Making Human-centered Design Community-centric

Dec 6, 2023

How can we make human-centered design (HCD) community-centric? We hosted a learning circle featuring HCD experts to reflect on the considerations for integrating community-centered design practice into programs. Here’s a 10-point checklist for facilitating a community-centered design process:

  1. Embrace the Value of Community-Centered Design:
    • Acknowledge the significance and benefits of involving the community in the design process, such as how local ownership can lead to long-term adoption of solutions.
  2. Obtain Consent and Respect Confidentiality:
    • Take time and care to ensure that you are obtaining informed consent from your participants — this goes beyond signing consent forms, to explaining the research objective and approaches, and addressing concerns and questions from participants. 
    • Prioritize safety and comfort of the participants, and respect confidentiality when discussing sensitive topics and personal experiences.
  3. Facilitate Ownership:
    • Position the community as the owners of the solutions by ensuring that practitioners are there to facilitate a process, guiding collection problem-solving, rather than imposing a solution.
  4. Embrace Humility:
    • Acknowledge that practitioners do not hold all the expertise.
    • Approach the community to learn rather than to teach.
    • Approach any assignment with the highest level of openness and curiosity – ‘we don’t know anything, we’re here to learn’.
  5. Embrace existing community wisdom:
    • Move away from the savior mentality.
    • Value the insights of the community and view lived experience as expertise.
  6. Let Go of Assumptions:
    • Be open to having your mind changed.
    • Be conscious of any biases and preconceived notions, and how they may affect your practice.
  7. View Users as Experts:
    • Ensure that community members are capacitated to maintain and adapt the solution as needed to fit the evolving context within the community.
  8. Minimize Practitioner Dependency:
    • Aim to make practitioners irrelevant in the long run by empowering the community to implement the design process and sustain solutions.
  9. Ensure Inclusivity:
    • Be mindful of who is being excluded from the process.
    • Intentionally target extreme users on both ends of the normal distribution curve to ensure that the process has a representative and holistic understanding of a community.
    • Take the steps needed to engage marginalized voices and ensure their representation in the process.
  10. Foster Long-Term Relationships:
    • When possible, maintain open channels of communication beyond the project timelines to foster long-term partnerships.
    • Develop strategies and plan time for ongoing collaboration, advocacy, and support.
    • Re-engage funders by emphasizing newly identified community needs and priorities, to build a long-term, holistic long-term approach to funding interventions.

This checklist is only but a starting point for facilitating a community-centered design process. It’s important to adapt it to the specific context and needs of the community you’re working with.