David’s Story: Designing with an Open Mind

This interview was originally published on HCD Exchange’s blog as part of their Fellowship Reflections series.

David Mireri is a 2021 fellow with PS Kenya/Adolescents360. He is a multidisciplinary designer who has diverse experience working as a freelancer and within startups. David believes in gaining experience across different domains because he believes that there is no direct path to opportunity. David credits his varied work experience for helping him become an agile, creative free thinker who can move between nonlinear careers and add value no matter the environment or situation.

David’s work as a designer has ranged from working with entrepreneurs and start-ups to facilitating market access for farmers. He is excited to be recognised as a talented and creative leader through the HCDExchange Fellowship, and is ready to apply his skills in human-centred design to solve problems for the HCD+ASRH field.

In our previous learning and reflection session, you spoke about your journey to becoming a human-centred designer. Could you build on that and speak about what attracted you to HCD in particular?

I have a background in economics, and there was this part of economics called behavioural economics, which actually is what attracted me to the aspect of trying to understand human behaviour. Immediately after college, I went into customer management and service, whereby you interact with the customer to understand them properly before you can recommend a product for them. I was in the banking industry when I tried to get a deeper understanding of how to approach these particular aspects of customer service and that really is how I landed in this field called human-centred design. My first contact with HCD, or rather my way in was through interface design and user experience design. When I started out it was all about user interfaces between computers and people but as I got deeper, it really became about how that particular user interface or aspects of it can change behaviour. That’s when I reached human-centred design, I would say. For me, it relates to the design of interventions that are centered around the needs of the people being designed for but for behaviour change. I was always interested in trying to understand human behaviour and how we can create solutions in line with an understanding of the people we are designing for.

What do you think is the biggest value addition of human-centred design?

I think it gives you the opportunity to have a deeper understanding and reflection of the target audience. So through research and the synthesis of the insights you’ve gathered, along with your own reflection based on the understanding of the target audience you can identify the design opportunities that really resonate with them. This process really brings out the magic of how the solution you come up with, can really resonate well with the target audience.

Currently, where are you in the A360 Kenya project?

As I had mentioned earlier, we have come all the way from project planning, insight gathering, synthesis of the insights we obtained, and then we developed early prototypes of what the intervention would look like. Thereafter we got into live prototyping, and that is really where we are right now in the process. We are about to complete the live prototyping stage. It was an eight week process. We are currently in the sixth week about to finalise the prototypes.

In our last conversation, you had gone into the field with concept cards and those concepts had come out of  some ideas that A360 programs had in other regions? In terms of Kenya, what are some differences that you’re seeing in insights that are now informing your prototype?

In our planning phase, we reflected on the interventions done by other countries, and that’s when we obtained the concept cards from those countries. We tested those concepts with our target audience and gathered insights on whether they were resonating with these concepts. We also tested with the influencers and enablers in the environment like their husbands and their mothers to see if they are resonating with the concepts.  This was really the act of borrowing an idea that had been tested earlier and trying to see how we can contextualise it. At A360 we call it prototyping forward or replication. It’s not actually going back to the point where you’re coming up with the solution from scratch, but it is actually like layering onto what has been proven to work previously and trying to see how you can contextualise it in your current situation. However, alongside taking insights and ideas from previous interventions, we also tried to see what other new ideas could be added, and what can be modified so that it brings better results and can improve the outcome. In this scenario that is the role of HCD – To basically improve the outcome of a process.

Now moving on to the Kenya related differences – We identified that like the initial projects we too were looking at a target audience of 15 to 19 years. One of the studies we did was landscape mapping, where we tried to identify from the different countries which context related to the Kenyan demographic spread. Kenya has a variety of cultures; when you look at the coastal region, it relates to the Tanzanian intervention because they are the Swahili speaking people. When you look at the western region, we saw that the people there have a very similar cultural orientation to the people in Nigeria. When you look at the people who are in the southern part of Kenya, we see that they are also pastoralists, and have a similar cultural orientation with people in Ethiopia. So you see, Kenya has that diversity, and so we were trying to see which intervention relates to which particular cultural context. So that’s really how we borrowed from Nigeria, Tanzania, and Ethiopia so that we can see how to contextualise those ideas to our context further.

Outside of the three distinct regions in Kenya that I have identified there are further splits. There are economic considerations, there are the rural and urban segments who have totally different priorities. All of that brings another complexity to the design process when narrowing down to a particular type of target audience. Sometimes you find uniformity on how the archetype relates to the Binti Shupavu intervention, while in other cases the complexity of the archetype keeps growing in diversity. For example, when you target the single girl with child in the urban area, girls with similar archetype in all urban areas tend to relate, but priorities for girls in rural areas are of different orientation in every region.

How have these insights been used in creating prototypes? Are the prototypes different for the different profiles you’ve identified based on region?

The HCD process enables us to identify four archetypes. These were – the married adolescent with child, the single adolescent with child, the single adolescent without child in urban areas, and the single adolescent without child in rural areas. We customized our approach based on these archetypes.

