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Four participants of the FYSB design thinking training sit around a table brainstorming a solution to their APP program challenge.

3 Benefits of Design Thinking

Design thinking can help you meet stakeholders' needs.
  • Tweet This Design thinking helps generate new ideas. As Thomas Edison said, 'To have a great idea, have a lot of them.'
  • Tweet This Consider adding design thinking to your tool belt. Youth might find it an energizing way to get involved.
  • Tweet This Design thinking helps uncover insights so you deliver more human-centered programs.

Even with limited time and resources, you can find ways to go beyond the status quo to enhance your adolescent pregnancy prevention (APP) program. Consider adding design thinking to your tool belt.

The sequential steps of the design thinking process, including: empathize; define; ideate; prototype; and test.Design thinking is a systematic approach to breaking out of our comfort zones and designing creative solutions to the challenges we face. The process employs interactive methods to help teams move beyond their standard ways of doing things. The process is iterative, with overlapping phases including

  1. Drawing insights from stakeholders;
  2. Clarifying the problem and identifying opportunities for change;
  3. Generating ideas to address the problem;
  4. Prototyping concepts; and
  5. Evaluating and iteratively improving the solution.

Strategy: Design thinking

Definition: Systematic approach to driving social innovation and designing human-centered products, services, and experiences that address a problem or unmet need.

Benefit to APP Grantees: Design thinking can help you (1) meet the needs of the people you’re trying to serve, (2) unpack and tackle your challenges from a different perspective, and (3) foster collaboration among your stakeholders.

How does design thinking relate to adolescent pregnancy prevention?

Organizations are quickly catching on to the power of design thinking to address teen pregnancy prevention. FYSB hosted an in-person design thinking training in mid-February with guest speaker Jeanne Liedtka, a University of Virginia Darden School of Business professor. The National Campaign recently hosted Innovation Next, a challenge awarding 10 teams $80,000 to develop innovative interventions and learn design thinking through workshops with design firm IDEO, which has championed the process for decades.

Coined around 40 years ago, design thinking has exploded among corporations and startups itching to find the next best product. More recently, governments and nonprofits have adopted a broader view of design thinking to mitigate "wicked problems" - social issues with indeterminate scope and scale, such as health care access or poverty. Design thinking helps us systematically uncover insights about the people affected by these problems so that we design and deliver more human-centered programs and services.

Why should I use design thinking in my program?

Infusing your APP programs with design thinking methods can help you:

  1. Meet the needs of the people you serve. Empathy is a core tenet of design thinking. Instead of focusing on your organization’s beliefs and objectives, you zone in on the desires and needs of your stakeholders. You meet them where they are versus where you want them to be.

    People aren’t always able to identify and explain what they want, so consider observing your stakeholders in their natural settings. If you’re trying to better engage youth, go observe your program’s sessions and “shadow” youth throughout the school day to see how they interact with their teachers, peers, and surroundings. Perhaps you notice that teens are more energetic and comfortable when working in pairs of their own choosing; that could be one small change you can integrate into sessions to boost engagement.

    If you’re unable to directly observe your stakeholders, you can create persona sketches or ask stakeholders to journey map an experience to help put you "in their shoes."

  2. Unpack and tackle your challenges from a different perspective. As organizations committed to APP, you face some similar challenges: recruiting and retaining participants, securing and sustaining community buy-in and partnerships, and continuously evaluating and refining your program. Design thinking offers tools to help you adopt a growth mindset and dig deeper to identify both the real roots of these challenges and untapped opportunities.

    Poster from a small group at the FYSB design thinking training, which presents a storyboard of the group's big idea. The big idea includes an annual summit called 'Let's Talk About It,' which involved multiple stakeholders from the community and an agenda including activities such as breakout sessions, a video competition, a raffle a call to action, and commitment from participants.

  3. Foster collaboration among your stakeholders. Design thinking is not just for designers or people who self-identify as "creative." The approach offers a suite of tools anyone can use to drive innovation and foster collaboration with their peers and stakeholders.

    For instance, individual brainstorming using trigger questions and sticky notes gives everyone a chance to jot down then share their ideas without judgment. By favoring a quantity of ideas over their quality, design thinking urges you to explore seemingly silly or impossible ideas and build on them together to create an even greater solution. As Thomas Edison said, "To have a great idea, have a lot of them."

    Once your group comes up with a big idea, you can use rapid prototyping tools, such as a storyboard, to share the concept with community stakeholders for feedback. By testing your ideas early and often, you fail fast and build your way to success without expending substantial resources.

Where should I begin?

Design thinking does not have to be an all-or-nothing approach. And it doesn’t require as much time as you might think. During the FYSB design thinking training, participants learned and applied the process to common APP challenges in just two days! Adopting a new way of thinking—even for just a few hours—can yield fresh ideas to revamp your programs.

Guest speaker Liedtka encouraged participants to focus on “tools, not rules” and adopt individual design thinking methods at any point in their program’s design or delivery to drive creativity and enhance its impact. Design thinking is not about redesigning your entire program to make it perfect. It’s about making incremental changes to improve the experiences for the people you serve. 

You can do it. Consider this blog post an introduction to a new way of approaching problems and conversations with your peers and stakeholders. Want to infuse the design thinking process or tools into your work? Check out Liedtka's book, The Designing for Growth Field Book: A Step-by-Step Guide.

Try it! Incorporate design thinking tools into your next gathering of community stakeholders or youth. Use journey maps to better understand their experiences with your program or rapid brainstorming to drive innovative ideas for outreach activities.
Page last updated: July 22, 2021
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