized use of the whole coconut

– increased nutritional value in copra

– value-added products from coconut

– (down the road) social venture focused on introducing and implementing sustainable,

  state-of-the-art copra processing methods to copra farmers

Short term:

– knowledge and awareness of current drying processes and their shortcomings


– reduced the popular use of sun-drying and smoke-drying methods


– elevate the livelihoods and increase income for copra farmers

– benefit the economy and communities in the Philippines

– sustainability and positive environmental impact

GSIF Blog # 2

By: Ami Yoshimura


  1. Give three compelling examples of how cultural issues affect your project.

There are many compelling examples of how Filipino culture can affect our project. I think to consider this though, it is important to note Filipino history and how the country was colonized by the Spanish, which continued for 300 plus years. Therefore, Catholicism became the main religion as a result, and to this day the major religion of practice is primarily Catholic Christian. After this ruling, the Philippines had a short-lived revolution and was ruled by the United States, then Japan, and then was able to gain independence and be recognized as a nation by 1946. This being said, many of the cultural issues that may affect our project will be based upon the history of the colonialization of the Philippines and the attitudes that have developed as a result. The first, which may seem a little bit obvious, is the example of hiya. Hiya can be described as a sense of social propriety, which means Filipinos usually feel the need to conform to society’s standards of what’s normal and what isn’t. This means that in order to make an impact in the Philippines, we have to be able to conform to the societal norms while also finding a way to instill change. In other words, we have to be conservative, but also take risks and implement different solutions within the cultural norms and expectations. Another cultural belief is the “utang na loob”, roughly translated as the debt of gratitude. This means that one is expected to pay people back exactly in the form of whatever gratitude means to them. Often, as an example of this, there is a widely followed idea where the child owes his or her parents for supporting him or her and giving them their needs from their birth up to adulthood. In Filipino culture, people also tend to be more of “high context communicators”. This means that they avoid confrontation. Therefore, Filipinos are too shy or polite to say “No”, and would rather say something considerate and hope that the other person gets it that they meant “No.” This can be a problem because there is no real way of understanding another person and it’s hard to communicate just by reading physical body language.

  1. Have you experienced or observed any of these social situations at home? Describe a least three such situations. 

As a Japanese American, I’ve experienced many of these situations at home, both in the U.S but also mainly in Japan, which has similar cultural beliefs and societal norms. The first example of following societal norms is very applicable to when I was going to public school in Japan, as this was prominent everywhere I went. It was frowned upon to not do everything the same as everyone else, and therefore this discouraged creativity, and also self – expression. The idea of conformity was very present as everyone was expected to learn the same material in the same way, do the same things during school, and even wear the same or similar clothes, with similar backpacks (called randoseru), and wear yellow hats. It was hard to make a significant change or difference, though it was fairly easy to make a small change and difference within the school culture and on yourself, even. The second concept and cultural issue of expecting for the exact amount you were given can be seen in American culture, often pretty clearly sometimes. In the United States, when one goes out to eat, people get separate checks and bills often, and America is one of the only countries in the world that tips waiters. To me, those are examples of “utang na loob”, and the concept of debt of gratitude. In other countries and cultures, usually, people split the whole bill together, and assume the “tip” is included in the bill. The last example is extremely applicable to the Japanese corporate or even everyday setting, as many people are too polite to say no, and often one has to read physical ques to understand what the other person means. For example, there are times when people try to give money to another because of favor, but the other person, who is receiving it says “no”, simply to be polite. Thereafter, the giver of the money says “take it”, and offers the money again, in which the receiver replies “no” again. This continues for a few times until one of them gives in to either take the money back or the receiver receives the money. This happens all the time during family gatherings and in the work environment in Japan.

  1. Give three examples of cultural practices that can be leveraged to addressed community/market problems.

The first, and perhaps most important example of a cultural practice that can be leveraged to addressed community/market problems is the way Filipinos communicate and work with each other. Because the main two languages are Filipino and English, it will be much easier to address problems because we will be able to communicate more effectively, efficiently, and thoroughly. The second example is that the Filipino culture, like many other ones, is centered around both gratitude and work ethic. This will be great because while working on the project, we can expect, for the most part, everyone, including us to have these values instilled in them, which will not only lead to better results, but a good environment to work in. The third thing that will be of benefit in Filipino culture would be the bond of families in Filipino culture. In the Philippines, the family is extremely important, which will help a huge amount when dealing with small family-operated farms growing coconuts. 

GSIF Blog #1

By: Ami Yoshimura

I choose to take part in GSIF because it would not only give me the opportunity to learn about interdisciplinary work,  build on my interest in engineering, and participate in a totally different learning opportunity but also to make an impact. Traveling anywhere, getting accustomed to, learning about, and living the lifestyle of people in these places has always been a powerful learning experience. Spending time in other environments helps to heighten my appreciation for connecting with people from many backgrounds, and helps me to engage my ideas and learning through sharing experiences and interests. I knew also this kind of learning experience would not be available in classrooms or lecture halls, but rather through an immersive experience like GSIF. The ability to learn in an interactive, hands-on, and engaging environment where I can see and help to solve real-life applications and solutions to challenging problems and situations that arise was what moved me to participate in GSIF. GSIF also will help to engage my interest in engineering and design, as well as my interest in research within systems and trying to optimize them. Thinking critically about problems, but in real-life situations and applications is also something that was exciting for me. For me, by partaking in GSIF, I would not only have the opportunity to immerse in a different culture, and have a much more hands-on, in-depth learning, fulfilling learning experience where I can help other and make an impact, but also I will be able to learn about design and/or build on my interest in engineering.

I envision this opportunity as making me a better student within the engineering school (ISE) through two main aspects: technical and more non-technical, soft skills. Through this course and experience, I can envision myself learning new technical skills, like the use of different software (CAD, Microsoft, etc..), in addition to helping me understand different building technologies, techniques, and materials. Also, I will improve greatly on my ability to efficiently and effectively research especially because the project team I am on is one that is new. This means that we will need to do a great deal of in-depth research in order to think of solutions to the problems that we are faced with. I will also be able to greatly improve my writing skills and public speaking through the need to communicate our research and experiences to others. I will also specifically be able to learn more about streamlining a process and optimization, in addition to understanding markets and financials, which will all help me with my Industrial and Systems Engineering major. Along with these technical skills that I will be able to gain, I will be able to experience working within a small and interdisciplinary team, which is useful for many professions and in any setting whether they be professional or social. Working in a team that’s so diverse in thought and skillsets will also help me to improve with my team communication and collaboration skills, and will help me learn more about myself and my own strengths and weaknesses. I will be able to use this kind of knowledge to contribute to other’s learnings and learn more from others.

In many of these developing countries with eyeglasses problems, there is a fundamental problem of lack of eye care from an early age. This is why I believe that if we can tackle the problem with an approach of proper education and care of the eyes to the general population, it would help to solve the problem from where it may be stemming from. Therefore, I would create a school program for people to become an ophthalmologist which provides free education. In exchange, those that go through the program would provide low cost or free care on certain days to those in need in the developing countries these people would be from. In this way, people would be able to not only join the workforce, and bring themselves to poverty, but also provide for others and help to take a step towards the problem of eye care and education from a very young age. During these days, several days a week, the ophthalmologists can treat patients who typically wouldn’t be able to afford care, but would still make a living for themselves through providing care for patients who would be able to afford it.