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Human Centred Design

James Bourne on a Hand Washing Project in Indonesia

  • Friday 27 July 2018

As part of Kohler’s Innovation for Good initiative, James Bourne, Project Engineer has been working alongside local World Vision staff and community members in the city of Ende, Flores Island, Indonesia on a problem in need of a creative solution.

James told us: "As a Design Engineer working for Kohler in the UK, my role is to develop high-end bathroom products. The Design process is the same for any manufacturing company: identify the problem to solve, generate ideas, refine these ideas, prototype, test, and iterate until we have a robust design to bring in to production.

The Human-Centred Design process follows these same steps, but with a much bigger emphasis on keeping the end user at the heart of everything you do. I got a very different experience, employing human-centred design in Indonesia.

During my two months in Indonesia, the challenge for me was ‘to design and assist the construction of a complete hand washing facility with soap’.

The first step for the local team and I was to identify the underlying issue we were trying to solve, and then to re-define the design challenge to ensure we were tackling the issue at hand – ‘How can we change hygiene behaviour for children at school and at home, and facilitate hand washing with soap at critical times?’. It became clear that our challenge was much bigger than just building a hand washing facility.

After identifying our stakeholders and developing interview guidelines, we spoke to children, teachers, parents, village heads, and health workers to identify common insights around current practices, challenges and desires.

The stories of the hardships faced by schools around access to water were moving. In the summer months, water reservoirs run dry, forcing members of the community to travel on rough roads three kilometres down to the next village to collect water from a river. In these difficult months, children bring in water from home just so they can keep the latrines in their school clean.

At one school, the children spend Saturday mornings walking an up-hill muddy track to collect water from the nearest reservoir using jerry cans. Water collected for the latrines will last the following four or five days, then they will just have to do without until the following Saturday.

We asked the children: "How do you feel about the condition of the latrines?" and "How do you feel when you get sick and cannot go to school?"

Another unexpected challenge is that school funding only covers for one bottle of soap the entire year. Once it’s gone, it’s gone, and they have to do without soap for the rest of the year.

The challenge to increase the frequency of hand washing with soap at the target schools with these constraints was daunting. It made a big difference for me to see and hear the obstacles of their daily life in person.

For each insight identified, an individual challenge statement was created. Not too narrow to constrain us to one opportunity, but not too broad to lose focus. In a workshop attended by the World Vision staff and our stakeholders, everybody voted for the top five most important challenge statements to solve.

A few hundred Post-it notes later, the team had brainstormed ideas around water access, education programmes, soap, and environmental factors. To help focus our design further, we developed a list of Design Principles to link to our Challenge Statements.

During the workshop, we created a rough prototype for a group hand washing facility, and valuable lessons on how to improve it generated a more refined prototype that was taken to one of our target schools for a user interaction trial with the children.

Once the design had been detailed, it was time to start implementing! I was so excited to see the ideas generated by the team start to come to life.

In our final workshop we started to focus on how we could implement hand washing facilities supported by the necessary behaviour change at the household level. This will also open up more design opportunities on how to create an aspirational product that people would want to have in their home, and then the challenge of how to change the behaviour and practices of not just a family, but an entire community. A midwife from one of the villages remarked that ‘both education and physical facilities are needed for hygiene behaviour change.’

The project has been a steep learning curve for me as I have wandered considerably out of my comfort zone of Computer- Aided Design (CAD), defined systems, and familiar end users. Working across language barriers, cultural practices and new technologies has provided me with tough but fascinating tasks.

Good design and aspirational products & services do not have to be expensive and complicated. Everyone can practice Human-Centred Design. If people trust and follow the process, it is possible to end up with a solution that will be adopted by the people you are designing it for (and with)."