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When Will Design Get Serious About Impact?

By Tara Newton, Communications Associate, BID Initiative

Dec 22, 2014

Posted in ,

A recent article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review discusses the increasing importance of Human Centered Design (HCD) in the public sector as well as international development. On the heels of our BID Learning Network Design Collaborative meeting, we couldn’t agree more.

Last year, Melinda Gates visited IDEO.org and emphasized HCD as a top innovation for impact on people’s lives: “When you let people participate in the design process, you find that they often have ingenious ideas about what would really help them. And it’s not a onetime thing; it’s an iterative process.”

The article stresses the necessity of working with communities to design solutions that fit their needs and unique situations; otherwise, no matter how good the design is, the likelihood of success and sustainability is slim. These ideas are at the core of the BID Initiative and vital to our success and scalability. We purposefully partner and engage our Demonstration and Design countries through the BID Learning Network and learn from our Discussion countries via our Google Group and other channels. But we don’t stop there. We also formed User Advisory Groups in both Tanzania and Zambia consisting of health officials from all levels of the health system to ensure the solutions we develop and implement are sustained by the people who use them.

To achieve impact at scale, the author further emphasizes building upon proven models and resisting the urge for reinvention. The BID Initiative was not designed with a predefined set of solutions either. Instead, we are listening to partners and leveraging proven interventions to test and iterate on potential solutions for improved immunization service delivery.

At our recent Design Collaborative meeting, we reviewed the enterprise architecture of a national electronic immunization registry and visited local health facilities to understand how the business process works. Bringing together experiences from participants from nine sub-Saharan African countries for these exercises allowed our team to collaboratively work through the process of identifying information system needs, assessing options, and making decisions that culminate in strong software procurement practices and decisions. We also garnered feedback on common requirements for an electronic immunization system and the country specific gaps between requirements and existing product functionality. These meetings are essential to our success in designing solutions that are not only affordable, relevant and scalable, but that will provide a lasting impact.

The article closes with an emphasis on an integrated approach where design is complementary to conventional methods instead of separate. With the BID Initiative, we understand and experience firsthand the importance of involving end users from the start and we commend others who take a similar approach.

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