Tag Archives: Innovation

Human Centered Design for Social Innovation – Class 1

This week I started taking an online course from +Acumen on Human Centered Design for Social Innovation. I am joined by three UNICEF colleagues (we represent Global, Regional and Country Office levels) as well as five other people from Nairobi. Our group is pretty diverse, which is cool because we all offer different experiences and perspectives. Each week I will write a blog describing what we learned and the activities we completed to help reinforce the concepts for that week.

Over seven weeks we will be introduced to the building blocks of human centered design (HCD) to help us design more effective, innovative, and sustainable solutions. From my beginners understanding of the concept, HCD requires gaining a deep understanding of the end-user by learning about their needs, hopes, and challenges. It is a continual process of learning from the end-user, ideating solutions, prototyping rapidly, reflecting back to the user for feedback, and then repeating until a good solution is found.

Every week we receive readings and a workshop guide to lead the two hour “class.” Rather than have a teacher, the course embodies the learning by doing and we guide our own learning through various activities and discussions.

Week one was our intro week. We read a couple of articles and learned a few fundamentals of HCD.

Reading Highlights:

It’s important to get to the root of the problem:  When designing the car, Henry Ford said, “If I’d asked my customers what they wanted, they’d have said a faster horse.”

  • HCD is empathetic, optimistic, experimental, and collaborative
  • It requires that we focus on the “behaviors” of our end-users versus their “demographic”

Design thinking process: inspiration, ideation, implementation (or discover, ideate, prototype)

o    Inspirationobserving and researching phase

Identifying the problem or opportunity that motivates people to search for solutions

o    Ideation – distill observations into potential solutions/opportunities for change

Divergent thinking is encouraged

o    Implementation – the best ideas are turned into an action plan and prototyping begins

Products and services are tested, iterated, and refined

 

Human centered design process as defined by Ideo.org.

Human centered design process as defined by Ideo.org.

Activity Highlights: Design a better commute for a group member.

Our first class activity was to design a better commute for a group member. We began interviewing Sarah* to understand her daily commute and routine. We asked questions such as, “How do you feel on your commute?” “What do you enjoy?” “What gets in the way?” and “What would you change?”

Right away we learned a lot about Sarah and her work. She works in the largest slum in Nairobi and provides micro-loans to artisans. She takes public transportation to get there, and she can’t enter the slum without a guide. Also, she enjoys the complete unknown about what she’ll experience each day.

We then started focusing on her actual commute. We discovered that she takes many forms of transportation, including, a motorcycle taxi (called boda bodas), a public mini bus (or matatus), and a regular taxi. Since we live in Nairobi, traffic is a perennial issue, but traffic isn’t a huge concern for her because she can always jump on a motorcycle taxi. She doesn’t carry many personal items when commuting, and generally limits herself to her dumbphone and a little bit of money. (It’s helpful to understand that public transportation is not like New York City where there are demarcated stops on the streets, route maps in the buses, or meters in the taxi. At first glance, the transportation system can seem very informal and chaotic.)

Standard matatu or minibus found in Nairobi, Kenya for public transporation. Source: http://tiny.cc/1ynxdx.

Standard matatu or minibus found in Nairobi, Kenya for public transporation. Source: http://tiny.cc/1ynxdx.

Standard boda boda or motorcycle taxi found in Nairobi, Kenya. Source: http://tiny.cc/v2nxdx

Standard boda boda or motorcycle taxi found in Nairobi, Kenya. Source: http://tiny.cc/v2nxdx

As we continued asking questions, our group began to understand that Sarah didn’t need a better commute. In fact, if we continued with the original exercise, we would have been designing a solution to a non-existent problem and that’s a no-no in human centered design. We began to understand that the root of Sarah’s problem was finding trustworthy and reliable drivers.

Therefore, when we transitioned from the inspiration phase to ideation phase, we first articulated a more pressing problem for Sarah – It’s not easy to find trusted and reliable transport operators – and then brainstormed solutions.  For five minutes we had a rapid fire brainstorm and some of our ideas were:

 

Mini bus route map online/mobile app Official mini bus and motorcycle taxi stops
Designated lanes for mini-buses and motorcycle taxis Look up MIT study of mini bus routes to know your way
Track a mini-bus/taxi/motorcycle taxi app Standards for security and customer service
Mobile lie detector Years of experience clear from driver’s license
“Refer-a-driver” mobile app SMS based rating of operators
Seal of approval on front of mini-buses or motorcycles Show confidence in your travels to and from destination
Nairobi. 2014. Brainstorming solutions for  the problem, "It's not easy to find trustworthy and reliable transport operators."

