Our Approach

Human centered design was first codified to address private sector business challenges, but we have spent over 10 years applying, adapting, and refining it for the social sector. Our approach blends the structure of human-centered design with the relational nature of community engagement.

  • Framing

  • Research

  • Synthesis

  • Idea Development

  • Prototyping

  • Piloting

  • Framing

    Defining the Project

    In this phase, we:

    • Name goals for project impact
    • Surface biases, assumptions and theories about root causes and possible solutions
    • Conduct learning conversations and background research
    • Identify and engage key collaborators and stakeholders
    • Define inclusion and diversity criteria for project participants
  • Research

    Learning from People

    In this phase, we:

    • Conduct outreach alongside community partners to recruit people to learn from
    • Develop accessible engagement methods, such as in-context or remote interviews, small group conversations, observations, and creative exercises
    • Create the conditions for safe and honest sharing of experiences, needs and aspirations
    • Take video, photos, or notes, with consent of the individual
  • Synthesis

    Making Meaning

    In this phase, we:

    • Fill walls or virtual whiteboards with photos, quotes, and stories
    • Organize data by themes, or common patterns, across participants
    • Draft insights that explain patterns from a human perspective
    • Write and visualize the most significant areas of design opportunity
    • Create compelling videos and presentations that inspire ideas and action
  • Idea Development

    Sparking Ideas

    In this phase, we:

    • Create prompts, such as quotes, stories, and “How might we…” questions
    • Design and facilitate brainstorming sessions in a variety of formats to respond to different learning styles, cultural norms and contexts
    • Encourage ideas from a wide range of community members and stakeholders
    • Evaluate concepts in terms of benefits and burdens to all affected parties
    • Develop ideas into larger strategies that drive change
  • Prototyping

    Making and Testing Ideas

    In this phase, we:

    • Visualize key concepts with sketches, storyboards and mock-ups
    • Gather feedback on each idea’s potential impact and path to implementation
    • Improve ideas by working with intended users and collaborators
    • Update and refine ideas until each one is grounded in both human desires and system constraints
    • Create a balanced range of solutions that meet both short-term and long-term needs
  • Piloting

    Moving into Implementation

    In this phase, we:

    • Engage pilot partners and form teams around each concept’s trial run
    • Facilitate pilot planning workshops to map out activities, responsibilities, resource needs and timing
    • Coach pilot teams as they launch, learn and adjust; provide guidance, troubleshooting and accountability support
    • Evaluate and document pilot learnings and impact

Our Services

Design Consulting

We use a human-centered approach to inform the design of many types of concepts:

Programs & Services

Digital & Physical Tools

Visual Identity


Public Policy



We teach and advocate for HCD through many different structures, including:

Training Programs

Coaching Engagements

Workshop Facilitation

Keynotes & Panel Discussions

What’s it like to work with us?

We work in close partnership with clients and communities.

Learn More