What We’re Learning: Human Centered Design Course

Here at the Scale x Design Accelerator, we are big believers in human centered design and design thinking. In fact, one of our core Labs (formerly called simply Human Centered Design and now re-born as Mindsets and Methods for Innovation) is centered around the subjects. However, you don’t have to be an Accelerator finalist to unlock these critical skills and mindsets!

IDEO.org is currently offering two free courses through +Acumen: A 7-week Introduction to Human Centered Design and a 4-week Prototyping course. Click on the links for more information and act quickly! Registration closes soon – “In partnership with Plus Acumen, IDEO.org offers this course for individuals looking to learn more about the human-centered design process. Both courses opened on May 9, 2017, but they are still open for registration so don’t miss out on this opportunity. ”

What’s the “poison pill” that prevents pilots from going to scale?

What’s the “poison pill” that prevents pilots from going to scale? According to scaling expert Larry Cooley, it’s complexity.

We’ve been thinking a lot about how to reduce complexity in order to achieve scale. In fact, “How do we reduce cost and complexity?” is key design question #4 that we explore in our Designing for Scale lab in the accelerator.

We’re big fans of MSI’s Scaling Up Toolkit, which Cooley co-authored.  Check out this great interview clip with Cooley from Devex and the rest of the article here:

What We’re Learning: What do legos have to do with scaling solutions?

In our Design for Scale lab, design question #3 asks us: “What’s our optimal fidelity for scale?”

What is fidelity? Very simply, it’s the degree of exactness with which something is copied and reproduced.

Why is it important?

Well, in some fields it’s both easy and critical that that the fidelity of an intervention is high. For example, when you’re sick and you take a pill you’re taking the same pill that others who share your diagnosis will take. The dose, timing and other instructions that you receive must be followed in order to get positive results.

Designing an intervention that should be replicated with high fidelity is both necessary and relatively straightforward for many fields. What about development? As we scale, we know that we can’t simply take our exact model and apply it to new geographies, new demographics and new sectors. We know that it won’t work if we don’t adapt.

Conversely, adapt too much or let the model be watered down and we may not be able to get them same positive impact we did in our pilot or the early stages of our programs.

David Butler, VP for Innovation at Coca-Cola, helps one of the world’s largest companies design for scale using a simple framework of determining what elements are “fixed” and which are “flexible.”

Design to Grow: How Coca-Cola Learned to Combine Scale and Agility (and How You Can Too)


To break it down for us, he uses the analogy of lego bricks. The whole video is great, but for the part on legos start at the 8 minute, 30 second mark and end at 13 minutes, 50 seconds.

What We’re Learning: What’s our Value Proposition?

As we work through our Design for Scale lab, we’re tackling five key design questions – starting with question #1: What’s the value proposition of our innovation?

Very simply, the value proposition of your innovation is the benefit your solution provides combined with why it’s better than anything else that exists! The tricky part about value proposition is that it’s not defined by us. It’s defined by our user.

value propositionOf course, we always start implementation thinking that we know what the value proposition is for our end user. However, a key step in identifying our value proposition is being prepared to be wrong or not understand the full story.  We need to be prepared to learn from our users and pay careful attention to unexpected results. At the beginning stages of an innovation it is critical to use qualitative methods that can capture unexpected value that the innovation has.

A second way we can learn about our value proposition is to look for viral replication and sharing. To see people who are replicating or copying our work without prompting or incentive tells us we’ve found an area with a strong value proposition.

Once we’ve identified a value proposition, we need to be able to articulate it!

We’re loving the simple formats from these excellent blog posts: Proven Templates for Creating Value Propositions that Work and Three More Proven Value Proposition Templates that Work


What we’re learning – How do we prototype what CARE does best?

*Reposted with updated links*

If you were able to watch our introduction video, you know that one of our hypotheses for why it takes the development sector a long time to scale is that we’re often using our project cycles to test new adaptations of our innovations.  When we launch a “pilot,” that can mean waiting for two-three years to get feedback and course correct at the midterm evaluation.

While we might need to wait until the midterm to start getting hard data on impact, we don’t need to wait several years to get valuable feedback.   Why design and launch a full solution, when you can run rapid tests on prototypes first?

[Photo credit: GRID Impact. Designers from Grameen Foundation test paper prototypes in Uganda]
So in our human-centered design lab, we’re thinking about how to prototype versus pilot and how this can give us just one new tool to move faster.


GRID explains how all this works in one fantastic graph

One aspect that is taking us some time to get our heads around – how do you prototype anything that’s not a product, such as services or systems?  It’s still early days for applying HCD to international development, but here are some examples we love!

Sanitation: GRID Impact started off our lab with a deep dive into how they applied HCD and prototyping to increase the use of sanitation facilities (GRID +  Sanergy  +  DIFD  + Populist)

Family planning: The “Divine Divas” –  Prototyping a pop nail salon experience, peer-to-peer learning and service delivery for sexual and reproductive health services for adolescent girls in Zambia (Marie Stopes International + Ideo + The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation)

Prototyping nail salon experiences with teens. Read more at: http://stories.hewlett.org/designs_for_a_better_world Photo credit: IDEO

Governance and accountability: Making All Voices Count, an organization that works on issues of governance and accountability by enabling citizen engagement,  used human-centered design for the development of their stakeholder engagement strategy.  Their prototyping process included creating 12 “user archetypes” and using story-boarding and role playing to prototype potential ways to engage citizens.

Agriculture:  Juhudi Kilimo was interested in providing farmers with more in-depth technical training and assistance, so they prototyped both training videos utilizing actual farmers telling their stories and a mobile helpline (Juhudi Kilimo + Ideo)

Photo Credit: IDEO.org Read all about it here: http://www.wassermanfoundation.org/news/designing-better-training-for-farmers/

Health Systems: The Backpack Plus project used the physical object of a backpack as a starting point for designing systems to support and empower community health workers. (USAID + Frog  + UNICEF + MDG Health Alliance + Save the Children)

Photo Credit: UNICEF Read more at: http://www.unicefstories.org/model/chwbackpackplus/