by Ruth Knight – QUT – Postdoctoral Research Fellow – The Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies
As nonprofits we seek change, change for our beneficiaries, families and communities. In particular, homelessness is one social challenge we are all seeking to reduce.
But how do we do that in an innovative way? How can we get smarter at developing services and interventions that create transformation for those experiencing homelessness, and for our organisation that needs to be efficient and effective?
One way I believe we can achieve this, is by using Human Centred Design (HCD). What is HCD exactly? It’s is a deliberate process where you listen to, and observe people to understand the challenge from their perspective, then use what you learn as inspiration to develop innovative solutions that are systematically tested and evaluated as it is developed.
It is a continuous process of listening, observing, and learning from those you work with, then collaborating with a wide range of stakeholders such as academia, policy makers, practitioners from across the sector including business. No one should be left out of the process!
Essentially, it’s all collaborating and brainstorming to drive new ideas and innovation, and then putting those innovative ideas into practice.
For an idea of HCD in practice, these are the basic steps you should follow when designing a service or intervention:
1. Talk to people
Talk to everybody, including the beneficiaries, experts that work with homeless people, academics and researchers, and all the different people within your organisation – that could be people from departments like HR, finance and fundraising. It might even be business people and government as well. Get everybody talking to you about the challenge to get a real collaborative viewpoint on the issue and ways to overcome it.
2. Form insights
Form insights from the many different points of view and different perspectives you’ve gained – bring together all that information from the policy makers, service providers, the beneficiaries themselves and more. That’s how you form insights into the real problem. To get to know know what the REAL problem is, you have to drill it all down.
3. Ideate and prototype
Once you have an understanding of what the real problem is, it’s time to start looking for an innovative solution. Explore what the various solutions might be. Ideate and prototype the concept of a solution, but don’t go spend all your money on it yet if you don’t know it’s right.
4. Test and iterate
Put the solution into practice and evaluate its effectiveness, refining any aspects or barriers to success as you go.
As you can see, HCD crosses the traditional boundaries between public, for-profit, and nonprofit sectors. HCD allows high-impact solutions to bubble up from challenging our assumptions, thinking about social problems in a different way and working more collaboratively with those in the community to achieve better outcomes and collective impact.
I truly believe this process is the way to design an end to homelessness and poverty by bringing creativity, empathy, and innovation to the social sector.
At The Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies we are also currently developing a course for non-profits to learn how to do HCD. For more information, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or find out more online.