There are many revolving trends in international development in terms of how we can make more impact in our work, just as there are many trends in other industries. One I have been hearing about more and more frequently is around projects that follow “Human Centered Design.” My first thought upon hearing this was “of course our projects follow human centered design!”
But do they?
Just as Proctor and Gamble and other companies have done research by following around people in their homes to really determine how to design a product that best suits their needs, so does Human Centered Design focus on really understanding the communities where we work and allows them to lead or at least share project design and implementation. Projects without a human centered approach (community driven) are more likely to be abandoned after the project ends or at worse fail to be adopted at all.
In this week’s episode my guest David Cutler explains Human Centered Design as the simple but profound idea that the people you are trying to work with and help change should be at the core of everything you do. This is not just during the design phase of the Project Life Cycle, but all the phases. In the interview David offers practical ways you can use some of the methodologies that can be applied immediately. David is pursuing his Masters in International Policy and Environmental Design at Stanford University and has five years’ experience working internationally including his experience with Human Centered Design.
I hope you find this useful, as well as the resources listed below. Here are the major takeaways:
- Human Centered Design (HCD) was originally more consumer products oriented but over time became used for socially conscious projects
- HCD is deceptively simple but asks “who is really making the decisions about which projects to work on and which fields to focus on?”
- Normally community is involved in development projects once the majority of the proposal/project design has already been done and HCD challenges this
- How David started working in HCD as a solution to failures observed in the field
- HCD is three phases or steps, but they are not necessarily linear:
o Building empathy with community
o Ideation or brainstorming with community
o Implementation with community
- HCD is a constant evolving process as the belief is that you can always meet community needs better
- One practical idea any project can integrate is when collecting information from the community ask the individual you are interviewing to physically show you their routine or how they currently solve a problem. By asking an individual to reenact how they plant their corn or how they wash their dishes, you can learn a lot more than through asking abstract questions.
- Make brainstorming easier by asking people for the “worst idea” – which takes pressure off of people and is more fun, and amazingly can generate some good ideas
- Conduct research or project design experiments with the communities – have them lead the research.
- Constantly test your assumptions or ideas
- Make boundaries for staff to feel comfortable with failure if you want them to take more risks