Teaching Human-Centered Design to Solve Problems of Poverty - Trish of IDEO.org

A day in the life of someone dedicated to catalyzing human-centered design across the world

February 02, 2016

Patricia “Trish” Merino Price is the Director of Learning at IDEO.org, and part of the team behind the new Facilitator’s Guide to Introducing Human-Centered Design course that IDEO.org will launch in partnership with +Acumen on February 2.

Amy Ahearn sat down with Trish to learn about a day in the life of someone dedicated to catalyzing human-centered design across the world, and to learn more about what we can expect in the new course.


Amy: In your role as Director of Learning at IDEO.org, you teach people across the world about human-centered design. What does that look like on a daily basis?

Trish: Everyday, I get to work with some of the best designers to help others use human-centered design as an approach to solve some of the world’s biggest problems. Last year, we added two new resources to our suite of public learning tools on DesignKit.org— the Design Kit: Prototyping course and the Design Kit: Field Guide to Human-Centered Design. This year, in addition to continuing to offer these resources to the public, we are also helping the partners we work with apply human-centered design in a deeper way within their organizations.

Amy: It sounds like you have a very cool—and quite challenging— job. How did you land in this role?

Trish: I guess you could divide my career into two phases: when I designed stuff and when I taught people how to solve problems through design. I got my Masters in Interactive Telecommunications from NYU and started my career designing things like 3-D virtual reality models for maritime training simulators. Then I conducted user research and developed information architecture and digital interactions before landing at IDEO. At IDEO, I worked with a team that taught, coached, and really dug into what makes great creative problem solvers within organizations. After four years there, I moved to Kaiser Permanente, working to spread design thinking among the larger organization, including working with doctors, nurses, and other business teams. But I still had IDEO in my blood, and jumped at the chance of joining IDEO.org as Director of Learning. I was excited by the opportunity to work with the amazing IDEO.org team and our community of learners to solve some of the world’s biggest poverty-related problems with design!

Amy: So once someone has learned and practiced the basics of human-centered design, how should they get started introducing this approach to others?

Trish: We’re about to release The Facilitator’s Guide for Introducing Human-Centered Design specifically for people who’ve seen the value of using human-centered design in their own work and are excited to introduce it to others. The­­ Facilitator’s Guide provides the materials and guidance to facilitate an introductory workshop for your coworkers or friends interested in getting a first taste of human-centered design. This Guide is for people who have practiced human-centered design already. Ideally they’ll have already taken our introductory Course for Human-Centered Design or our Prototyping course.

Amy: What do the best facilitators have in common?

Trish: The best facilitators make human-centered design relevant and engaging. They spend less time talking, and more time having their participants do things. They model behavior rather than lecture. They’re good humored and connect with their learners as people. And they keep things fun and meaningful.

Amy: What do you see people struggle with when they facilitate human-centered design workshops for the first time?

Trish: The more experience you have applying human-centered design to real projects the better you’ll be in a workshop setting because you’ll be able to illustrate how the process works through real-world experiences. On the flip side, even very experienced designers who don’t usually facilitate can sometimes make the mistake of trying to solve problems FOR their learners. As a facilitator, your role should really be about helping people solve problems for themselves. You might give them a little nudge, but learning and design often happen through some amount of initial struggle. Let them work through it!

Facilitators introducing human-centered design also have to be comfortable with the fact that participants will come up with answers that are different from their own assumptions and expectations. Remember there is room for a variety of answers in this creative approach! Human-centered design isn’t a linear path or scientific process; you have to be flexible and open to revealing new ways forward that you couldn’t anticipate before you start.

Amy: What are some of the unexpected joys of facilitating? 

Trish: It’s really fun to watch people get into the process and make connections for how they can apply human-centered design to their own work and personal lives. I’ve been very fortunate to work with many different kinds of communities—from healthcare providers to public school educators and families to refugee community leaders. You see how human-centered design can be used in so many places and for so many different kinds of problems—and that is very cool. It reinforces the idea that this approach belongs to the world. If you can facilitate others learning human-centered design in a way that builds shared respect and empathy for different viewpoints and encourages people to make their ideas real, then you can provide a common path for people to find uncommon solutions.

Amy: What do you hope people will gain from this course?

Trish: We hope that people will use the tools in this course to show their colleagues and networks how to solve big challenges in new and creative ways. We look forward to hearing how you and the people you ignite use these tools to help build a more human-centered world!


Already a rock star practitioner of Human-Centered Design?  You are now ready to lead creative problem solving within your organization and with your peers. Sign up for The Facilitator’s Guide today 

New to Human-Centered Design? --- Take our free introductory course- Design Kit: The Course for Human-Centered Design

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