On the Frontiers of Human-Centered Design

This summer I’ve been exploring the whole wide world of social innovation and human-centered design and talking with studios that are leading this work —like Ideo.org, Greater Good Studio, Public Policy Lab, and Design Impact.  When I tell my friends and colleagues that I’m interested in social innovation, they usually respond with, “what does that mean?”  When I mention human-centered design their reaction is something like, “huh?”

Let me explain. The way I understand it, big global design firms like Ideo popularized human-centered design as a core method to create innovative products and services for clients like Apple and Nike.  The principle is that the best way to design stuff that is really transformative for people’s daily lives is to deeply understand the person you are designing for. You need to watch that person go about their day, understand what they are motivated by, see their biggest frustrations first-hand. Then you can prototype a product or service directly based on their needs, and even better, involve that person in helping to improve your prototype by getting their feedback and watching them use it.  What you end up with is a product or service that directly caters to the person you are designing for.  And as a result, what you design is not just more effective, but can actually be transformative in a person’s life.  Human-centered design is definitely not rocket science.  It’s a common sense approach.  But in the design industry, it seems like it was fairly revolutionary to move away from thinking about consumers as “users” and designing for them from a distance.  

THEN (this is the part that’s exciting for me) a number of people from the design industry who had been using this human-centered practice with corporate clients started to say, “Hey, this technique is super effective for coming up with incredibly innovative and powerful solutions that change people’s lives.  What if we applied this design approach to social issues?  What if we used design to create transformative products or services or systems for vulnerable communities?”  And that’s how you get solutions like Greater Good’s work to empower Chicago citizens to help design a better public transportation app that encourages more people to get out of their cars.  Or Ideo.org’s work designing a high quality and affordable solar light for families in Kenya and India living on less than $1.25 a day.  Or Design Impact’s work to strengthen programs helping low-income women in Northern Kentucky get and maintain good paying jobs in advanced manufacturing.  

Now, I LOVE this stuff.  My entire career has been focused on working with local communities to find innovative solutions to complex problems.  Like fundamentally changing the way police and social services were interacting with the community in Oakland, California, so those systems could proactively prevent the homicide and gun violence that was devastating the city.  Or working with the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation in Washington DC to pilot new healthcare delivery systems across the United States that would better serve high need patients.  I’ve been practicing human-centered design my whole professional life!

And I’m really excited to learn even better ways of doing it. That’s why I’m currently participating in Ideo.org’s Design Kit: The Course for Human-Centered Design.  As a change agent and practitioner, as someone who loves to connect with people, create new systems, design new experiences, find interesting solutions and take action to implement them, human-centered design is an awesome addition to my toolkit.  It’s a super systematic and fun way of collecting insights, discovering design opportunities, brainstorming and testing innovative solutions, and implementing new ideas.  It’s a powerful approach for staying true to the community you are creating with.  And ultimately, human-centered design is a method that allows truly transformative and revolutionary ideas to break through, come to life, and have incredible impact in the lives of the people I care about.  This motivates me more than anything.

I can’t wait to share the solution I’ve been working on with my ideo.org team this last month.  My next addition on human-centered design: coming soon!

Rich Soil

To create space for new growth, you have to release what doesn’t serve the bigger vision.

I recently led New Day Church in a Festival of Gifts and Dreams, a workshop series where members identified their individual gifts and their collective dreams in order to build a more powerful church.  

Expansion calls for contraction. To have the bandwidth for new programs, worship services and ministries at New Day, members had to think about what current elements of New Day could be released. For example, the desire to create an eco-justice ministry might mean that another ministry would have to end.  

The COMPOST PILE was a great visual tool to help people name specific things that they felt New Day needed to release. Members wrote their ideas on paper banana peels and orange rinds, and stuck them on the pile.  

Compost is fertilizer. It creates the rich ground that allows new things to grow. Putting stuff in the compost is not the same as putting it in the trash. It doesn’t mean, “This program we’ve been running is worthless and has no value."  Instead, composting suggests that a program or a certain style has given its value, and can now serve as life-giving soil to create something new.  

New Day members felt empowered by the opportunity to compost that which they felt was no longer serving their church. I can’t wait to see what grows from the soil!

Dream Mosaic

To actualize a dream, you have to know what it is.

Last week, I led a team of New Day members to imagine the future of their church.  They imagined walking through the doors of New Day in 5 years. They visualized the people, the worship space, the activity, the smells, the sounds, the sense of touch, and how they felt emotionally.

