Applying Human Centred Design in the New Normal


Those of you who are following us on social media will be aware that we just finished delivering our 2020 Human Centred Design (HCD) training program to 15 talented Zimbabweans.

This year’s training was particularly interesting for several reasons. First, we replaced last year’s “mock design challenge”, which simulated a whole design cycle, with a real challenge and a real client. For the “Start-up Challenge”, as it is now called, we worked with one of our very own Alumni, Sharon Chingwaro, who was part of the 2016 cohort.

We are so proud of how she has developed her business and leadership skills. Without wanting to blow our own horn, during our conversations with her, she attested to how the training back in 2016 changed the way she approached entrepreneurship. We will feature her in future articles on case studies about the different entrepreneurs that have gone through our programs. After the Start-up Challenge, we ran our usual Corporate Hack; this year we worked with Seed Co Limited and the bar & grill chain Pariah State.

Apart from empowering young Zimbabweans with the life changing methodology that is Human Centred Design, we are creating a database of trained HCD researchers in Zimbabwe with the aim of being able to offer them employment and three 2019 HCD training graduates joined this year’s HCD training program as assistant facilitators. This deepened their knowledge of the whole HCD process, exposed them to new challenges, and provided them with an income. A win-win-win situation, if you ask our opinion.

Speaking of facilitators, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and resultant travel restrictions, our core lead HCD facilitators (Alex Alden and Kevin Farr) could not be present during the HCD program. We therefore adapted our program to a blended teaching experience, where Alex & Kevin trained the participants through different virtual platforms and local facilitators guided the participants through the ropes. These travelling bans also affected our participants. Three of our students were based in Bulawayo and instead of not affording them the chance to learn about HCD, we conducted their entire training virtually. This didn’t negatively affect the quality of the training: they received a standing ovation for the final presentation to their corporate client.

We are proud to have delivered the HCD program despite the pandemic and have learned a lot about ourselves in adapting to this new situation. In our view, one thing is certain: the ability to empathise, create and adapt is as important as it has ever been, and Human Centred Design remains the best method to develop that ability.

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