The first time that I heard the term ‘human-centered design’, was when I was doing my PhD and felt that it was another one of those buzzwords – what is being done is simplistic, but is made to sound complex. I did not know then that I would end up using it extensively at my work with Digital Green, and quite successfully too. What has encouraged me to write this series of blog on HCD is that I have used it for over 2 years in my work, which has given me enough time to reflect and make my own meaning of the process. Through these blogs, I capture some of that journey.
At Digital Green, a lot of work is centred on developing pieces of training for field-level workers in producing localized videos on agriculture, health and nutrition, and showing those to rural communities. The videos are shown in small groups using a battery-operated pico projector and facilitated by field-level workers. As we scaled, our concern, similar to several organizations’, was maintaining the quality of our training. As we hire more and more trainers, how do we make sure that all of them are training field-level workers effectively? As trainers give more and more training, how do we know what field-level workers are actually learning to an optimal level?
We were looking to develop an innovative training system, where there was some amount of standardization, assurance of quality and learning for the ‘users’ – the field level workers. Several ideas were discussed, pilot projects proposed, strategy documents were written, ‘trial’ training videos made…but somehow things were not moving, and they did not seem quite right. We soon found that there was little space for iterations because there was a confidence that what we are proposing after brainstorming in our office conference room, is going to work with the field-level workers. Thankfully, we decided to change our approach.
I am a participatory researcher, and when my colleague introduced me to IDEO’s human-centered design approach, it immediately clicked. We extensively used their field guide to help us design our training system. But before I get to how we used it and what came out of it, I want to talk about how we even got started with using it.
One of the biggest questions about some methods, tools and techniques is that if they have been proven to work, then why are more and more people not adopting it? The answer is often the obvious one – it simply does not suit their context and environment. Similarly, every non-profit and its systems might not lend themselves to successfully using HCD, howsoever much they believe in its impact. In our case, it worked for us. The reason for it was a mix of two main ingredients: Attitude and Resources.
With these four main things in place, we started on our HCD research. What are the things that worked for you and your team? What do you think about settings and contexts that support HCD?
The final blog of a 3 part series from our Head of Training about Human Centered Design process that informs our work at Digital Green.
Second of three part blogs from our Head of Training on Human Centered Design and its applicability in non-profit organizations.
Aman Bhardwaj is part of the extended family of Digital Green. He is a student of visual communication at National Institute of Design...