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24 FEBRUARY 2012

Design and the Social Sector: An Annotated Bibliography

"Design thinking, user–centered design, service design, transformation design. These practices are not identical but their origin is similar: a definition of design that extends the profession beyond products. The rise of service economies in the developed world contributed to this movement toward design experiences, services and interactions between users and products. The literature about design thinking and contemporary ideas reveals common elements and themes, many of which are borrowed from product design processes. They include abduction, empathy, interdisciplinary teams, co–creation, iteration through prototyping, preservation of complexity and an evolving brief.

The implications of the rise of design thinking are twofold. First, corporate and organizational leaders concerned with innovative prowess are recognizing design thinking as a tool for developing new competitive advantages. Design thinking considers consumers' latent desires and thus has the potential to change markets rather than simply make incremental improvements in the status quo. Second, many organizations have encountered significant barriers to practicing design thinking internally. In some ways, design thinking runs counter to the very structure of a corporation – it is intended to break paradigms, which may mean questioning power relationships, traditions and incentive structure, and it may require a corporation to overhaul its business model and cannibalize its success. Additionally, many corporate leaders treat design thinking in a linear manner, a process that compromises the critical elements of conflict and circularity. In many instances, designers have failed to sufficiently translate and articulate their process, and businesses tend to favor past trends over the promise of new discovery.

With corporations struggling to use design thinking effectively, where does that leave the social sector? The organizational challenges facing corporations do not necessarily transfer to nonprofit organizations: more complex systems, higher stakes for failure, limited resources and intangible evaluation metrics. Designers may be attracted to greater complexity and more wicked problems in the social sector, but they need to be prepared to adapt their process and attitudes to create positive change. Perhaps the most significant adaptation designers need to make is in their role. Where product design connotes a sense of authorship, social design demands that designers be facilitators and educators of their processes. Further, they need to recognize they may not be well equipped to solve problems, but can identify problems and co–create with local leaders and beneficiaries.

The value of co–creation is a predominant theme in the literature surveyed here, particularly for Western designers contributing to foreign communities. Another critical factor is continual presence within projects, or better, a longer–term, sustained involvement. Authors speak of the importance of evaluation and metrics to gauge success, but find many projects lacking, perhaps for the same reasons the social sector as a whole struggles with impact measurement. Scaling, adaptation and replication are buzzwords that pervade the social sector, but are particularly difficult for the product of a design process. Because the process is founded on a deep understanding of a particular user group's needs, the solution for one community likely does not translate directly to another. However, authors suggest that it is the design process that is scalable and should be taught to local leaders. Failed projects support this assertion; benefits flow through the process of a project as well as the end–product, which further advocates for co–creation. Finally, the literature leave us with an unsettling question: Is breakthrough innovation possible in the social sector? Most veterans in this field suggest the answer is no – they recommend that designers start small and introduce incremental change because the complexity of the systems and problems they face will demand it. However, this finding does not negate the potential value of the designer. The social sector needs designers to identify problems, imagine possibilities for a better future and facilitate problem–solving processes."

(Courtney Drake & William Drenttel, Design Observer, 27 October 2011)

TAGS

2012abductive reasoning • adaptation and replication • annotated bibliographybeyond productsbreakthrough innovationbusiness modelchange observerco-creationcomplexity • conflict and circularity • corporate leaders • Courtney Drakedesign disciplinesDesign Observer (magazine)design practicedesign processdesign thinkingdesigners • developed world • empathy • evaluation metrics • evolving brief • experience designimagined possibilities • incentive structures • incremental change • incremental improvements • interdisciplinary teams • iteration through prototyping • new competitive advantages • non-profit professional association • nonprofit organisations • organisational leaders • past trends • positive changeproblem-solvingproduct design • promise of new discovery • questioning power • questioning traditionsservice design • service economies • social designsocial sectortransformation designUCDuser analysisUser-Centred Design (UCD)users and productswicked problemsWilliam Drenttel

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
20 OCTOBER 2011

Design Council: Design methods

"This section explains some design methods and how they are used by designers. We talk you through everything from brainstorming to physical prototyping."

(UK Design Council)

[Their design 'methods' include: Observation, User diaries, Being your users, Brainstorming, Choosing a sample, Quantitative surveys, Fast visualisation, Secondary research, Focus groups, Assessment criteria, Comparing notes, Drivers and hurdles, Customer journey mapping, Character profiles, Scenarios, Role-playing, Service blueprints, Physical prototyping, Phasing, Final testing, Evaluation, Feedback loops, Methods banks.]

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TAGS

eing your users • blueprinting • brainstorming • character profiles • choosing a sample • cluster and vote • comparing notes • customer journey mapping • Design Council (UK)design methoddesign methodologydesign methodsdesign researchdesign team • drivers and hurdles • fast visualisation • focus groups • hopes and fears • innovationmethods for design practicemind mapmind mappingobservationpersonas (UCD) • physical prototyping • project space • prototypingquantitative surveysrole playingscenarios • scribble-say-slap • scribble-say-slap brainstorming • secondary research • UCD • user diaries • workshop toolkit

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
14 APRIL 2011

Scrum and Extreme Programming: User Stories

"User stories are one of the primary development artifacts for Scrum and Extreme Programming (XP) project teams. A user story is a very high–level definition of a requirement, containing just enough information so that the developers can produce a reasonable estimate of the effort to implement it."

(Scott W. Ambler, 2009)

Fig.1 User story card (informal, high level).

Fig.2 User story card (formal, high level).

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CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
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