The Needs of A Governance Innovator: The Activist

This is the second of a series of blog posts summarizing recent need finding efforts for the Governance Collaboratory, an initiative to bring design thinking to governance challenges in the developing world.  See our previous post here  for further discussion on this work.   

iStock_000008294268_SmallReviewing and synthesizing need finding work as a team enables designers to draw out deeper meaning and nuance than one might realize at first.  This begins the define phase of the design process, where teams “unpack” their empathy work.  As one team member recounts the interview or observation in its rawest form, others headline the stories, emotions, needs, and other interesting or surprising information.  Extracting the most compelling material in visual form allows teams to identify the linkages, patterns, and themes in a user’s story.

The define phase culminates in a set of point of views (POVs), which are concise statements of the user, his or her needs, and deeper insights about what the need is really all about.  Designers then use these POVs to facilitate ideation (brainstorming) sessions which ensure that the team is anchored in a specific user and his or her needs as they consider potential solutions.  At the Governance Collab, we also found that creating a list of POVs for each innovator segment (activists, reformers, and technologists) developed a much deeper understanding of what makes our users tick.

We reviewed and synthesized our interviews by user segment, which allowed us to uncover parallel needs and motivations for each distinct type of governance innovator.  Many of our POVs reflect a composite user as we discovered a significant number of overlapping needs.

We engaged a range of activists in our interviews over the past several months.  We spoke with a Slovak journalist turned disrupter who rejected the complicity of her colleagues in the media and established a watchdog organization, sparking public debate based on analysis of publicly available information.  We interviewed an upper class Indian who rejected his privileged position, dropped out of college, and spent two years living in a hut in rural India to understand what it was really like to live in poverty in his home country.  We heard entertaining but telling stories; one activist paid for his high school fees by supplying toilet paper to the school (from his home region) after an economic downturn in the area surrounding the school.  We also learned surprising things about innovators: one activist found inspiration in a movie about ballroom dancing in the Bronx.

In distilling these fascinating interviews, we developed about a dozen activist POVs.  The list below highlights the four which resonate the most with us.

  • Eager young activist needs to fail and iterate to develop thoughtful approach because he is compelled to just jump in based on strong intuition
  • Receptive activist in transition needs external source of inspiration / ideas because it helps her to imagine what’s possible
  • Anti-paternalistic, thoughtful activist needs to immerse himself with the people he is trying to help to build confidence he is doing what people really need
  • Seasoned activist needs to be empowered vis-a-vis the state (and be embraced by the masses) in order to make change as an outsider

We’d love to hear reactions to this work.  Posts summarizing our reformer and technologist needs coming later this week.

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