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Case Study: The Human-Centered Design Approach

Case Study: The Human-Centered Design Approach

Now that you know what Human-Centered Design is, the value it can add to your business and what the 5 phases of the HCD process are, you’re probably curious to see an example of HCD in practice:


A leading U.S. university’s African studies center was faced with the challenge of “how might we” transform a 70-year-old colonial-style partnership to one of greater mutual respect, diversity and inclusiveness with institutional partners across the African continent.


• Empathy: The facilitators, university staff and African thought leaders provided a deeper understanding of the history, current situation, pains and future desires of the partnership through interviews, published papers and online discussions prior to the week-long workshop.

• Question: The question evolved from “how might we” create a new partnership model to “how might we” establish a more mutually respected partnership and a global alliance between U.S. and European institutions and African institutions.

• Curate: The university hosted a co-creation workshop of a diverse group of 15 thought leaders from across the African continent. The intent was to listen, build trust, create a shared vision and ideate possible partnership concepts within the different work groups.

• Prototype: The workshop consisted of six work groups. During the first part of the week, the participants rotated groups in order to build trust, understanding and community among all participants. Towards the end of the workshop, when it was time to develop working prototypes, the groups’ membership remained fixed to create a sense of ownership of the six cohesive partnership models.

• Pilot: The initial pilot, which was created from the six different prototypes, will launch in January 2017. The alliance will focus on collaborative research and partnership with African institutions to address emerging challenges in today’s world.


There was a shift in thinking from seeing Africa as a recipient of services to being a full and respected partner in generating global solutions. This became evident when an elegant African woman, Ph.D. and thought leader stood, spoke her truth and said, “I look forward to the day when U.S. and European institutions invite us to help them solve their problems.”

We can help you design solutions for challenges impacting your businesses. Contact us to learn more:

By C. Pate Moore, Senior Human-Centered Design Strategist