Our process and audience

We are a global group of funders, implementers, and designers committed to the shared vision of design as an approach for achieving global health goals.

For global health practitioners, including funders and implementers, we hope to provide resources and guidance that increase the understanding, appropriate use, and value of design as a complementary approach to addressing the challenges we all encounter in our work.

For the design community, our aim is to better communicate design’s value within the global health community, to clarify how design can integrate into global health programming, to attract the best talent, and to support their engagement in global health.

For the global community, we strive to listen to the people we seek to impact and include them as participants in the design and implementation of holistic and measurable global health interventions.


What was our process?


We used the design process on ourselves by interviewing and co-creating resources with a representative cross-section of the global health community,  who have encountered design in their work.

Through our research into how we might best provide the support global health practitioners need, on their path towards the effective adoption and use of design, four key considerations emerged:

(1) Global health practitioners seek clarity about  what design is, and how it differs and complements other approaches;

(2) they call for a vision of  how design can address global health challenges,

(3) they require practical resources that illustrate how they can get the most out of design in their work; and

(4) they want a roadmap of activities and commitments to strengthen the impact of design and advance our shared vision for global health.to strengthen the impact of design and advance our shared vision for global health.

diagrams_Updated by PM_17 June (1)-02.png

Who are these resources for?


Global health practitioners’ path toward effectively adopting and using design

These profiles are not static. Rather, they represent different stages people may experience as they embark on a path toward adopting and using design in their work. We explored each profile’s needs, feelings, and fears about using design, within their work, to identify key opportunities to support global health practitioners in the application of design within their work.


We then developed an initial set of  resources to support global health practitioners along their design path. View Getting the Most Out of Design to learn how these resources map to the key questions and needs at each stage. To see some of these concerns answered you can view the Conversation Guide. 


The Newbie

I am getting a little tired of hearing about design because it is never really clear, especially when designers talk about it as a way to change our thinking processes."

"The struggle we had was that the design person speaking didn’t understand the technical topic area."
"Don’t start with the assumption that people know what design in programs, policies, services, etc. means. It doesn’t tell me very much. You need to illustrate through examples."

"It seems risky. The design process requires people to fully invest in all the steps in the process without being sure of the outcome."
"The designers’ language was very rigid.It was like they were selling products, rather than facilitating our ability to think differently and to actually solve a problem."

"Do you really expect us to give you months to understand the context? That is really going to set us back, timewise!"
"Designing a specific product by observing only a few people is not a proper process."
"Until I see hard numbers and facts about its impact, I cannot even start talking about design."

The Curious

"My interest in design stems from hearing about examples in which design changed a product to increase adoption and lead to direct health outcomes."

"Some of the language used was a bit hard to get my head around."
"It would be good to understand the different cases for how design is useful."

"I understand design for a product, but it is tricker when you think of design for more complex system problems."
"We couldn’t find the right partner to do this facilitation."

"I was not able to understand the proposal – I had to read it again and again." 

"I feel scared as a buyer. So much has to do with buying-in to a designer's personality: I don’t want an annoying person who is preaching design and not listening to what I need."
"It’s really difficult to create the budget in a very detailed work plan if you won’t know what your intervention is going to be for months."
"I need tools that are real, practical and specific and that can support me when I talk about design with others."

"I had difficulty articulating the end result of the design process to other stakeholders – especially when they already had a clear idea about what output they wanted."

The Trialist

"I don’t see the difference between design and other participatory learning methods."
"I don’t know who are the right partnersthe right partners to bring in for design projects."

"I want to learn how to ask the right questions so I can scope a design project more strategically."
"What can I drop or add to the design process, based on my time and budget constraints, without compromising the value of design? "

"How can I be more flexible with my approach to design?"
"How do I know who from my project team should be involved in the design process? We need to pair designers with senior technical experts. However, junior staff might be more open to the design process."
"I don’t like when buzzwords and stories are used as communication strategies in design. I actually want to communicate my experiences more meaningfully with greater emphasis on rigor."

The Believer

"I heard that design puts the user at the center of our decision making. It speaks to me because it challenges the way I assume people consume information and use the products we create."

"I understand the power of design, especially its capacity to bridge experts with different languages and perspectives by focusing on the use case and the user. "
"Design offers a process end-to-end on how to ask questions, prioritise them, action them, and answer them."

"We need design to be positive and complementary, rather than critical or threatening, or replacing."
"I can assure you that PowerPoint presentations are a useless way to train someone about design."

"People are trained to work in a system and respect that system. Design helps people think outside of the box, and they need to be allowed to work in that way."
"We need design to be positive and complementary rather than critical, threatening, or replacing."

"Working in design requires more than knowledge, it requires a heart, a mindset, and a skill set."
"From my own experience, I know design is unique. It is very special, but I am not able to talk about it concretely."

"I need tools that communicate what design can do and help others make decisions about design."

The Pioneer

"It's important to have stories from health practitioners and implementers, instead of just the designers. Their perspectives are more credible for the community."
"There is a risk to conducting workshops to convince people of design’s value – this is cyclical, tokenistic, and undermines the integrity of the practice."

"Design, as a capability, can unlock untapped, workforce potential. Design, as tactical tool, can help make the thing right through precise project interventions. Design, as a strategic tool, can improve the effectiveness of programs by influencing what is the right thing to design in the first place!"
" The most important thing is to establish trust and build an environment where we can learn together."
"The label HCD is ascribed to things that are not design. You see people observe for half an hour in Kibera, read the IDEO toolkit, and call themselves a designer. I present design as a non-trained designer, but we need to convey that, though everyone can appreciate design, it is a practice that requires expertise. It is a craft."
"It's very difficult for others to consider design if they don't experience it themselves."

"Right now, design is still faith based. We need to be articulating the process better, executing that process, and circling back with evidence on what we articulated. "