Though human-centered design, a repeatable creative approach to problem-solving, was popularized by IDEO and the Stanford d.school as a way for companies to create more user-friendly products, it is now being applied to solve complex social problems and accelerate social innovation.

Despite these roots in the for-profit sector, this approach is a perfect tool for nonprofits to use to solve challenges in their organizations and communities. Four reasons nonprofits should embrace innovation:

1. It Creates New Solutions. By combining a consistent process with diverse and varied stimuli, human-centered design helps you think outside of the box and rapidly arrive at numerous unexpected solutions. When current solutions aren’t working, we need innovation, and the ability to fail fast and fail cheap. This approach helps to uncover unconventional answers and improve ideas to achieve better results.

2. It Puts People at the Center. Many social sector professions know that lasting solutions come from within and already work with individuals and families to identify goals and plans to achieve them. Similarly, human-centered design focuses on the experiences of individuals and families to identify ideas that they’ll be more likely to embrace.

3. It Provides a Toolbox for Innovation. Innovation can often feel like little more than a buzzword, but human-centered design offers a toolbox of structured, yet creative, activities to take the pain and guesswork out of the design and development process. Because time and money are at a premium, nonprofits should do away with the unstructured brainstorm sessions, instead using human-centered design tools to rapidly move from ideation to tangible prototypes and testing.

4. It Breaks Down Silos and Leverages Diversity. Some of the best solutions come from merging different ideas, thinking laterally, and looking in unexpected places. By focusing individuals on a common goal, human-centered design can be an effective way to break down silos and leverage individuals’ diversity of ideas, expertise, and lived experience.

Learn more about human-centered design by watching this short video from IDEO.

Upcoming Innovation Design Summits Leverage Human-Centered Design Approach

Join us at the Innovation Design Summits, where we will put human-centered design thinking into practice to create new ideas and devise plans to implement solutions to tough challenges around health care, education, and the future of the nonprofit workforce.

You will start with hypotheses, then create and test theories, and finally uncover insights for real solutions to your toughest problems. Through trained facilitators, the Alliance Innovation Design Summits will tap into participants’ expertise and experience to develop solutions.

View the schedule and details about how the summits will work online.