Webinar summary: What you should know about Human-Centered Design (HCD) Insights in ASRH

June 2, 2022

The possibility that the HCD process is deliberately built in a way that insights can clearly inform solution ideas and components so that they are as human-centered as possible may actually be one of HCD’s key-value additions in ASRH.” – Anne LaFond, HCDExchange Senior Advisor

The May 31 Learning event explored how to define ‘insights’ and demonstrate the ways in which insights generated through HCD can add value to Adolescent and Sexual Reproductive Health (ARSH) programming. The speakers also looked at HCD approaches and mindsets, and showcased case studies which have leveraged the power of insights. Finally, the HCDExchange launched two new reports on adolescent insights to advance knowledge in the sector. 

Key takeaways

Defining insights by Tracy Johnson, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

An insight is a new understanding that clarifies decisions, actions, and ways forward.

Insights arise from reframing;

  • Insight formation involves studying a situation from multiple (interdisciplinary) perspectives and weaving together information to arrive at an understanding of what’s at the core of a situation.
  • Insight presentation invokes storytelling through multiple kinds of data to present the evidence in a way that manifests the insight. These may not be radically new but they do involve reframing the situation.
  • Insight activation embeds the new understanding into strategy, clarifying decisions and actions.  
An insight … An insight is not …
Identifies a root cause or an underlying finding Raw data
Sees a larger pattern or correlation; aligns perspectives Observation
Tells a compelling story, elevating people’s voices A customer statement
Points to action to solve a real problem A feature 


HCD approaches place value and emphasis on the process that centers on the needs, perspectives, and experiences of people when developing solutions to complex challenges. It brings in the entire context of a users’ life and what it will take for them to live the way they desire, and in a way that allows them to enjoy their sexual and reproductive health and rights. How insights are generated and used in the HCD process plays a huge role in making that happen.” – Muthoni Wachira, Project Director, HCDExchange 

Insights that add value to the overall design process by Mary Phillips, Public Health Consultant

The Adolescents 360 project in Ethiopia used specific steps to help guide them in generating and gaining meaningful and authentic insights. Mary shared the six steps to help “not getting lost along the way”:

  • Define the question: Have your question(s) clearly articulated for the whole research team. 
  • Conduct rapid desk research: Read articles and interview experts to “learn” things that are already well known in the community.   
  • Identify what you want to ask the consumer directly: The questions should be geared at understanding how consumers experience the problem, or what they think the solution is. 
  • Create tools + interview guides:  Adapt interview tools to suit your needs or brainstorm new ones.
  • Conduct your interviews: Try to anticipate and correct for any bias in your sampling. You can also create two interview teams with at least two interviewers.
  • Synthesize and define insights: IDEO.org has a great process which includes; taking out sticky notes (increasingly virtual ones, as they save better), writing what stood out to you in the interviews, what surprised you, what was important and what was new. After this, group the sticky notes according to themes. 

HCD mindsets by Meru Vashisht, Design Strategist, TinkerLabs

“HCD mindsets are more about letting go than about acquiring. Let go of your judgements to empathize, let go of your ego to iterate and let go of your hesitation to make. Once you’ve done that, you will find yourself creating actionable insights that lead to desirable and useful solutions.” Meru Vashisht, Design Strategist, TinkerLabs

  • Empathy: HCD-led research goes a step further from learning what users do, think or feel. It understands why people do what they do and why they feel what they feel. 
  • Iteration:  The value that HCD research adds is that instead of simply proving the hypothesis right or wrong, we iterate on the go. 
  • Act of making: An HCD approach sometimes calls for making. For example, the initial design for condom packaging that young women could buy discreetly had to be changed a number of times based on feedback from the end user. 

“Insights run hand in hand with the development of a solution,” Muthoni Wachira, Project Director, HCDExchange.

The power of insights in co-creating movements: A case study on #formnigani by Andy Awiti, Lead Creative Strategist, Scope Impact 

Using Scope Impact’s #formnigani project as an example, Andy Awiti, highlighted the powerful impact of using insights by co-creating with and for adolescents and youth. #Formnigani, was borne out of a desire amongst youths in needing contraception but feeling like there was a stifled public discussion, hindered advocacy and limited access to quality contraceptives, and finally that they were neither being understood nor in a position of influence. 

Through consulting and involving youth throughout the development of the project, youth voices were amplified – using pre-existing engagement mechanisms. The results from the #formniganimovement have been tremendous: 

  • 2.81 million USD worth of news media engagement and an estimated cumulative reach of 112.7 million Kenyans across social media and traditional media.
  • In 2019, as a result of increased public participation driven by the campaign, Bungoma County saw its family planning budget increased by 6%. 
  • In 2021, through a collaboration with the Reproductive Health Network of Kenya’s facilities, the #formnigani movement drove a 130% increase in demand for family planning services between October and November.

“The use of insights as a co-creation tool is the foundation of authentic solutions that the communities and stakeholder groups we are working with can buy into,” said Andy.

Report launch: An analysis of the current landscape of HCD generated insights in ASRH programming by Anne LaFond, HCDExchange Senior Advisor

To close off the event, Anne LaFond, HCDExchange Senior Advisor launched two new HCDExchange-produced sector resources examining the current landscape of insights generated through HCD in ASRH programming. 

“Insights are not a one-phase occurrence in the HCD process.” 

Anne highlighted that some of the key findings in the landscape analysis included a noticeable lack of documentation on HCD processes as well as those available in the public domain. 

Documenting in a way that is understandable to all practitioners in the field requires streamlined terminology and definitions for HCD methods, mindsets and processes. Aligning on these will help us share knowledge with each other.


  • Rimjhim Surana, HCD Consultant, HCDExchange, Moderator 
  • Muthoni Wachira, Project Director, HCDExchange 
  • Mary Philips, Public Health Consultant
  • Meru Vashist, Design Strategist, TinkerLabs 
  • Andy Awiti, Lead Creative Strategist, Scope Impact 
  • Dr Tracy Johnson, Senior Program Officer, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation  
  • Meru Vashist, Design Strategist, TinkerLabs 

Links to further resources

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