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August 2014 - #1

Here we go again...

Can policy-makers think like designers?
Last year, UNICEF partnered with the Northern Atlantic Autonomous Government in Nicaragua to support the development of a Regional Policy for Children.

But let's be honest: creating policies can be boring. So to shake things up, we introduced a Human Centered Design approach to the policy-making process.
It paid off. Policy-makers came together to think and act like designers through a creative (and, truth be told, often chaotic) process. This resulted in over 33 strategic, context-specific, and low-cost interventions.
Now, we're replicating the process in the Southern Autonomous Caribbean Region, with support from USAID.
The adventure continues...

Out-of-box workshops

After months of brainstorming and planning (and lots of paperwork), the work kicked off with a few induction workshops targeting a multi-sectoral government group in Bluefields. 

Welcome to the kitchen of Doña Namieli

The goal of the first workshops was to encourage an open mind about the journey we were about to embark upon.

Embracing change is hard, especially when the entire process is based on experimentation.

The multi-sector government working group, along with NGO partners, received an invitation to the kitchen of "Doña Namieli", in which the traditional kitchen hierarchy was replaced by a 'cooking-together' approach geared towards co-creation processes to identify the best Human Centered Design tools to use.
Natalia, Milja, and Elisa (figuratively!) invite government folks to join the cooking up of design research tools during a co-creation workshop in Bluefields, Nicaragua, back in April.

Thinking like a designer - first steps

A Human centered design is based on empathy.

A designer needs to observe the users and the context of their lives, engage with them, and experience what they are experiencing.
Practicing mock interviews to better understand the needs and aspirations of end-users

All Aboard!

To build empathy, the designer team traveled for 3 weeks (mostly by boat) to 22 communities in 13 municipalities representative of the multi-ethnic and multi-lingual realities of the region. 
The shared hours on the boat, through rivers, lagoons, open sea, sunshine, heavy rains, and winds reflect the commitment of different government sectors to come together to find new and comprehensive solutions for children.

It wasn't always easy though - read UNICEF's Social Policy consultant Elisa Mandelli's
blog on her experience.
Members of the multi-sector working group returning to Bluefields from the first round of community consultations.

Understanding the realities of the people

During the intensive community consultation period, the multi-sector policy design team engaged with  264 mothers, fathers, teachers and community leaders through focal group interviews and individual interviews.
Focus group in Karawala
Focus group in Rama Cay
Focus group in Daniel Guido 
Interview to a mother in Muelle de los Bueyes 

Children as experts of their experiences

What can photos of mobile telephone towers, river benches, “drunk men,” churches and  green spaces have in common?

According to 88 boys and girls, who participated in the process by taking pictures, they represent a small facet of what they like and don't like in their communities.  
Children from  Daniel Guido showed the design team their community through their eyes through photography. 
After taking photos, children talked to the policy design team about their life through the photos.

Those talks revealed that children value, for example, phone towers as means to be in contact with their migrant parents or the rest of the country. They complained of lack of places and opportunities for recreation, relying on natural spaces and churches as a means for social interaction. Plus, they feel intimidated by drug and alcohol users in their communities. 

The design team is currently curating over 1,000 pictures for more insights.
Children from Daniel Guido photographing their everyday environments.
Alcohol, garbage, cell phone towers and baseball fields, documented by children in different communities.
“What impacted me the most when engaging with people in the communities was hearing stories of 12- or 13-year-old girls who choose to get pregnant. They think that becoming a parent is a way to get free from their parents’ control. That’s a baby taking care of another baby! The nurses said they are offering the girls contraception but some children chose not to use it because they wanted to get pregnant. I want to study this phenomenon more to understand it better!”
- Loyda Lopez Garth, Women’s and Children’s Department, RAAS.

Next steps: Peeling the onion

After a three-day synthesis workshop, 5 macro policy themes were chosen for further research: child labor, child abuse, sub-registration of children, lack of recreation opportunities, and weak institutions.
"Data! Data! Data!" he cried impatiently. "I can't make bricks without clay." - Sherlock Holmes 
To understand the underlying causes behind the data, the team is currently engaging in service trials, shadowing, and additional interviews with end-users. They also want to grasp the experience of the people providing services, interviewing registry officers, social workers, teachers, police, among others.
Government folks identifying a route for in-depth investigation
This information will be used to the construct  realistic archetypes, representative of the challenges and aspirations faced by children, families, teachers, etc. The stories of those archetypes will then be use to re-imagine their lives in a more positive way, creating context-based and innovative solutions to local problems.

Stay tuned!
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