It is imperative to include customers in solving problems, but jumping straight into human-centered design misses the rich and insightful data required to shift the system and achieve better results.

Taking a page from the private sector, global public health organizations have become obsessed with human-centered design, applying it to an array of projects, from handwashing in Kenya to Ebola outbreaks in Nigeria.

They’ve used it to understand their “customers”—the people targeted by their programs—through the familiar tools of the design-thinking trade: interviews, observations, co-designing with communities, rapid prototyping, and quick testing of solutions.

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