10.1 Introduction to Design Thinking and Human-Centered Design

10.1.1 What is HCD?

Human Centered Design (HCD) is a creative problem solving discipline which utilizes collaborative methods and human centered approaches to derive inspiration from the lived experience of the people, their environment, and interactions. The people affected by a problem are kept at the center of the HCD innovation process, from framing the problem to making sense of research to designing solutions. HCD furnishes empathic insights by placing the real experiences of the people who will be impacted by the solution at the forefront and then frames creative arguments involving perspectives of experts and other stakeholders. By facilitating this collaborative process, it enables to match people’s needs with what is feasible and renders a viable actionable strategy and output(s).

HCD facilitates challenging presumptions about the problem, with the rich heterogeneous toolkit (creativity, imagination, modelling, experimentation, framing, storytelling, and visioning) complemented with the specific focus on framing the problem in a more inspirational way - beyond past behaviors, data, and traditional assumptions. Furthermore, bringing diverse expertise, methods, and disciplines together in a collaborative manner helps to unlock new opportunities for relevant change.

A HCD led integrative approach can provide relevant advantages when developing the project from research to co-design:

  • Can help to integrate quantitative and qualitative approaches in a project providing a better understanding of research problems than either approach can do alone.

  • Can complement research approaches providing new tools and resources for gathering and visualizing insights, generating ideas and validating tools that can be readily adopted by non-design actors.

  • Can facilitate understanding of traditional research outputs to translate these insights more rapidly, in engaging and compelling actionable outputs,

  • Can rapidly translate research insights into tangible prototypes and solutions that can be tested and refined, providing fast actionable feedback

  • Can foster disciplinary collaboration providing inspirational and engaging activities and tools, by translating a range of insights from different disciplines into actionable outputs and strategies that can be rapidly shared, iterated, and tested with users and project stakeholders.

10.1.2 Relevance of HCD in public health

As a discipline, HCD is concerned with improving quality of life experiences and creating futures that are desirable, respond to the needs of users and are informed of the local context. Thus, an HCD approach can provide relevant advantages to Public Health because:

  • HCD is a strategic option to provide new perspectives and spark innovation where progress has stalled, by facilitating a more nuanced understanding of the people we are trying to serve, from their perspective and participation. With the key focus on human behavior, motivations, and emotions with contextual nuances, it is complementary to common public health approaches because it provides new ways of viewing, tackling, and understanding problems in public health.

  • It is a new integrative systems proposition to problem solving by facilitating deep collaboration across stakeholders, breaking silos, bringing together different expertise, methods, and experiences to experiment with new ideas and co-design inclusive solutions.

  • The HCD approach of early prototyping and iteration with affected people and interdisciplinary teams can contribute to reducing risks. On the other hand, learning from prototyping can help refine interventions before large investments are made to test impact and ultimately scale the solution. At the same time, integrating multiple perspectives can help identify a variety of ways to understand the problem and potential solutions, preventing siloed approaches. Further, when scaling, HCD can also help in adapting interventions to new contexts - exploring how to improve fit for new populations and settings.

The HCD process draws on creative logic, imagination, intuition, and systemic reasoning to explore the possibilities of what could be, and to create desired outcomes that benefit the end user. As a non linear process, it is iterative and uses a continuum of insights and feedback to improve on ideas and keep iterating until there is nothing more to add or subtract.

10.1.3 What is the value that HCD brings to Project RISE?

Across Project RISE, we applied the HCD approach alongside the other two approaches of applying the Rituals Lens and the Mixed Methods Approach in three key ways.

  1. To continually focus on the user’s needs and perspectives.

    The HCD approach was used to identify user needs and problems and develop them into intervention concepts as well as enabling us to ideate, test, and refine interventions collectively while building ownership and long-term sustainability. Project RISE uses HCD to apply the Rituals Lens and frame the quantitative and qualitative research findings from the Mixed Methods approach around the lived experience of both ASHA’s who are the focal ‘end-users’ of the intervention effort, and also the beneficiaries that they serve.

  2. To facilitate interdisciplinary collaboration and wide stakeholder engagement.

    Project RISE is a collaborative effort between University of Texas (Academic institution), Scope Impact (Design Consultancy) and Project Concern International (PCI), India (Implementing Organisation). When employing HCD, we root our work in data, complement the knowledge with creative research and co-design activities, validate the outputs with stakeholders and users.

  3. To keep the project action oriented.

    HCD was used to translate research findings into opportunity areas for intervention, concepts and solutions. These actionable outputs were converted into tangible formats and rapidly shared with users and stakeholders to be tested, iterated and prioritized. By placing people at the centre of creative problem solving, we shape and re-shape each stage of the innovation process around the needs of those we seek to serve. In the later stages of the project, HCD was used to co-design solutions with the frontline implementers, health system providers and the community based on the RISE findings.