Do we design with a solution in mind or with a vision for our users?

We ask questions about what people’s needs are. But even by this point, we’ve narrowed down what answers we’re looking for.

We add solutions that the donors and agencies feel are necessary. We add elements of advocacy. It sometimes feels more like we’re a bad marketeer.

Whilst we’re designing new interventions and identifying needs, pressure from our managers to provide a report or other deadline lingers over us.

For weeks we’ve heard about overheads and internal structure changes – and how budgets will be cut. All of these interactions and information clouds our judgement. It creates bias.

By this point – we hear what we want to hear – to match the competing priorities. On paper – it looks fine. We conducted our rapid needs assessment. But we know haven’t spent proper time with our users and communities.

We need to listen – truly listen to their voices.

We can’t expect them to have all the answers – they will have some. But by truly listening, we will see them, hear them and grow our empathy for them – this authentic relationship is how the bias really subsides.

Sadly we usually leave the focus group or interview well before we get to this stage. As truly listening takes time and takes much more than one interaction.

Our ‘users’ or ‘beneficiaries’ do not have a choice about who provides their services. Often it’s the donor or the procurement process that decides this is the implementing partner – do we respect that when we’re designing our projects?

What do we need to change today to make our project design less biased?

What one thing can change?

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