Community Call Summary: Cultivating and Using Adolescent Insights in HCD & ASRH Programming

June 25, 2021

On June 1, 2021, the HCDExchange held a Community Call on generating and using adolescent insights throughout human-centred design and project processes. This was the second community call held on the subject. You can read about the first one here

We explored the question: how do we consider and align the differences between traditional qualitative insights, and the insights generated through human-centred design, and leverage those within our programming?

Panelists from the HCDExchange Community of Practice 

The conversation was guided by five members of the HCDExchange Community of Practice, who represented designers, implementers, funders, and youth. They were:

Key Takeaways 

Insights generation is not a one step process 

John Maina, shared how in the Almasi Challenge, a HOYMAS collaboration with MAAYGO (Kisumu) and YLabs where they set out to build out personas of Young Men who have Sex with Men (YMSM) aged 15-24, they identified various barriers that could have been contributing to low HIV testing services uptake. When they set out to prototype and conduct interviews they discovered some compelling concerns from YMSM that had never been articulated before in feedback surveys or review meetings. YMSM overwhelmingly preferred HIV Self Test kits but mentioned they needed support over the testing process due to fears that had not been identified earlier. 

As a result of this discovery, they modified a Peer Educator role into one who had sufficient information on HIV Self Testing, pre- and post-counseling as well as good client relations. With this, tools were being created in real-time as they could tweak and discuss what was working on a real time basis. Additionally, field workers could see how their data was translating to insights for the programme. They also started suggesting changes which could be enforced after joint review with design facilitators and programme staff. Normally these sessions only happened in monthly review meetings and there was no pathway for decision making especially when it came to client clinical journeys.

In generating insights it is important that we are able to differentiate between the facts and the root problem.

Isabel Sandoval from ThinkPlace Senegal shared that insight generation is the key to being able to drive a process of co-designing, prototyping, and implementing design solutions that are efficient and relevant to the context you are working with. 

She broke down her example from a project in Mozambique, where her team was trying to understand how to increase the uptake of contraceptive methods amongst adolescent girls through events where SRH methods and consultation would be available.

Here’s the breakdown:

THE FACT: adolescent girls feel judged, afraid they don’t have a go-to person to talk to. Going to a health centre naturally creates a feeling of “paranoia”. There are rarely “safe” spaces where adolescents can get accurate information. But you can’t address the adolescent on their own, they are part of a community, they follow some rules that we need to consider:

 THE INSIGHT: Menstruation, sex and pregnancy are not talked about and are very missunderstood especially in contexts where exposure is reduced. Furthermore, you can’t normalise these types of conversations or messaging in communities where it’s often considered as a lack of respect to talk about such topics. So involving parents made adolescent girls even more comfortable to talk and attend the event.

THE SOLUTION: Creating events with a purpose, where parents invited adolescents to attend. This way, the parents had already given their green light. During the event, they created a journey that had meaning within the tents where the event was taking place. This was a collaboration with Be Girl (to talk in a fun way about the human body), local artists that empowered adolescent girls through natural hair and youth leaders.

THE LEARNING: launching events in a place TO SHARE information is not enough. Information doesn’t always mean action. We need to create a meaning and a background in a safe environment where they don’t feel like it is something bad, and is validated by the community and parents.

How to appropriately include adolescents or young people in the insight generation process

Alex Tyers-Chowdury, the Product Manager for Oky, a period tracking app for adolescent girls and a gender and innovation specialist with UNICEF shared some things that were considered in the Oky design process. Oky was designed based on design research with girls in Mongolia and Indonesia.

They are: 

  • Decide whether to run mixed, gender-balanced or separate design sessions for girls.  In many contexts, girls and boys may not speak freely if members of the opposite sex are present, especially when discussing sensitive topics such as puberty, reproductive or mental health, or violence. In these cases, separate design sessions with just girls and just boys may be best.
  • Work with partners who have established networks and trust with girls. Run a co-creation process with a partner who has experience working with adolescent girls in the context you are working in and can work with a group of girls to help them feel more at ease and more comfortable sharing their views.
  • Choose young female facilitators – Girls may respond better and be more open to sharing their perspectives with other females, especially if closer to their own age.
  • Make everyone feel safe and comfortable. Hold your sessions in a safe and trusted venue where girls feel comfortable. Make sure girls (and their parents) understand that they are in a safe space.
  • Pay attention to safeguarding and risk mitigation. Girls face disproportionate risks to their offline and online safety, such as abusive comments, threats, bullying, stalking, sex trolling, sexual harassment, or exploitation. Gaining insights into how girls understand and navigate online safety and privacy is an essential component of the co-creation process.
  • Pair girls up with digital buddies. Digital buddies are usually older peers with more digital know-how who can support and mentor their younger counterparts throughout the co-creation process.

They’ve actually just published a tool to help people ensure that they co-create with girls as well as boys, highlighting some key things to think about and steps to take, based on our experiences with Oky. You can find it here – please do check it out!


Want to learn more about gathering adolescent insights for ASRH using human-centred design? Here are a few resources: 

Many thanks to our community for participating in this call. If you missed it, you can rewatch it on our Youtube Channel. 

This was the second community call held on the subject of Adolescent Insights. You can read about the first one here

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