Learner at the Heart of the CEF Activities
The question very often on our mind is how to make what we are doing meaningful for those that it is intended for. In this context, I recently came across a concept of human-centered design, when I participated at a workshop on Communication for Development at the International Training Center of the ILO in Turin. It brought together participants from international organizations, bilateral agencies, and other nonprofits, consultants, officials, researchers and creatives. One of the main topics there was the concept of human-centered design. At the workshop we talked about it in the context of communications for development and how to design impactful communication strategies for developing communities. However, the concept can be applied to any activity.
Human-centered design is about understanding audiences and people, and how this contributes value to designing innovative, impactful products or services that address the real problems people face. Since in my work environment we are constantly trying to make our activities tailored to participants’ needs, this concept immediately caught my attention and I thought it would be useful to share it also with my colleagues and see how it can be applied to the design and implementation of the CEF’s learning program.
The CEF organizes different types of learning activities that are intended to improve the capacities of public officials, mostly from South East Europe, in order to facilitate their work performance. The final goal is to support the officials, their public financial management, tax policy and administration, and central banking reform efforts. We aim to make the learning program and all supporting activities as effective as possible, and to this end we already regularly perform different activities, like systematically collecting feedback from our participants on the usefulness and impact of our work, holding regular meetings with our constituency about their learning needs, etc.
How can we put the learner at the heart of our learning activities with the help of human-centered design?
The human-centered approach emphasizes experiences: emotions, behavior, cognition and culture over technological or political capabilities and is more humanistic than traditional product development or business planning. The process starts with the people that you are designing for and ends with new solutions that are tailor-made to suit their needs.
Persona in the center of human-centered design
One of the practical steps on the way to human-centered design is the creation of a persona, a fictional character that represents a typical user that might use your product or service in a similar way. Creating such a persona requires analysis of your audience. Contextual interviews are one of the means to use in this process.
When creating a persona we should consider:
- Needs and goals. What is our persona trying to do, why and by when?
- Motivations. What are their key triggers and barriers? What influences their thinking? And do they have an actual need or are they feeling pressure from elsewhere?
- Behavior. Where do they find information? What media channels they like to use? Is our persona spontaneous or does it research and plan every detail?
- Profile. This includes persona’s demographics and consideration about variables, like confidence with technology, amount of leisure time, etc
- Quotes and photos. Persona should feel real so give them a name, add photos of what they look like also comments captured through research.
After a brief reflection about our participants considering the above questions we can say that they come to learning activities with a motivation for extra knowledge and exchange of experience with colleagues from other countries. The fact that they are away from their home work environment gives them a chance to dedicate time for learning without too much disturbing work factors. They are also curious about Ljubljana and Slovenia as well as CEF`s approach to learning. More profound consideration including interviewing participants would for sure give us more exact picture of the persona or perhaps even more of them.
Customer journey maps
Once you understand your persona and their needs, you can start defining the ‘moments of truth’ or touch points that really matter to them and see how you can address them. This is where the role of your services comes into play. You can help yourself with the so-called customer journey maps.
The customer journey map tells the story of the customer’s experience: from initial contact, through the process of engagement and into a long-term relationship. It identifies the key interactions that the customer has with the organization. It talks about the customer’s feelings, motivations and questions for each of these touchpoints. And it often provides a sense of the customer’s greater motivation. What do they wish to achieve, and what are their expectations of the organization? A customer journey map takes many forms but typically appears as some type of infographic. Whatever its form, the goal is the same: to teach organizations more about their customers.
I believe human-centered design approach includes principles and methods that can support us in placing our learners even more at the heart of our activities and thus make these activities more meaningful.