Nairobi. 2014. Brainstorming solutions for the problem, “It’s not easy to find trustworthy and reliable transport operators.”

We concluded our first class by briefly discussing the ideas we came up with and listening to feedback from Sarah. We quickly realized that the solutions we generated were all very tech heavy, and while technology offers many opportunities, they might not be the best for Sarah since she carries a simple dumbphone. Therefore, another HCD lesson was reinforced for our group – listen to the end-user requirements and design appropriate solutions based on these.

Even after only the first week of the course, we learned some of the hard and fast principles of human centered design and were able to put them into practice. I look forward to what is in store for us next week and writing up the experience. Stay tuned!

*Name has been changed.

Source: Design Thinking for Social Innovation. Originally appeared in Stanford Social Innovation Review 8, no. 1 (Winter 2010)

Link to Week 1 Readings: http://plusacumen.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Class_1_readings.pdf

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IT Skills Building for T4D

These resources are ideal for IT Staff looking to learn more about software development, IT project management, and working with external vendors

The IT skills needed for supporting T4D initiatives will be dependent on which technical aspects Country Offices choose to keep in-house versus those they outsource to external vendors.   Some familiarity with commonly used tools and their technical components solutions will be essential regardless of whether or not T4D solutions are being produced within UNICEF.  Skills for the managing software development process and dealing with external vendors should be considered as key competencies.

Recommendations for building IT skills for T4D:

  1. IT departments should begin to evolve the required competencies to include T4D and these  should be included in the generic ICT Terms of Reference (e.g., familiarity with common tools, open source solutions, etc.)
  2. Country Office IT should partner with Programmes to improve awareness of programme goals and identify areas where T4D components could assist programme functions or improve outcomes. This will include involving IT staff beginning in the conceptual and planning phases for projects which include T4D components, and seeing projects through implementation and scale.
  3. The IT department should become a partner to Programme staff when negotiating with external partners and vendors who may be building or implementing T4D components. This will require IT staff to have a strong understanding and participate in
  • Project management approaches for software development
  • Business analysis and requirement definition

UNICEF-Supported Trainings (accessed via unicef.skillport.com):

Provider Title Description
UNICEF Skillport IT Project Management Essentials 1 hour Online Course: Planning, monitoring, managing risks, testing deliverables
UNICEF Skillport Managing Software Outsourcing 1 hour Online Course:  Vendor contracts, managing vendors, dealing with risks
UNICEF Skillport PMI/ScrumMaster Agile Practioner Online Course:  Agile essentials, requirement planning
UNICEF Skillport Linux Professional Institute: Beginner Online Course: Linux programming
UNICEF Skillport Linux Professional Institute: Advanced Online Course:  Linux programming

External Trainings:

Provider Title Description
Mountain Goat Software Agile and Scrum Certification Workshop/training: Agile, Scrum, User stories, $1,200.00
ThoughtWorks Agile Fundamentals 2 Day Workshop: Agile basics, $11,500.00
Carnegie Mellon (Rwanda) Masters in Information Technology Graduate Program: ICT, such as mobile applications, information security and networking, and software management, as well as critical business areas such as finance, operations and entrepreneurship, $40,000.00
UN University, Intl. Institute for Software Technology PhD in ICT for Sustainable Development PhD Program: ICT4D, $35,000.00
University of Manchester MSc in Information Systems: Change and Development (Distance Learning)  Graduate Program: Training of “hybrid managers” for the implementation of new information management systems in organizations, $20,000.00
Enhancement Centre GIS Capacity Building 3 Day Workshop: Introduction for project management Custom

 

Tools and Resources:

Provider Title Description
Tech Republic Various Resources including white papers, webinars, case studies Various Resources:  New technologies and skill sets, Free
Cutter Consortium IT governance and management, Agile approaches Webinars, Trainings, Workshops, & Free newsletter: Business Analysis, Agile, etc., Membership required
Mountain Goat Software Agile and Scrum Overview Key terms/Guides: Agile and scrum methodologies, Free
TechChange Standards and Interoperability Informational Video: Standards and Interoperability, Free

Sample Terms of Reference:

UNICEF Global Innovations has created sample ToRs for Innovation Lab staff. The following could be useful for IT-related positions:

  • Production Coordinator
  • Software Developer
  • Engineering Lead

See the sample ToRs here: http://www.unicefinnovationlabs.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/TOR-Annex.pdf

For more information:

Weekly T4D/Innovation Insights & Updates #6

Happy Friday! I’m pleased to share with you the featured conversation on the World Bank’s Striking Poverty website, “Ecosystems for Innovation and the Role of Innovation Labs.” The online discussion features UNICEF’s Chris Fabian, the Director of the World Bank Innovation Labs, Aleem Walji, and Maria May the Programme Manager for BRAC’s Social Innovation Lab talking about innovation and the value it brings in humanitarian work.

https://strikingpoverty.worldbank.org/c000011#quicktabs-discussion_qt11=1

This is an ongoing conversation and so far the question posed to the discussants is “What is social innovation and why does it matter?”

