Every day civic activists, organizations, and governments are working to incorporate 21st century tools into antiquated practices and systems. NDI’s TechCivica Initiative aims to support this transformation--whether through an online data storytelling course for civic technologists or datathons on transparency and security issues in Mexico and Guatemala.
Yet, programs designed around civic technology are particularly susceptible to the problem of sustainability. How do you ensure that tools stay online and the capacity to manage them remains after the grant ends? Our previous efforts often failed to bring about sustained engagement and local ownership. In continuing our support of innovation communities around the globe, we looked to Human Centered Design as a methodology that ensures products and services are intuitive and impactful. Human Centered Design starts by identifying who a product is for and then placing them, rather than the organization, at the center of the strategy. With support from the National Endowment for Democracy, NDI is currently piloting a low-cost human-centered design framework to support the development of sustainable and impactful civic technology in Lebanon.
As Transparency International’s local chapter, the Lebanese Transparency Association (LTA) is a prominent voice on transparency, corruption, and access to information issues. LTA’s interest in using civic technology to engage with government officials gave us an opportunity to use our human centered design approach to increase the everyday citizens’ engagement with their government and political system.
Back in November, we began our program with a five-day design sprint in Beirut. Beginning the week thinking about a strategy that focused on creating a general legislation status tracking website, we first took a big step back to ask ourselves who, exactly, LTA was seeking to empower with this information and understand the everyday experiences, pain points and needs of that audience. LTA developed a theory of change, mapped information flows and consumption habits for relevant demographic groups, identified their target audience, and built user personas. By the end of the week, LTA had developed a user-centered strategy and compiled a backlog of features for the first iteration of the proposed product. By focusing on topics such as electricity outages and water quality, LTA will target the lower middle class to inform them about their rights and ultimately encourage sustained engagement with their ministry officials on the issues that matter most to them. This more targeted strategy builds on LTA’s organizational strengths while helping move a specific demographic slice up the ladder of engagement.
Less than five months after the design sprint, we are continuing our engagement with LTA to better adapt this user-centered strategy to their organizational strengths. As we kick-start development in the coming weeks, we’re excited to continue discussions on usability testing, user analytics and sustainability planning.