Today, the application of design in global health has not yet realized its full potential. With few exceptions, design has been used as a spark or an ingredient, late in the programmatic cycle, to try to ‘fix’ a product or service. As such, the impact of design has been limited compared to its potential if incorporated within a program from end to end.
In 2017, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and USAID convened roughly 50 global health experts, implementers, and designers to critically reflect on the current application of design in global health. Together, this group co-created a vision to amplify impact in global health by increasing the understanding, appropriate use, and value of design. They identified seven concrete opportunities to progress toward this shared vision, one of which was to build a community of practice.
Opportunities to progress toward our vision
1. Defining, Differentiating, and Communication
Define design and tailor the lexicon, principles, behaviors, and frameworks that surround design for global health audiences. Develop clear distinctions between different design expertise typologies, and offer ways to find, identify, and select the most relevant applications of design for the challenge at hand.
2. Adapting and Integrating Practice
Improve design approaches, particularly for better integration with other disciplines, and understand the use cases for design in global health.
3. Preserving Integrity and Quality
Ensure the integrity and quality of design and research practices and understand that cross-disciplinary integration does not mean dilution
4. Sharing and Learning
Build a community of practice that integrates design into global health projects and openly shares experiences and transfers learnings.
5. Training and Education
Expand design capacity through educational activities that improve design awareness, design fluency, and design practice in communities where the need is greatest.
6. Data and Evidence
Define a set of principles for how to collect a body of evidence and outline how the data and results of an effective design process can contribute to health outcomes.
7. Structuring, Contracting, and Funding
Assess the varying drivers of design costs and recommend improvements to the way projects are funded, structured, and sequenced so that stakeholders can be more receptive to approaches like design.
Through a series of workshops and interviews with experts, over the past six months, we developed a roadmap of near-, medium-, and long-term activities and commitments across seven opportunities. Together, these activities and commitments will help accomplish our collective vision of advancing understanding, appropriate use, and value of design as an approach to help global health practitioners achieve even greater impact.
The roadmap is divided into three phases:
- Establish an understanding and overall framework for the different roles of design in global health.
- Lay the foundation for this by providing resources that can help communicate the value of design and provide practitioners guidance on their path toward using design in their work.
- This website and the resources that it houses reflect progress in many of our near-term commitments and activities.
- Demonstrate and amplify the effectiveness and relevance of design in global health by encouraging partnerships and creating new investment opportunities.
- Refine and expand resources to: support practitioners along their path toward using design within their work; disseminate learnings; support local markets in developing the next generation of designers; and establish how to measure the effective use of design.
- Cultivate and grow a community of practice with global health practitioners committed to mainstreaming the effective use of design as an approach for achieving global health goals.
- Establish the design mindset, skillset, and process as a norm within global health, one that is mainstreamed and self-sustaining.
Below is the roadmap articulating the commitments and activities across three phases. For commitments and activities in phase one, we’ve linked to resources housed in this website.
If you have ideas of other commitments and activities, or wish to be involved in this growing community, please reach out and let us know.
Design's relevance and value is understood holistically and adopted into the vernacular (or everyday conversations and decisions) of the global health community.
The design community forms a united front on the values of design and communicates this clearly and cohesively (without necessarily homogenizing design practice and integrity).
Design is integrated into the working practices and culture of the global health community.
The design community is informed, flexible, and willing to adapt its approach to practically fit with existing approaches/structures in global health. The global health community also understands how design can add value and invites designers to work hand in hand toward better health outcomes.
Design is practiced and implemented with the highest levels of integrity and quality by the global health community, and clarity is offered about what results to expect within the context that design is applied.
The global health and design community has a clear understanding of design as a skill set, mindset, and process.
There is a vibrant and active community of practice that shares learnings openly, collaborates to advance those learnings, and inspires others to engage.
Design capability is incorporated within global health courses at universities and training institutes, as well as embedded in national health workforces.
Design training is adapted and contextualized for different country contexts and audiences.
Design is seen as a credible and impactful approach with a strong track record of success.
Enabling governance structures are in place that support changes to contracting and funding rules to maximize the impact of design.