People Centered Design for Policy and Development

In Autumn 2012, The Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the government of The Netherlands commissioned Emerging Futures Lab to explore, through dialogue, the current day process, challenges, and opportunities which lead to the design of international sustainable development programmes.

Subsequent work throughout 2013 provided us with the unique experience and practice in the application of human centred design methods for social and economic development policy and programmes. Our expertise in the informal economy, rural and urban, particularly in sub Saharan Africa, stands us in good stead.

Here, we share some of our insights from our original work.

The shift in thinking about the end-users for which programmes are meant, from beneficiaries of international aid and charity, to collaborators and co-producers in a value chain of economic and social benefit has an important implication.

Consumer facing businesses have always sought to understand their target audiences and identify unmet needs and/or the opportunities for innovating with new products, services or business models, in order to improve their success rate in the marketplace. Thus, as development programmes and policy reorient towards a business perspective, it follows then that a greater emphasis on end-user insights and consumer behaviour, will also be required in order to improve the impact and outcomes of relevant and appropriate programmes.

The value of judicious and selective application of relevant and selected methods and frameworks from the human-centered design planning toolkit is in their ability to align strategy and deliverables from the top to the identified needs and requirements of the end user, in the context of his or her operating environment.

The role of human-centered design planning is to offer holistic road-maps for manifesting envisioned solutions in a tangible, self-sustaining manner. We begin with exploratory user research in the field, to form a foundation of understanding within which to identify the touchpoints for design.