For instance, it was proven that the different archetypes related to specific solutions differently. This was very key to allow customization of parts of the interventions that relate to our specific target audience. The concept targeting the married adolescent girl aligned with the rural and pastoralist context and while concepts targeting the single girl with child were found to fit well with the urban & peri-urban context. We had to modify it to fit.

Another example is that, when we went to the pastoralist community, we had to do some form of community buy-in before we could engage the adolescent girls because they are quite protected in these kinds of communities.

In summary, we obtained insights that enabled us to identify particular characteristics of the archetypes and customize the intervention based on the environmental factors, the girls aspirations and the challenges they face, etc.

Can you tell me a tool or a technique that you found particularly useful when doing synthesis and ideation?

During the synthesis phase, we mostly used the virtual boards on the Miro platform. We used google documents to share documents between different partners. When having a global share out between Kenya and the other countries we would share the document via Google Drive links.

During the prototyping phases we used a particular data capture tool called Kobo, where we could register the participants, and obtain their demographic data e.g. whether they’re married, whether they have a cell phone, whether they have kids – all that data could be captured on this particular data capture tool. With the help of that, we were able to obtain even more insights on the target segment of our solutions. For example, despite targeting the adolescent-girl-with-child in some of our sites, we were able to capture data indicating that most of the girls who attended our sessions were adolescent-girl-without-child. They were the ones doing peer-to-peer mobilisation and actively participated in all the skills training sessions. Other data revealed that single-girls-with-child were the ones who are interested in extensive skill building sessions and willing to stay in the program for longer periods. This kind of quantitative data was obtained from the tool we were using and is very informative in lighting the path taken by the A360 intervention. On top of that, we also inform our targeting & decision making process by analyzing data obtained from the DHIS, facilitated by the Ministry of Health.

In terms of processes, are there any that you thought were very useful?

I think it’s that part of M&E. I used to wonder how measurement and evaluation can be integrated into the HCD process, and when this data capture tool came in, I saw how the measurement tools and evaluation of the data obtained can be used throughout the HCD process. The process is still ongoing and I am learning more about that. As the program proceeds to the early implementation phases you can already see the data obtained from the monitoring and evaluation tools is really changing our approach and our focus. The A360 program keeps customizing its approach based on such kind of emerging data, as I had shared earlier.

Outside of the Kobo tool which collects quantitative data, we also have a process for capturing qualitative data involving weekly debrief workshops, where we download all the insights of the activities we’ve done throughout the week. This we normally hold at the end of the week on a Friday. We all meet together from the five different clusters. Then we have this session, which is normally two hours long. People from each cluster share insights, observations, challenges, and any new approaches that they’ve used, including the tweaks they have made in the process. For these particular download debrief sessions we have, we normally capture that on Google worksheets. We call them download capture sheets, and for later reference I ensure all online sessions are recorded so that anybody who wants to refer back to them can instantly do so.

The qualitative data from our debriefs and the Kobo quantitative data inform the program’s decision making process and provide a point of reference whenever there is need to justify a change in approach. We don’t want to just change an approach based on nothing. It has to be an evidence based approach.

So, you get all of this data and you decide to change an approach – are you able to then measure the new approach against the old one?

Yes! I have actually seen the impact of this. For example, data obtained in one of the clusters whose objective was to target the married girl within the 15 to 19 age bracket, indicated that a considerable number of attendants were beyond the targeted age bracket. This informed the county team to sensitize mobilizers better and develop a different kind of mobilization tool to be used when doing mobilization in order to improve their targeting efforts & outcomes. And I can testify that a significant change was noted thereafter. So you can see, the data actually really helps the program course correct as it carries out HCD related activities.

At A360, the learning phase includes everything from the insight phase to the pilot right?

Yes, all these phases provide an opportunity for the A360 program to obtain more learnings. For example, the upcoming client exit interview will help us reflect upon the ongoing live prototyping activities.

So what is the learning agenda for the phase that you’re currently in?

With this live prototyping phase the A360 program is testing the intervention concepts in the real-world scenario. We are hoping to get pointers on several indicators that will inform the early implementation phase. For example, getting to know the budget requirements to effectively run a particular intervention in one site and other aspects such as the capacity of a facility to handle the A360 intervention along with just serving the regular clients who come in. We target adolescents and want to give them a safe space but the facilities are still handling the general public. Some facilities are big, some are small, some facilities have enough service providers and some don’t, they’ve all got different constraints to deal with. And so we have to document those challenges, get learnings that will allow the program to understand how viable, desirable and sustainable this project is. As much as A360 initiated the process, the objective is to have a sustainability model which will allow integration and hand over to the local government for it to run within the public health program. For instance, part of the strategy is to enable the public health personnel linked to a facility to handle data capture, take over the training sessions and run with all other activities of the A360 Program. In the live prototyping stage we are doing this at a small scale, so that when we go to the early implementation phase, which is on a larger scale, we will have had some significant learning to incorporate.

Who makes the decisions on the learning agenda for different phases? 

I can say the learning agenda at A360 is a collaborative effort that is handled both by the program operations team and by the monitoring and evaluation team. For example, suggestions that come from the program operations team that could lead to any significant programmatic changes are taken up by the M&E team and translated into indicators that tend to be very significant in forming a basis for evaluating progress and establishing programmatic milestones

What are some of the challenges that have come up for the project?