When they opened their eyes, New Day members got busy using magazines and glue to create individual illustrations of this future church, the church they most want to be.

Then New Day worked together to fashion these individual dreams into a DREAM MOSAIC.

The Dream Mosaic is a powerful tool to align the vision of a team.  Using this technique unified New Day members around their common desire to expand and innovate. It showed them ideas and goals with tremendous collective energy.  The Dream Mosaic is a strong catalyst, motivating New Day to be accountable to themselves and each other in the work of building their future church.

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Sneak Preview: The POWER of Collective Vision

If you want to leverage the power of your organization and create the deep impact you desire, you have to harness the vision and creativity of your members.

This last weekend, I led New Day in creating an exciting collective vision for their church.  More to come!

Treasure Map

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Tuesday night at New Day Church was AWESOME!

I’m consulting with New Day, a young and vibrant church community, on an overarching strategy to strengthen their ministries and develop deeper leadership within the congregation.  

On Tuesday night, I led 30+ congregation members in making a social map for their church.  Together, they charted the talents and passions of their fellows and worked collaboratively to group people based on what they love to do.  

Now New Day has the prototype for an organizational Treasure Map-- "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt 6:21).  

Treasure Mapping is not only a super fun team-building exercise, it gives New Day a dynamic tool to better leverage the creativity of their members and make strategic decisions to grow their ministries.  

On Saturday, I’ll return to New Day for a collective visioning session.  I’m looking forward to more time with this passionate and joyful congregation!

It's a New Day!

This summer I consulted with New Day Church in the Bronx on three things I love:  organizational strategy, leadership development, and creative empowerment.  

Over the next couple weeks, I’ll be leading New Day in a series of workshops that help members celebrate their gifts and talents, illustrate their visions for the congregation, and guide members towards a deeper level of participation in church ministries.

I’m excited to see what happens! 

Back to Basics: Part 3, Role-play

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Role-plays are one of the most valuable training tools there is, especially in peer-to-peer learning environments.  

Role-plays easily transmit nuanced and complex information and are essential for teaching behavioral techniques.

I used role-play as the primary tool to model for UniteHere! members how to get respect in the hospital. Studies have shown that patients who STAND OUT to their doctors when hospitalized receive a higher quality of care.  Patients who play a more proactive role get their doctors to pay more attention to their treatment, and are at less risk for costly and fatal mistakes.  

But respect is a tricky thing to teach.  It’s nuanced and complex, and it’s grounded in behavior.  Perfect for a role-play!

I designed a short skit, to be played by UNITEHERE! members, modeling behaviors to help them stand out with hospital staff and receive a higher quality of care. The role-play is not only a great interactive learning technique, but it allows everyone in the training to witness what respect looks like, and what people just like them did to get it.  

The peer facilitator can sum up learning like this:

What did the couple do well to make sure the doctor and staff respected them? (let group answer, write down responses)

  • They asked the nurse when the doctor was coming so they could plan
  • They asked the nurse to coordinate the medicine
  • They made a plan of their questions and wrote them down in advance
  • They asked the doctor questions; they had their own agenda
  • They helped each other in the interaction with the doctor
  • They wrote down what the doctor said
  • They followed up when they didn’t understand something
  • They asked the doctor to be connected to an “inside” helper so they could get more support.

Using role-play as a tool in peer-to-peer learning is the best way to transmit complex information.  A facilitator could tell their peers, “These are the things we should do in the hospital to make sure we get good care,” but without the role-play, it’s hard to understand how to implement those techniques.  Role-play lets everyone in the room SEE it.  

Even better, role-play is a chance for participants to immediately practice the skills they are going to need if they are ever hospitalized.  How often in life do we get a dress-rehearsal for hard situations?  By role-playing these techniques, there is a higher chance that UNITEHERE! members will be able to remember and DO what they learned if they are ever hospitalized.  

Back to Basics: Part 2--Discovery

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How do you write a peer-to-peer adult education curriculum that guides participants to find answers for themselves?

Discovery!

It’s much more interesting to learn something through investigation than to be told the answer upfront. Plus, something you discover yourself is easier to remember in the long-run.

Discovery can happen any time someone has to look for an answer.

For example, to teach participants about the danger of taking too much pain medication, the peer facilitator can use this exercise.

“Partner up with the person next to you and look at this label of a common over-the-counter medicine.  Answer these questions together and be prepared to report back to the group." 

