Our Approach

Why Human-Centered Design?

As our world gets more complex, we must find ways to simplify. We do this by stepping back, grounding in the human experience, and, together, defining a path forward.

Human-centered design is a way of thinking that places the people being served—rather than any other stakeholders—at the center of the program design and implementation. Centering the people being served means continuously learning about them to enable their goals above any other organizational goals. It means starting any program by deeply listening to the people the program will and will not serve.

At Connective, we center seekers of social services through constant conversation with them. This allows us to make hypotheses about and gain insights into their needs and behaviors. All new programs we launch are grounded in these needs and designed keeping those behaviors in mind. We stay in continuous conversation even after we launch our programs to allow us to iterate and improve.

Our Guiding Principles

We center the voices of those who are directly impacted by the outcomes of our programs. They are experts based on their lived experience.

We know that those at the margins of our existing systems and structure often have the most experience with them. A system that is able to cater to them will work even better for the majority of others.

We believe that design must be trauma-responsive. We aim to integrate principles of trauma- responsive care into our process. Our design process aims to sustain, heal, and empower our communities.

We value doing over perfection. We embrace ambiguity through continuously reflecting on our processes. Our design sprints are intentionally messy: We dig deeper as we confirm our hypotheses and quickly shift directions when we don’t.

What Is a “Design Research Sprint”?

Design research is a first step in the human-centered design process that allows us to deeply understand human needs and behaviors.
Given the experimental nature of our design research, we employ a bias towards action over perfection. We want to do something on a small, controlled scale, learn from it, and iterate.
Our design research sprints are eight weeks of part-time work.
Identify and develop the issue or topic area to focus on. What do we want to explore, learn, test, confirm?
Identify who we want to learn from. Plan outreach. And start talking to them.
Turn what we hear into insights, key questions, hypotheses, and frameworks.

How We Categorized Our Design Sprints

Exploratory Fieldwork

focuses on expansive, experimental research on general population buckets. Here we were dealing with unknown- unknowns: areas we are neither well-aware of nor understand.

Focused Fieldwork

focuses on exploratory or confirmatory research on specific population buckets. Here we deal with known-unknowns: areas we are aware of but don’t understand.

Program Review

looks at constructive feedback on past or upcoming programs by hearing perspectives of intentionally selected populations.

Systems Review

navigates and synthesizes insights about specific parts of the current social services ecosystem.

How We Conducted Our Design Sprints

The main research methods we use in our design research sprints are:

Focus Groups
45–60 minute conversations with up to 4 people. We aim for 4–6 focus groups during a sprint.

45–60 minute conversations with 1 person at a time. We aim for 8–10 interviews during a sprint.

Self-administered online questionnaires with multiple choice questions. We limit open-ended questions. We aim for 100 or so responses per survey.

Prototype and User Testing
45–60 minute conversations where we share working prototypes of an idea to see how people use them and why. We aim for 4–6 focus groups or 8–10 interview sessions. Often, we iterate on our prototype between sessions.

When we are not able to speak directly with people, we go undercover to identify pain points and areas of improvement. We put on different hats and use existing systems, tools, and programs. We also trawl social media, online forums, and newspapers for reviews.

Our research goals and methods often inform how we specify our participant groups.

Random Selection of People
Think of this as talking to anyone we can about their experience on a certain topic, e.g., talking to anyone who is a landlord, regardless of where they are located or how many properties they own.

Un-randomized Selection of People
Think of this as carefully defining the type of person you wish to talk to without naming specific people. These can be people with
the most experience, people with unique experience, or people with no experience, e.g., talking to landlords with a handful of properties who have been landlords for over 20 years, or talking to landlords who acquired their first property to lease less than a year ago.

When specifying our participant groups, we are mindful of their zip code, language preference, gender, age, race and ethnicity, disability status, and family structure.



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