Maria May: “Innovation should enable us to do more with less.”

  • “At its core, innovation is a form of problem solving. It can mean combining existing resources in a novel way (perhaps drawing from practices in another sector), adding a few new ingredients to a solution, or understanding a context in a way that others failed to. For organizations, it is best viewed as a process over time vs. an outcome, even though the outcome is what is most visible and tangibly useful.”

Aleem Alwaji: “Innovation is a muscle. It takes work to make it strong.”

  • “You can start experimenting, taking measured risks, and co-creating with clients in a way that gets you past the paradigm-changing moment. I think of it as the ‘disrupt or be disrupted’ moment. If you don’t reinvent yourself at these key moments, you guarantee your obsolescence. We need space and time to experiment and learn. We need accountability and opportunity. We need discipline and experimentation. We need to measure and we need to learn from failure. That’s the heart of innovation.

Chris Fabian: “Doing something new or different that adds concrete value.”

  • “In order for this new, different work to matter to an organization it needs to 1) be useful, 2) be recognized and 3) be counted/countable. The labs help us do these three things from the point of strength of the organization – which is, for UNICEF, its 135 country offices.”
  • Innovation Labs offer “A world of connected problem solvers, creating solutions in humanity’s most difficult operating environments, with the ability to scale successes and learn from failures is the only way that we will be able to solve the set of problems that many would have considered impossible only a few years ago.

This is an on-going discussion, so be sure to check out website for forthcoming questions and answering from the star discussants. Also, we heard form Aleem Alwaji and Chris Fabian a couple of weeks back on scaling innovation and how that can be done in large organizations.

Happy reading!

Weekly T4D/Innovation Insights & Updates #5

Over the last couple of weeks, the Weekly T4D/Innovation Friday posts have covered some of the ins and outs of scaling innovation, worst practices in ICT4D, and challenges and opportunities of T4D application in programme delivery. Some of the themes that have emerged are the need to think about scale from the beginning, fail fast, and involve the end-user in the design process.

This week we’re going to focus on the why and how to involve the end-user in T4D and Innovation initiatives with a look at the blog post, “Building Human-Centered Design into ICT4D Projects.”

https://bestict4d.wordpress.com/2013/07/18/human-centered-design/

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

What is human-centered design?

  • “A problem-solving process that puts humans at the very center.”
  • 3 components: 1) learn from a community/end-user to understand the problem; 2) ideate and prototype rapidly; 3) feedback from real users quickly and frequently.

Why is human-centered design important in the social sector?

  • “In international development you have projects being implemented thousands of miles away from where decisions are made. Frequently, there’s no feedback loop so it’s hard to say: Is it working, and are people choosing to use this?”

Why is human-centered design important to the field of ICT4D?

  • “In general the development community is very risk averse…One of the benefits of human-centered design is to mitigate risk by testing early and failing fast.”
  • “In the context of ICT4D, human-centered design can help with the design of a technology, and the context around it, long before the technology is ready for launch.”

Is failure at certain times not only acceptable but important?

When you learn from it, failure can be a very positive part of the process. You want to try to get some of the failing out early so that you can learn from it and let it influence the design of a better more successful project.”

In October ESARO facilitated a T4D Capacity Building Workshop, and one of the sessions focused on human centered design. After learning some of the basics, participants discussed how human-centered design can be incorporated into UNICEF T4D programming, two conclusions emerged:

  • Human-centered design can be used internally to identify priority areas for T4D application;
  • Understanding the process can help manage external vendors such as software developers during the iterative software design process.

For a closer look at the human-centered design session, please see page 12 of the conference report.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B101gFvV4LzKRXVHenlWeTlOZXc/edit?usp=sharing

 

Weekly T4D/Innovation Insights & Updates #3

This week as we continue learning about the ins and outs of Innovation and T4D, I am pleased to share with you the blog post, “Innovation for development: what is really different?”

http://europeandcis.undp.org/blog/2013/03/18/innovation-for-development-what-is-really-different/ 

“One of the biggest challenges for innovation evangelists in development organizations is…to clearly articulate ‘what is different’ in the approaches they are advocating for as opposed to ‘business as usual.’” 

