Human Centered Design

This post is the fourth in a series I will be contributing for my Business Model Designs for Social Impact course at Northeastern University. This is the course’s first time being offered and it is taught by Professor Gordon K. Admodza. In this series, I will be publishing my findings on different social innovators and the business models that are allowing their inventions to reach the people most in need. As a class, we define social innovations as sustainable, pro-poor solutions. You can read the other articles in this series here.

The Human Centered Design (HCD) toolkit, developed by IDEO and funded by the International Development Enterprise (IDE) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation helps give direction to aspiring social entrepreneurs. Readers are taught different strategies and best practices to effectively hear, create and deliver their social innovations.

In my Business Model Designs for Social Impact course at Northeastern University, we are using the HCD toolkit and the hear-create-deliver process to guide us in our consulting project for the semester: aiding a clean water filtration and sanitation project based in Western Africa. The organization is in need of a short-term cash infusion to help expand their production facilities and subsidize the cost of the life-saving water filters they sell to local villagers.

As a team, particular points of the HCD toolkit have been particularly helpful. Step 2 of the Hear section tells us to “recognize existing knowledge” or to think back to our individual experiences to help brainstorm possible solutions. With Project Plus One (PP1), we try to raise funds to support a health clinic in Timor-Leste, and do so by applying for specific grants or seeking partnerships with existing NGOs. Just thinking about the existing knowledge I had in this sector by working with PP1 helped come up with two different “customer segments” to raise money for the water project: grants/foundations and NGO partnerships.

Within the Create phase of the HCD process, we are learning how to use analysis frameworks to design solutions. With our project, we’ve identified five different customer segments for fund-raising (government agencies, NGO partnerships, foundations and grants, individuals and families, and corporate sponsors) and now must decide which of these is the best option for the clean water organization to pursue for funding. So many qualitative and quantitative factors come into consideration here. Here we use the HCD’s two-by-two matrix framework to help consider all points. We can plot our five customer segments across two different axis: the potential revenue available within the segment and the expected costs in order to tap into this segment (as even fundraising costs money). When the data is gathered and this two-by-two framework is complete, we can visualize how the different segments compare against each other and go move forward including qualitative factors into our decision.

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