Designing with DFID

Applying human-centered design in one of the world's leading government aid agencies

One of the deepest and most rewarding relationships we’ve built at is with the UK Department for International Development (DFID). And we’ve been truly thrilled to see human-centered design take root in one of the world’s leading government aid agencies. In partnership with DFID, we launched our Amplify program, a bold initiative that identifies big development challenges, and then supports organizations around the world to design new solutions.

“The whole rationale for DFID to undertake the Amplify program with,” says Jonathan Wong, former head of the Innovation Hub at DFID, “is that for the UK government to meet the ambition of the Global Goals for Sustainable Development, we need to test and scale new approaches to doing development better.”

That new approach is human-centered design. And its effects are being felt beyond helping DFID take on challenges in new ways—both within and beyond the Amplify program.

The key word in the UN’s Global Goals for Sustainable Development is ‘sustainable’ and it’s my personal perspective that the only way you can get there is if you get the people you’re trying to help involved in those solutions.

Wong has already seen positive effects of a more human-centered approach.

“Here’s an example of human-centered design helping us work more collaboratively,” he says. “With the Amplify refugee education challenge, we had our education team working collaboratively with our humanitarian team. It’s been a really interesting experiment in helping us develop an even more collaborative culture within DFID, and has allowed us to create easy, low-friction ways to test new ideas and work across sectors.”

DFID’s embrace of human-centered design, its cross-department approach, and some of Amplify’s early returns, are starting to drum up interest outside of the organization.

“As what we’ve been doing with Amplify has gained in profile and notoriety, it’s become more broadly appealing across the UK civil service,” reports Wong. “Other UK government departments are asking about how we’re doing this human-centered design stuff. So not only have we seen human-centered design diffuse across DFID, but it’s starting to move across the wider civil service.”

For Wong, human-centered design’s true power lies in its ability to bridge teams and cultures, and drive toward new solutions.

Innovation happens when diverse groups work together to develop solutions in a well-managed way. And the way we’re running Amplify gives us the freedom to do just that.

Learn more about the Amplify program.

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