The author is the Project Lead for UNDP’s Knowledge and Innovation team in Europe and Central Asia, and he explored what innovation means for development while visiting UNICEF Innovation Labs in Uganda and Burundi. Using UNICEF’s Innovation Principles as a framework, he highlights the impact of innovation and the differences with business as usual (BAU) practices. For more information on UNICEF’s Innovation Principles please see: http://unicefstories.org/principles/ 

Below are some brief takeaways for each principle. However, be sure to check out the link for more many more examples as well as the “money quotes” from UNICEF’s very own, Chris Fabian and Sharad Shapra. 

1.    User Centered and Equity Focused: 

      a.    BAU: Projects are often designed by people spending the majority of their                    time in offices, many times far away from end users

      b.    What is different: Solutions are designed in the field, co-developed with end                 users.

2.    Built on Experience: 

      a.    BAU: Projects are talked about publicly only at the end, focusing on                                 showcasing results

      b.    Innovation: Projects are talked about from the ideation stage, focusing on                    process to encourage inputs from the outside.


3.
    Sustainable: 

     a.    BAU: Solutions are often developed and/or maintained by international                         experts

     b.    Innovation: Local developers are involved in the development of solutions                   from the very beginning


4.
    Open and Inclusive: 

     a.    BAU: Solutions are developed using proprietary technology

     b.    Innovation: Solutions are developed to be open sources so that they can be                 shared with others

5.    Scalable: 

     a.    BAU: Localised solutions designed to reach, say, 10% of a given population are           often “good enough” to get started

     b.    Innovation: No solution is financed that is not designed to 100% scalable and             replicable in other contexts.

 

Weekly T4D/Innovation Insights & Update #2

Happy Friday! The Regional T4D team has begun sending out a weekly article or two about T4D and Innovation to showcase interesting insights, opportunities and challenges faced in this space.

This week we turn to an interview by Aleem Walji, Director of Innovation Labs at the World Bank Institute, on how the World Bank thinks about scaling innovation. In this interview at the Skoll World Forum in April 2013, Mr. Walji highlights ways development organizations can leverage technology and innovation initiatives to positively impact humanitarian efforts.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/skollworldforum/2013/09/04/how-does-the-world-bank-think-about-scaling-innovation/

Some quick takeaways from the interview:

  • Solving humanitarian challenges requires solutions where “multiple actors experiment together, learn together, and iterate fast.” We need to push for evidence-based solutions and multi-stakeholder problem solving.
  •  Move towards an agile development model where“instead of minimizing risk we need to manage risk and navigate uncertainty intelligently.”
  • “Fail fast and fail forward. You learn and iterate. You document what you learn, share it with the world and look for insights form wherever you find them.”
  • Be bold in experimentation and think big in programme delivery. “What we need to scale is not a particular solution or development prescription but a repeatable process that is end-user centric, disciplined and data driven.

This interview provides some great insights into the challenges and opportunities facing UNICEF as we begin and continue thinking about and discussing the possibilities for T4D and Innovation in programme delivery.

Also, UNICEF’s own Chris Fabian gave a great interview on this same subject for the World We Want. For Chris and the Global Innovations

team, scaling innovation means “working with open source solutions, with technologies that are readily available in community so we don’t have to bring things from outside, and with products that can be built locally, adopted locally, and scaled globally.”

Here’s the link to the full interview: http://www.worldwewant2015.org/node/398622

I hope you enjoy reading.

 

Weekly T4D/Innovation Insight & Update #1

In an effort to support and advance learning and knowledge about T4D in the region, the Regional T4D team is beginning to share articles and links on a weekly basis to stimulate discussion and thinking.

To begin, here is a link to a blog post that talks about the challenges within the T4D community. http://www.kiwanja.net/blog/?s=ICT4D+challenges.

I am also including a link to an article outlining some of the opportunities that T4D can offer the humanitarian world. http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/poverty-matters/2012/jan/04/technology-make-difference-2012 .

These two links highlight some important points when thinking about the opportunities, as well as challenges, when integrating T4D into programme delivery. Applying T4D tools and strategies is much less about the technology and much more about the programming, and some even venture to say that T4D is only 5% technology and 95% programme. Therefore, thinking through all the stages of programme planning is necessary to design, implement and scale a successful project.

The Kiwanja blog outlines some important questions to think about in their post “ICT4D Challenges”:

  • How do we replicate and scale?
  • How do we measure impact?
  • How do we stop the reinventing of wheels?
  • How do we avoid being “technology lead?”
  • How do we break out of silos?
  • What is the business/sustainability model?
  • How do we make sense of the countless pilots?

Some of these questions are easier than others to answer. But, as ESAR becomes more comfortable with T4D,  we should continually refer back to some of these larger issues and challenges to help inform how we move forward.

Stay tuned for more weekly insights and updates!