In 1980, I was working on the Thai-Cambodian border in a refugee camp of over 130,000 displaced individuals. This was my first experience in the international humanitarian and development space. A number of organizations were present providing assistance, and all were effective in their own way. But one organization impressed me in particular for the degree of proximity they maintained with those they were working to serve. The doctors and nurses of Médecins Sans Frontières would often just sit with their patients and local staff, beyond the scope of their work and questions—beyond the traditional relationship of aid worker and aided.
In the over three decades since that first encounter, the organizations and individuals I have seen successfully fulfilling their development mission are those who have built close relationships with the communities they are seeking to serve. This is a process that goes well beyond simple question and answer surveys. This is a process that demands an ethnographer’s ear and a journalist’s inquisitiveness to uncover the behavioral insights that drive a community.
I was drawn to Internews because their work has long embodied a similar ethos. Program design is firmly rooted in the principles of strong communications and an intimate relationship with the end user. Our evolution into human-centered design, therefore, is only natural, which is why I am so pleased to announce the launch of this Resource Hub today.
I hope that this Hub, along with its companion publication, Design Research for Media Development: A Guide for Practitioners, will illuminate the principles and processes of design research. We hope these methods will help our colleagues at Internews further refine our engagement with local populations and communities in developing interventions fitted to their daily needs and aspirations. This approach also allows us to move beyond a program design process that simply informs our initial engagement to one that ensures deep and lasting relationships throughout the life of a project, keeping objectives based on shifting priorities relevant and on target.
This project was born of a collaboration between the Internews’ Center for Innovation and Learning, our Pakistan Country Office and Reboot. We were delighted to find in Reboot a partner that both shares our values and brings significant expertise in formal, as well as intuitive, human-centered design. The examples and , are from a project we recently conducted in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) region of Pakistan. (More about the project on which the examples are based is here. To find out about the functionalities of the site, please see this post.)
This Hub and its companion Guide were developed to assist those working within Internews to challenge our embedded assumptions and deepen our relationships with the communities we serve. In the spirit of contributing back to our fellow practitioners, we are have also published these materials openly, for use by the larger community of development practice. We hope that they will provide useful inputs for those needing to understand the continuously changing information ecosystems that increasingly define and constrain our work.
We hope you find the ideas and methods of this Hub valuable in your work and welcome your views and suggestions. Based on your feedback, we will continue to update these materials to make them relevant and useful for your work. Please feel free to comment directly here on the Resource Hub, or send a note to our teams at to firstname.lastname@example.org and hello@theReboot.org.