by Aine McGlynn
What is design-thinking and how can it be applied to grant writing and international development work? These are questions that we’re answering this month at White Ribbon as we partner with Dignitas International on a unique grant application from open IDEO.
IDEO’s CEO Tim Brown has long been a pioneer in design-thinking, noting in his 2009 book Change by Design that “design thinking taps into capacities we all have but that are overlooked by more conventional problem-solving practices. It is not only human-centered; it is deeply human in and of itself. Design thinking relies on our ability to be intuitive, to recognize patterns, to construct ideas that have emotional resonance as well as functionality, to express ourselves in media other than words or symbols… The emphasis on fundamental human needs – as distinct from fleeting or artificially manipulated desires (think marketing) – is what drives design thinking to depart from the status quo”.
Design thinking relies on our ability to be intuitive, to recognize patterns, to construct ideas that have emotional resonance as well as functionality, to express ourselves in media other than words or symbols
The design thinking approach of IDEO’s Challenge Grants asked first for ideas to be submitted to the following challenge: How might we provide comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services to girls and women affected by conflict or disaster? Dignitas has amazing Teen Clubs throughout Malawi that support teens in their healthcare needs and their social development at well. White Ribbon has a unique gender-transformative approach to working with young men and boys. So we put our heads together and came up with this idea: Building Healthy Relationships: Supporting HIV+ Adolescents in Malawi. Together Dignitas and White Ribbon think that HIV+ teens should be supported in fostering healthy, safe and nourishing relationships.
And turns out that IDEO likes the idea!
We’re delighted to have been selected to move on to the next phase of the challenge – the Feedback phase. Here, we’ll be asking the Teen Club participants and Club facilitators for some initial feedback on our idea. If we do well in this phase, we’ll be invited to refine our idea based on the feedback we heard from our intended users. It’s exciting to participate in a grant-process that not only builds our organizational capacity to use design-thinking for our beneficiaries, but that also embodies design-thinking as a way to incrementalize the grant-writing process. Too often grant-writing is a secretive, cloak and dagger affair. Kudos to IDEO for open sourcing the exercise, and encouraging transparency and collaboration throughout the process.
As an organization that has always relied on an academic evidence-base to inform program design, this process represents a complementary approach for White Ribbon. It allows us to combine the rigorous work of academics and social scientists, whose research fuels our approach, with user feedback into program design so that we can always iterate more engaging, more impactful approaches to engaging men and boys in violence prevention work.
Have you seen some great examples of design-thinking applied to the gender-based-violence prevention sector? We’d love to hear about them! You can check out our IDEO idea here and leave feedback if you’re inspired!