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Which problem are you trying to solve? And how? 

Human-Centered Design (HCD)

Human-centered design is a creative approach to problem solving. It’s a process that starts with the people you’re designing for and ends with new solutions that are tailor made to suit their needs. Human-centered design is all about building a deep empathy with the people you’re designing for; generating tons of ideas; building a bunch of prototypes; sharing what you’ve made with the people you’re designing for; and eventually putting your innovative new solution out in the world. [ source: IDEO]

Applying HCD to solve challenges at the Base-of-Pyramid.

ProPortion has been applying Human-Centered Design methods in Base-of-Pyramid (low-income communities) contexts since 2009, with the purpose to create impact at scale, that lasts. ProPortion always applies a tailor made process with the best elements of Human-Centered Design, Service Design and Business Model Generation. We have a large library of techniques and tools we can pick from, allowing us to quickly adapt our approach to the context and stakeholders at hand. The PP team consists business strategists, human-centered designers, service designers, with hands-on entrepreneurial field staff.

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During the HEAR phase, we start with scoping; what is the problem or challenge to be solved? A rapid market analysis provides us with an overview of the key stakeholders in the system. We then prepare for a deepdive in the community. We put our key stakehlolders at the center, and research their desires, aspirations and needs holistically. We have different techniques varying from ethnographic observations, Interview techniques, focus group workshops, surveys, etc. Based on that we generate user insights. We cluster and prioritise to bring us to the next step.


Now we have a deep-understanding of the context, the key stakeholders and the system, we can (re-)formulate our design challenge. We create hypotheses and facilitate various creative techniques to develop concepts for solutions, and list all the assumptions behind these. The most promising solutions will be selected to further prototype. The prototype(s) will be used to validate the riskiest assumptions as quick and lean as possible. This might require multiple protoyping/validation cycles till users show positive feedback about the Minimal Viable Product/service (MVP).


Now the MVP is ready, we prepare and launch a small scale pilot. In case you need people for the actual service delivery, we are strict in defining the desired profile and incentive model for service delivery. We then recruit candidates, using traditional channels or social media if effective. We design the various trainings (can be technical, on social marketing, on after care), and train the service providers. Our hands-on and experienced field staff than coaches the service providers on the job. This gives us direct feedback to further improve the full end-to-end service delivery model / customer journey.


The strongest driver for scale is often an economic driver, but not every intervention is suitable for a social business strategy. However, there needs to be a clear view on the value at scale and the customers/financiers who wish to pay for that value, beyond the project budget. We use business model generation and validation techniques (starting already in create & delivery phase) to develop a business plan and business case to attract financiers for further scale-up. Embedding the product/service in the system can be very powerfull, like engaging with the government, local corporates and NGOs.

CLIENT CASE - Oxfam has selected ProPortion as their Human-Centered Design partner to develop solutions to Empower Youth for Work in Bangladesh and Ethiopia. This video will give you a bit of the steps and experience of the kick-off training where ProPortion trained 24 people, coming from 4 rural districts in the first phase of the HCD process: the HEAR phase. The objective of the week was to:

  1. scope & define the design challenges
  2. learn and experience observation & interview techniques
  3. develop a concrete research action plan for each district
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Design-thinking is a very powerful methodology. It helps you to deeply understand the desires and constraints of BoP customers, and guides you in designing value propositions and inclusive business models inspired by the local context.
— Chetan Kaanadka, strategic designer, ProPortion

Best joint team for the job

If you are interested in our support, we start with exploring your purpose, your organisation's strategy or desired change. When your challenge is clearly defined and the capacity of the people involved from within your own organisation , we start customising our methodology to this challenge and creating the best joint team for the job.

Since we don't work for you, but with you, capacity building of team members or even organisational transformation on-the-job is a well-valued spin-off by our clients. Teaming up with people who have a can-do mentality not only boosts the energy, joy and persistence to succeed along the way, it will positively affect others to get the idea and motivation to move towards social entrepreneurship. It is transformation and capacity building by doing