Helping not-for-profits with design thinking

I’ve seen amazing non for profits here in Perth all delivering phenomenal levels of service to their customers because they are hugely focused on the needs of the community. Without knowning it they apply human centred approaches to deliver the best standards in care and apply evidence based and clinical expertise all to benefit their customers. Now we see these organisation adapting the formal frameworks of human centred design quite deliberately to innovate the way they can deliver new services.

There’s also another way to use the elements of human centred design and that is within the internal workings of any organisation. If embedded into the organisation as a way of problem solving for any challenge teams and organisations can have exponential results.

The methods are simple and they support organisations to do 2 main things. Work better, with greater results.

Why work better?

So we say work better because when you use a human centred approach you can improve everything from processes to culture. If you are working on internal challenges such as recruitment then you are designing for the people you want to attract to your organisation. If you are designing for improved processes you are designing for the teams using those processes. The design process isn’t restricted to designing for clients, its designing for humans. Internal or external to your organisation.

Why greater results?

The results of initiatives that come from a design process have a better chance of success because the design process first of all identifies the gaps in what we know and then strips away assumptions. We become closer to the individuals we are designing for and that therefore, reduces the risk.

There’s no place we need human centred design more than in the social impact space.

Getting a better understanding

The vital component is the starting point which is identifying what the challenge actually is. You can then validate this via research. Ethnographic-based research… say what now? Let’s strip this bare and make away with the imposing title. Design research relies on observation and critical thinking.

For example in a case study for The Good Kitchen in Denmark it’s stated

“Despite the best intentions, when leaders of agencies that serve the indigent or the elderly base solutions on their own views of the needs and wants of those clients, the quality of the solutions suffers. We simply cannot be sure that we understand the details of their lives, when we don’t observe and ask.”

It can be as simple as asking a few questions or taking the time to shadow the people you’re designing for and then there’s collecting case studies and holding interviews.

How can I encourage my team to use design principles?

Where can you start? The best way is starting small. Here’s an example.
The Australian Red Cross have a toolkit full of direction for their employees on human centred design, what it is and how to use it. The toolkit explains the concepts behind Agile, Lean Start Up, value proposition design and the list goes on. This resource is for staff to refer to as best practice tools and methods that can be adopted by any team, at any time, in the design of products, services and experiences.

“There was an appetite across the organization for more resources to help better understand and frame problems, understand and involve end users in the design process, uncover and validate assumptions, make better and more creative and deliver value iteratively.
Australian Red Cross needed a toolkit.”

The fastest way for organisations to embrace the methods of design thinking is to simply start doing it. You may need someone who’s been through the design process before or someone that wants to up skill in this area. They can lead the charge and start small. In my experience once managers demonstrate the importance of these methods by doing it themselves in both informal and informal ways it will ripple through the organisation.

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