Learning from Clients: Human Centered Design Tools

Published on

February 5, 2016

Dalberg Design's Ravi Chhatpar reflects on the farmer persona human-centered design exercise at the Cape Town Learning from Rural Clients workshop in November 2015, and provides a mini treasure trove of HCD tools and resources, from personas and journeys to ideation and prototyping:

At one point during the Learning from Rural Clients workshop, I listened as 3 participants got into a heated debate over what single word to use to label the farmer sub-segment they were trying to describe during an exercise.

 “Should we call them Rising Entrepreneurs?” “I think Rising Hustlers is better.” “Are you sure about Rising? I think Aspiring Hustlers is more accurate.” “I’m not sure – are they really Rising or are they just dreamers?” “Active or passive is not the point. It’s always both…"

This may seem like a silly semantic argument, but in fact it gets at the heart of what this particular persona exercise was trying to explore. Personas are a powerful tool to bring behavioral nuance and detail to segmentation, but they require generalization based on patterns, which means emphasizing certain needs, motivations or other attributes over others. And in practice the details of personas are not always used, which puts even more importance on labels and other summary information that capture the spirit of the persona. Hence the debates over single words.

HCD exercise
Learning Lab

 As discussed at the workshop, personas are just one of many tools used by human-centered design and innovation practitioners to devise creative solutions for the poor. The many others span the full range of the strategy development process, from aligning stakeholders to understanding end users and beneficiaries, to ideation of new concepts and prototyping of solutions, and finally to planning for release and market impact. Fortunately for all of us, the broader design + innovation + development community has released numerous toolkits, guides and other public resources to help organizations and individuals bring these practices into their own work.

 Here are a few that I like, building on the methods presented at the workshop:


Personas and journeys:


Ideation and prototyping:

About the Author(s)

Ravi Chhatpar
Guest Contributor

Ravi Chhatpar is Co-Founder and Partner of Dalberg’s Design Impact Group (DIG), where he brings human-centered design to Dalberg clients looking for creative approaches to breakthrough innovation in social impact and development.

Ravi speaks regularly on topics related to innovation, growth, and human-centered design at conferences and forums worldwide, teaches at business schools and universities, and has authored publications for the Harvard Business Review and the Design Management Institute, among others. Ravi has an AB in Biology and Economics from Harvard University.

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