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An App Based End User Community

Bring end users into the process through an app that lets them jump in and out of the process to share their experiences and reactions.

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In human-centered design we want as much participation and insight from the end user as possible throughout the process. We need to understand their real life and experience, and get their reactions and ideas for new ways to do things.

What if we could have a smartphone app for beneficiaries around the world. Beneficiaries could fill a new role in the community (along with any other roles they want to play, of course): sort of "on demand end users." OpenIDEO would actively recruit people in all walks of life all over the world to download the app and take part. They would have the app on their phones and be able to jump in as needed.

The app would know about you from your profile: where you live, age, gender, religion, household income, education level, occupation, etc. Using that information, the system could reach out to a target community with a request. A notification would pop up on your phone.

What types of requests? The system could ask you to:

  1. Share a story. How do you get water for your family? What does a day of school look like for you? What is it like to walk on your own at night? And so on. The end users could use video to record their answers, and the system could automatically transcribe and translate.
  2. Complete a survey.
  3. Review a concept or a prototype and share your reactions. 
  4. Join a co-design session with a concept team
  5. Turn on "data collection" from your device. Smartphones have microphones, cameras, accelerometers, GPS, and other sensors. What if a user could volunteer to be a walking data collector during some activity, and we could learn from that (e.g. how far do people walk to get clean water, how long does it take, what obstacles does the person cross during the trip...).

In the Research phase, all this rich data from these end users would flow into the system, where AI / machine learning would allow us to pull out patterns, and infographics and data journalism techniques would allow people to explore and find insights in the data.  The system could combine end user data with third-party data sets as well (maps, GIS systems, open government data, etc.) to provide backstory where appropriate.  In the Ideas and Refinement phases, individual concept teams would be able to quickly engage with beneficiaries all around the world.

Smartphones aren't everywhere yet, but at the pace of mobile phone and internet expansion in the developing world, it won't be that long before the platform is in place that could support an app like this. 


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Jim Rosenberg


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