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Human-Centered Design

Beginning in 2023 with funding from the IZUMI Foundation, FACE in partnership with Humaniterra launched a novel program initiative: using human-centered design to enhance compassion at the organizational, staff, and individual levels. We selected two community health organizations in East Africa, and have accompanied them in a process to design, test, and rapidly iterate interventions to strengthen a compassionate organizational culture.


The Challenge


The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the intense stressors and weaknesses in health systems around the world. The negative toll on community members, healthcare workers, and organizations is immense. This is particularly true in resource-limited settings where human suffering can be severe and the causes of suffering complex, even among those dedicated to compassionate service.

Together with our partner organizations, we set out to answer the question: How might we strengthen the compassionate structure and systems of the organization and nurture compassionate engagement with the people you serve?


Our Approach


Compassion is inherently relational, and relational challenges require human-centered design processes.

Human-centered design is a creative problem-solving container that moves participants through a two-phase, “double diamond” process. It isn’t a perfectly linear process. The intent is not to create the “perfect solution,” but rather, to discern, design, initiate, and test ideas by staying close to the people who will ultimately benefit from the final solution.


The Phases of Human-Centered Design


Phase 1 – Empathize & Define

To identify the organizations we would engage in the process, we first issued a mini-Request for Proposals for existing IZUMI Foundation grantee partners. We selected Nama Wellness Community Health Centre in Mukono, Uganda, and Safari Doctors in Lamu, Kenya.

We then spent the first six months of the project building relationships and deeply understanding the environmental context and lived realities of the organizations and people involved. This entailed virtual empathy-building sessions and on-site immersion in Uganda and Kenya. From this, we distilled insights and defined the design questions for the next phase of the process.


Phase 2 – Ideate, Prototype & Test

In October 2023, we brought together six people from each organization for a human-centered design workshop in Kampala, Uganda. Our design questions from Phase 1 formed the basis for the workshop:   


How might our roles and routines elevate our sense of responsibility for and accountability to each others’ well-being?

Growth & Learning

How might we build on our culture of learning to include routines for discussing failures, mistakes, and near misses?


How might we design informal and formal social recognition of compassionate actions?

Through fun and creative exercises during the workshop, the teams developed concepts that responded to these questions. The process also enabled them to connect more deeply with each other and to the brilliance within themselves, instilling a newfound sense of psychological safety with one another and confidence in themselves.

In the months that followed, FACE met regularly with the teams to refine the concepts into testable prototypes, define metrics of success, and launch the prototypes.

Not only are the initiatives designed through the HCD process embedding compassion more fully into the activities and structures of these organizations, but the HCD process itself is contributing to these ends.




Flipping the Script on Compassion in Global Health

These staff and volunteers sacrifice their personal comfort to alleviate the suffering of their fellow community members.

The 'Everyday Compassion Heroes' Award

Nama Wellness Community Health Centre launches a new award to recognize compassionate leaders in their organization

Our Partners

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