What is the recommended dose? Hint: It’s under DIRECTIONS (ask group to respond)

  • 20 mL every 4 hours
  • only use with dosing cup provided

What warnings does it give you? (ask group to respond)

  • Don’t take more than 6 doses in in 24 hours
  • Don’t take with other drugs that have Tylenol (acetaminophen)
  • Severe liver damage can occur if you take too much, or combine with another drug that has Tylenol (acetaminophen)
  • Ask doctor of pharmacist before use if you are taking blood thinners
  • Ask a doctor before use if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, liver disease, heart disease, thyroid disease, trouble urinating, persistent cough (such as asthma).
  • Do not use if taking prescription MAOI (certain drugs for depression, psychiatric or emotional conditions, or Parkinson’s disease).  If you do not know if your prescription drug contains MAOI, ask your doctor or pharmacist.

Based on these warnings, what actions would you take next time you need to take an over-the-counter medicine? (ask group to respond)

  • Read the label!
  • Ask the pharmacist or my doctor before taking!

 

Is this information still dry and dense?  SO. VERY. YES.  But the act of DISCOVERING the answers and sharing with others is empowering.  And it gives participants practice in a critical real-life skill (reading labels) to protect their health.

Using discovery as a tool of peer-to-peer learning takes the pressure off the facilitator to be the expert, is much more interactive than talking AT people, and makes participants contributors in their learning.

This style of learning lasts; people can actually implement and sustain it in their lives.  Here is Deliverance, talking about how the skill of reading labels has helped his family.  



Back to Basics: Part 1, Crowdsource

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How do you write a training manual that helps a peer facilitator guide their co-workers towards learning new behaviors, without having them read a script of Do’s and Don’ts AT people?

Crowdsource!

Crowdsourcing is a great teaching tool to create a peer-to-peer learning environment.  First, the person facilitating doesn’t get stuck in the role of “expert.”  Second, people participating in the workshop have a chance to share their own knowledge and experience, and learn from others. Crowdsourcing creates an atmosphere where everyone can feel empowered.

For example, in a session where the key learning outcome is for members to recognize the danger of taking too many over-the-counter and pharmaceutical pain meds, the facilitator can begin by asking questions.

  • How many of us have pain from repetitive physical stress on the job? (Ask for show of hands)
  • How many of us take pain medicine regularly? (Ask for a show of hands)
  • How many of us take pain medicine on a daily basis? (Ask for show of hands)
  • Can you give some examples of what kinds of pain you have? (Allow members to share)
  • What kinds of pain medicines do you usually take? (Allow members to share)
  • How many of us know someone, and it could be ourselves, that has taken pain medicine every day for years? (Ask for show of hands)

Crowdsourcing member experience on pain medication does a few things simultaneously.

1. It includes the facilitator in the discussion, illustrating that they are not separate from the other participants.

2. It lays the foundation for explaining the problem.  The facilitator COULD begin with an opening such as, “Pain medicine is a big problem in our society.  30% percent of people report taking pain medicine every day.”  But that style would not be as authentic for the facilitator, and it wouldn’t be as engaging for the participants.  It’s UNITEHERE! members, not “people in society,” that this training is for.

3. It fluidly positions the training to move forward into discussing the risks.  Once everyone in the room has shared about their pain medicine usage, there is a natural opening to explore precautions.

Simple techniques like crowdsourcing allow a written curriculum to be led by anyone!  And it’s a great way to involve members in their own learning.

Here are a couple UNITEHERE! members sharing the big-picture benefits of learning through crowdsourcing.

Back to Basics

This summer, I was commissioned by UNITEHERE! to design a 10-month adult education curriculum that teaches hundreds of  food service workers in Los Angeles, Orange County, Boston, Chicago, Washington DC, Connecticut, and New York City to make smart choices about their health.

This curriculum had 3 major parameters:

1. Cover complex topics such as:

  • appropriate use of over-the-counter medicines and pharmaceuticals,
  • what to do if you are hospitalized,
  • managing anxiety and depression,
  • sticking to a healthy exercise routine

2. Can be easily taught by UNITEHERE! members, who are not experts in medical terminology and intricate medical systems.

3. Be participatory and engaging for members who are likely to be tired by the time they come together in the evening to focus on managing their chronic conditions.

Over my next few posts I will cover some of the tools I used to hit these parameters and make topics like “Oral Health” if not FUN at least dynamic and interactive.