Human-Centered Design (HCD) Process

A defining characteristic of the human-centered design process is that it prioritizes talking to and collaborating with the people who are most likely affected by the development of a new intervention or program.

The process aims to better understand an issue from the human perspective, including how it looks and feels to end users and stakeholders and the surrounding environment and context. This understanding then informs the iterative development of concepts designed to address the problem and along with strategies for gathering feedback from individuals and communities along the way. The HCD process is often most visible in the methods used which can include observations, interviews, collaborative workshops, rapid prototyping, and individual and community engagement sessions. Learn more about how we put this process into action on our Featured Projects page.

In the immersion phase, we establish a baseline understanding of the content and dynamics related to a given health issue or user group. Activities include expert interviews, secondary research, landscape and stakeholder analysis, and facilitated sessions to surface the most meaningful insights and hypotheses. We take full advantage of Dalberg’s global foot print (with four offices in Africa and four in Asia) and Global Health Practice to build a baseline understanding of the internal and external context surrounding the program objectives. Key outputs of this phase will often include a landscape analysis, ecosystem or stakeholder map, guiding hypotheses and research plan.


In the research phase, we emphasize deep, participatory engagement through qualitative research methods to understand the lives, needs, expectations, and behavior of different users and stakeholders. We recognize that there is a strong pre-conception that human-centered design focuses solely on end-users, which is not the case. We bring the same research and participatory methods in generating insights related to behavior and decision-making at every level in the health system, from patients to providers to decision-makers at the Ministries of Health. The research phase generally consists of rapid, iterative rounds of research and synthesis to arrive at a set of opportunity areas for concept development. Key outputs of this phase will often include insights reports, user personas, user journeys, behavioral models, and opportunity area definition.

In the concept phase, we translate opportunities into concrete action through the development of a range of short and long-term concepts which target many different layers and actors within the health system. We make heavy use of participatory and collaborative work sessions with both stakeholders and end users to generate and refine concepts. We also leverage rapid prototyping techniques to quickly test and iterate on concepts so that we can ensure a high degree of appeal as well as effectiveness in shifting the desired dynamics and support effective behavior for both patients and providers. Key outputs of this phase will often include concept renderings, low and high fidelity prototypes, and value propositions.


In the strategy phase, we translate the preferred concepts into tangible solutions and recommendations which can take a variety of forms, depending on who we are trying to influence. These outputs bring together a mix of creative and business strategy skills to support different types of decision-making across governments, implementing partners, and the private sector. We generally mix these formal outputs with participatory sessions to co-create and refine product roadmaps, playbooks, service delivery blueprints, business cases, and demand generation activities. This last approach is critical to ensuring proper alignment and ownership at the local and global level. 


USAID’s Center for Accelerating Innovation and Impact (CII) is partnering with Dalberg’s Design Impact Group (DIG) to utilize HCD across the Bureau for Global Health's work. Please see the contact page to explore how you can engage HCD.