My biggest challenge is in terms of the activities that are running in different clusters concurrently. For example, right now I am supporting one of the clusters intensively, but I’m still facilitating the download sessions and gathering insights of all the other 5 clusters. As much as that is happening, I find that other clusters tend to lag behind in terms of the HCD support, because I cannot be in all the five clusters at one time. So for those debrief meetings on Friday, I ask that they find time to put some of their insights down before we meet. But you see, because there are so many activities the teams tend to get overwhelmed. So when they reach the meeting, some teams are unprepared and may have forgotten the activities that they did during the early part of the week.

Whenever somebody has any kind of challenge like understanding the playbook and understanding the process they can reach out to me in terms of HCD support. Capacity building was good enough with IDEO but for persons who don’t have a HCD background, like the process or even the relevance of doing some of the things we do, they tend to overlook or maybe put aside aspect of the HCD process with the assumption that may not be important and that’s where the gap is.

How has A360 involved young designers in this process?

The program has young innovation champions (YICs). They have been very crucial for our program. The major contribution we’ve observed is the shift in how the girls relate to our program when they notice there is a youthful person approaching them and representing our program. They really resonate with that. Our young innovation champions are really able to synchronise with the girls during the program activities, to the extent that because our program is called Binti Shupavu, they’ve even nick-named them as “Binti Shupavu ” whenever they meet. The greetings go like  – “Hi there Binti Shupavu, how are you doing?’. The  program has witnessed an outcome of huge mobilisation numbers from the particular areas where we have YICs. The other aspect which I can highlight is that the targeted adolescent girls tend to stick with the program through the whole process when the engagement is initiated through a peer to peer approach. We have seen a very huge relevance of having young persons in the program and looking forward to growing the number of youthful members in our team as well as.

How is HCD involved in empowering these youth innovation champions to do what they have to do?

The YICs have been  involved in significant training sessions in order to build their capacity to carry out the HCD related activities. This is informed by our overall Meaningful Youth Engagement Strategy at A360. Other facilitation considerations have also been put in place to enable them carry out their tasks autonomously. For example, the capacity to use the capture sheet to package information & relaying it in the desired format after carrying out field related activities.

What’s next for the project?

We are moving to the early implementation phase where we expect to engage more facilities. For example, in one of the sites, we are having only four facilities at the moment. In the next phase we are expecting the number to go up to 20 or even 40.

At this stage, is it also okay to change the approach completely?

The learnings obtained are significant to cause change and some of it will lead us to reorganise how we roll-out the intervention. For example, we have considered intensifying the community buy-in activities in all clusters across the board before we initiate the program activities because it actually creates much better traffic towards the activities, and also creates a supporting environment.

What have been your most significant moments in this project as a human-centred designer?

The holistic approach of HCD is very important, and has enabled the program to incorporate other relevant components into the project. For example, as much as this intervention is very targeted to the adolescent girls aged between 15-19 years, we had to consider factors like gender inclusiveness, relevance of a digital approach, integrating economic empowerment, the sustainability model review in collaboration with MOH, etc. All those components had to be considered as we moved along the HCD process. Initially in terms of landscape mapping, I was thinking in some sense of facilities and resources that are on the ground. Like – How many health centres are there? Are there many service providers available? Are they trained to be user friendly? But now I’ve realised there are other components to the project that one has to consider. So when you’re doing these HCD processes, it’s important to factor all these other components as you go along.

How has your mindset shifted? 

I have been able to interact with other experts from other fields of knowledge and geographies. Initially, all I had was a localized view but after talking with the Tanzanians, the Ethiopians and Nigerians, during our global share sessions, I have been able to obtain a better understanding of the diversity that is in the youth fraternity. As much as the A360 program is targeting adolescents of a particular age group, which is 15 to 19, as a whole, the context of this age group is very diverse. There is no homogeneity across the board, across the regions, and across the countries.

What is next for you post fellowship?

Post the fellowship I look forward to offering technical advice and support supervision to ASRH related programmatic interventions. The level of proficiency attained can be rationally considered as that of an Expert who can be able to advance learning, evidence, and practices at the intersection Adolescent & Youth sexual and reproductive health (AYSRH), adolescent developmental science, cultural anthropology, social marketing and human-centred design (HCD) to develop programmatic SBCC approaches that recognizes the diversity of youth, ages 15-19 years, and the need for deeper reflection on who adolescents are and the life experiences that often define them.

If you had to give any advice to emerging HCD facilitators and/or designers in the SRH field, what would it be? 

I would say they should just get involved in the process with a very open mind. Your ability to listen and be patient as you learn is the golden goose for you.

“Keep learning and be the best listener you can be”

Learn More: 
  • Twitter: @the_designspirator
  • LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/david-mireri/

This story is copyright to David M. Ongiri and published on the HCDExchange website under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.

​​​​This interview was conducted by Rimjhim Surana, HCD Specialist, HCDExchange in September 2021

Leave Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.