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Uber & Co. vs. Taxis – Test driving Design Thinking in a real-world public policy challenge

New York, NY, October 18 to 21, 2018.

At the initiative of GDL Member Ciara Davies, the Bosch Alumni Network (BAN) teamed up with the GDL to co-organize an event on Design Thinking for Public Policy. Silvia Danielak, also a GDL member, came up with a red-hot real-world case on which to apply Design Thinking methodology: How should the public sector moderate the disruption that ride-sharing apps are causing in the taxi cab sector?

Twenty clever minds from the GDL and BAN, including GDL members Edna Martinez, Rong Yang and Eirliani Abdul Rahman,were selected to gather with their fellow alumni in an inspiring space in Brooklyn to cross-pollinate their ideas and tackle this specific issue. They had the opportunity to examine the human needs involved, re-frame the problem, brainstorm on crazy and novel ideas, examine prototypes, and test-drive different approaches in order to transfer them to other sectors of the rapidly growing online sharing economy, as well as apply those techniques to their own respective fields.

Why is this important? The rise of ride-hailing apps (such as Uber and Lyft) has brought huge disruption to the urban transport market in cities ranging from New York to Johannesburg. While this form of collaborative consumption has benefited consumers thanks to the sharing of under-utilized resources – as well as those earning or supplementing their income as drivers via these apps – it has also brought increased competition to established taxi services. Attempts to locally regulate the market have been made, but suppliers are still not subject to the same restrictions, and a growing conflict of interests has emerged between the different stakeholders. Worse still, safety concerns have arisen regarding passenger security and the sparking of political or even violent clashes between private operators who offer their services on the new platforms and traditional taxi drivers.

That is why it was time to ask how the public sector can respond to this disruption in a way that improves the passenger experience, ensures consumer safety and softens the economic blow to established taxi services.



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Ciara Davies

Ciara is a certified Career & Business Coach with expertise in public relations, economic negotiations and cultural diplomacy. As former British diplomat with over a decade of international experience in business and government negotiations, she brings broad knowledge of intercultural, political, economic and technological developments to her work. Ciara has trained at Ashridge Business School and is a certified member of the QRC federation of coaches and consultants. She has also worked as a graduate mentor and career development coach for the Foreign & Commonwealth Office. Today, Ciara draws on her wide-ranging experience and personal insight to both enable clients to create careers and businesses that are aligned with their values and bring the highest form of expression to their skills and talents.


Silvia Danielak


Silvia Danielak is currently pursuing graduate studies at the Harvard Graduate School of Design with a special focus on architecture and socio-spatial urban planning in the context of conflicts, structural violence and post-conflict reconstruction. Her research explores spatialised approaches to conflict transformation in Johannesburg.

Previously, Silvia worked for more than three years for the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, serving as a conflict prevention advisor to the African Union Border Programme, based in Addis Ababa. Prior to moving to Ethiopia, she was a Mercator Fellow working on multi-track diplomacy and mediation for UNDP’s Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery, UNDP Kyrgyzstan, and for the HD Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue in Geneva. Silvia holds an MA in international security from Sciences Po Paris and a BA in European studies from Maastricht University.

Edna Elizabeth Martinez Quintanilla

Edna Martínez is an enthusiastic consultant living in Mexico City. Her expertise is in sustainable production and consumption.

Currently, she is an individual consultant for the United Nations Development Programme for the project, Development of the Implementation Strategy of the Sustainable Development Goals in Mexico, which seeks to define, design and develop a proposed strategy for implementing the SDGs with the Mexican Agency for International Development Cooperation and the Office of the Presidency.

Previously, she was Director of Sustainable Production and Consumption at the Mexican Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources. She was responsible for the development and implementation of the National Strategy for Sustainable Production and Consumption that led to the Special Programme in Sustainable Production and Consumption 2014–2018.

Rong Yang

Rong Yang is Vice President for Finance Business Partners and Strategy Americas at Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals Inc., based in New Jersey.

Before working in industry, he was a diplomat and served as Chief Translator (German) for the President and the Prime Minister of China. Besides a short employment at McKinsey as a consultant, he has been working for the Bayer Group in various functions and countries including China, Germany, Austria, and the United States. Prior to his current role, he was Bayer Pharmaceutical's Country Group Head for Czech Republic and Slovakia, based in Prague. He was in charge of Bayer Pharmaceutical’s research and development, marketing and sales activities in both countries.

Rong is active in various professional associations and advises social enterprises and entrepreneurs interested in healthcare. He holds a Master’s degree in Economics as well as a MBA from Harvard Business School.

Eirliani Abdul Rahman

Eirliani Abdul Rahman is co-founder of YAKIN (Youth, Adult survivors & Kin In Need), an NGO working on child rights and child protection issues, and a member of Twitter’s Safety & Trust Council. She is also Director at the Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation.

In 2015, she led a successful campaign of the NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan entitled #FullStop to #childsexualabuse in India. Eirliani served in the Singapore Foreign Service and was posted to Delhi as Political Counsellor. Prior to that, she was in Berlin as First Secretary (Political). Before becoming a diplomat, she was a development consultant in Almaty, Kazakhstan, where she worked with Harvard Business School’s Prof Michael Potter on the Kazakhstan Competitiveness Programme.

Eirliani won the 2015 BMW Foundation Responsible Young Leaders Award and is an Asian Forum on Global Governance Fellow. She writes for the Huffington Post and the India Today Group’s “DailyO” on issues concerning child online safety and child sexual abuse. She was featured in the book Majulah! 50 Years of the Malay/Muslim Community in Singapore. Eirliani edited Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi’s book Will for Children, a collection of essays on child labour.

An avid rock climber, Eirliani trains in Colorado and Singapore. She speaks English, German, Malay and Russian.  


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