Human-Centred Design Basics in AYSRH Research

July 6, 2022

What makes HCD different from other participatory approaches? 

What HCD tools should we use in our program?

What does an HCD approach or method look like?

How can an HCD approach help us address research challenges in AYSRH programming?

These questions have come up many times in our learning work and from community members. To address these, HCDExchange hosted a practical workshop to help new and curious practitioners to understand the basics of human-centered design (HCD) in the context of Adolescent and Youth Sexual and Reproductive Health (AYSRH) research. The workshop focused on HCD tools and methods to help provide an understanding into how design thinking adds complementary nuance and value to AYSRH research. The interactive workshop was led by Sanjukta Das, a Creative Lead, Dalberg Design from Mumbai. 

Specifically, this workshop looked at the “what” i.e. the HCD methods and tools to deepen and complement the research phase of an AYSRH project. Given the sensitive and personal nature of AYSRH work, there are specific tools and methods that can be used to build a safe and empathetic environment to make it easier for youth and adolescents to open up.  With HCD there is no right and wrong, however, there are some techniques and tools that suit some audiences and age groups best.

We have outlined some of the key learning highlights for you. These cover the contextual and behavioral nuances to the various HCD tools, and we hope will create shifts in how you approach AYSRH research 

To open the session Sanjukta invited participants to share some of the challenges faced during AYSRH research. Some of these challenges highlighted during this workshop include: 

  1. Opening discussion on sexual health in front of the interviewer’s family members.
  2. Adolescents not being willing to access AYSRH services due to providers’ bias.
  3. Conducting research with young people in a way that is not only beneficial to the researcher, but also meaningful to young people themselves.

Some of the principles for HCD research in adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health (AYSRH) that help to overcome these challenges include: 

  • Make the unsayable visible or tangible:  This can be achieved through the use of ecosystem mapping, role playing and SRH gallery.  
  • Create positive and judgement-free spaces: WhatsApp community groups and girl talk events free of stigma and shame can enable program designers to collect insights. 
  • Cultivate trust through multiple touch points by using the same questions but basing it on different contexts. 
  • Share tools & build capacity in local teams, a good example is issuing HCD certificates.  
  • Build empathy through experience: Indulge in personal trials or visit the pharmacy anonymously in order to understand a lived experience. 
  • Navigate ethics everyday: Determine the common challenges, refer to social services and reference ethics ‘go / no-go.’ How you navigate ethics is an everyday challenge, someone mentioned how to get consent for under 18. What are the non-negotiables? What happens when someone brings up a very difficult mental health situation during a session and you’re not equipped to deal with it? 
  • Consent: Consent is not a one time process but a multiple time process. Consider who gets consent, when to get consent in the research process, how to get consent, physical space, preparing people about experience and explaining how their inputs are useful.

HCD tools and methods can offer insights into why people behave the way they behave. Why don’t they open up? Are they just giving the responses they think you want to hear? As Sanjukta Das notes, “Process is not always important but the miniscule learning is quite important.” 

Here are some examples of tools that can be effective during AYSRH research: 

Card sorting: A card sort is a quick and easy activity by which you can gather feedback from someone about what matters most to them. The visual clues help to slowly draw out stories around key issues. Participants are provided a deck of cards, each with a word or single image, that they can rank in order of preference. This can spur deeper conversations around the participants’ values, priorities, and tradeoffs. Designers use this method as one way to co-design with users. Card sorting can be particularly effective in revealing users’ mental models and decision-making processes related to their day-to-day experiences and how this affects their SRH choices.

Role playing:  Elicits stories, mental models and opinions through scenario prompts. This is an effective tool to help tap into context, creates humor and laughter and can contribute to a safe environment as you allow young people to speak in their own language. There are two approaches to role playing we discussed, acting it out and using comic strips:

Act it out: This method creates a scenario activity for the participants to understand how a solution fits into their world. For example, while designing the Dapivirine Ring, Dalberg Design used a scenario-based activity to understand how the ring might fit into the messy world of sexual reproductive health decisions and interactions. 

As a researcher, how do you manage the role plays when they get out of context? “It’s important and okay for role play to go out of context. As a researcher, it’s important that you recognize dynamics. You will uncover insights, and the in-between nuances you uncover could be highly relevant to help unpack what’s going on.”

Comic strips simplify and lighten conversation around sexual reproductive health (SRH). This tool is efficient for talking about AYSRH scenarios in various contexts. Check out these examples

Safe spaces involve intentionally creating a judgement- and stigma-free environment for participants to freely express themselves. This can be used to understand sources of information for young couples, decision making process, influences on AYSRH perceptions, financial decision-making, and gender roles. Proper consent is an important part of this approach. Here is a sample consent form that Dalberg uses.  

Using HCD approaches in research can help to uncover hidden insights and put programmers into the minds and lives of the young people they are serving. We hope it inspires you to test these tools in your work. You can get started using this canvas! (French version here)

For more information:

To access the full recording of this session,  click here.

To access the session’s presentation, click here.

To access the resources Sanjukta shared during the presentation click here.

To ask follow up questions and share related information and articles go to the event page on our Community Learning Forum.

If you found this session useful and would like to join us for future sessions, please consider joining the HCDExchange Community. Sign up here.

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