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In our work, we talk a lot about human-centered design, which hinges on our ability to suspend solving, just for a moment, so we can hear and learn about clients first. Adopting the lens of human-centered design allows us to design services that conform to the needs and strengths of the client rather than asking clients to conform to the needs of our program.

We recently pulled a group together at our agency who work closely with refugees, and decided to work the process through the unique needs of the refugee populations we serve.

Here’s what we learned:

[vc_custom_heading text=”We started with answering the question: Who do we serve?” use_theme_fonts=”yes”]

Group members shared the stories and experiences of their refugee clients, without offering solutions. While common themes emerged in how clients experience barriers, staff notably emphasized the diversity of unique client experiences. Throughout the remainder of the workshop, staff continued to draw upon these discussions in order to keep refugee clients and their experiences at the forefront.

[vc_custom_heading text=”Then we asked: What do they need?” use_theme_fonts=”yes”]

Participants first freely brainstormed as many client needs as possible, providing specific and nuanced needs further indicating the diversity of client experiences. Groups then engaged in the process of exploring the commonly identified needs more in-depth by developing a Why-How Ladder.

Client needs most often converged on safety, self-sufficiency, resource connection, employment, community, and orientation towards the American financial system. Although many of the needs identified could be filled by a professional service provider, participants notably discussed clients’ reliance on community to overcome obstacles as an organic, client-driven solution. This means that they will often forego formal services, trusting instead in their community to understand and provide for their needs. An insight that we can use to ask if community-based service delivery might make more of an impact for this group of clients.

And this is just the start of human-centered design. It’s the start of seeing and thinking differently about the people we serve. And it changes the way we serve for the better. More to come!

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Our relationship with the client is the foundation of our success, and we have built a structure that provides the clarity and intentionality for staff and clients that expedites progress.

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Designing for social services starts and ends with understanding your clients. The goals of any program at CCFW is for individuals and families to have a bigger and brighter tomorrow. We start program design with an empathetic understanding of who the clients are and what they are facing.