SDN UK 2016: The Last Mile of Design

Last month at the Service Design Network Conference in London, our Associate Director of Strategy, Nathaniel Giraitis, co-presented alongside Toby Norman, the CEO of Simprints, to talk about “The Last Mile of Design.” Here are the key takeaways of their talk:

Closing the gap at “The Last Mile”

Despite some of the most well-intentioned (and well-funded) efforts by non-profits many initiatives fail to make the impact they had hoped. One reason: while traditional products and services receive user feedback in the form of repeat purchase and consumer comments, non-profits often develop solutions out-of-context and then “gift” them to beneficiaries, with little follow up or feedback. Sadly, this results in something we call “graveyards of good intention” — discarded products and unusable materials, all because the end user was not fully engaged in the development of their solution. Focusing on real global problems, bringing passion, inspiration, and solid funding can take you very far… but until you close that loop and include your end users, there will always be a gap. This is what we mean by the “Last Mile” of design.

Going beyond designing one-time solutions

Of course, good user-centered design methodology is key to creating meaningful solutions in under-privileged parts of the world, but can we go even further? As products and solutions increasingly leverage digital services, the opportunity to co-create and iterate remotely with end users in developing nations becomes even more viable. With the Simprints fingerprint scanner, the team in Cambridge was able to send updated screens to the digital interface in Bangladesh for testing, even turning physical features like lights and vibration on and off. Moreover, the Simprints team was able to enlist “User Champions” within the local NGO office, who would coordinate collecting user feedback and facilitating the local co-creation of the end solution while maintaining engagement with the community.

Empowering design-capable companies to change the world

The fact of the matter is, whether you’re a non-profit startup like Simprints, or a large multi-national corporation, embracing and adopting user-centered design processes is not an option, it’s the path forward to creating real value in the world ahead. For non-profits, enabling success results not just in satisfied customers, but improved quality life or even saving lives. In our partnership with Simprints, we didn’t just hand over design deliverables — we taught them how to use tools like user journeys and design research methodologies to enable them to be more design-capable themselves. This approach, we hope, will empower organizations to have even more impact, bringing the power of design to some of the world’s biggest problems.

Originally published at