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The Power of Prototyping

Insights from our research & prototyping trip to Kathmandu, Nepal to work with WHR and the women from Tripureshwar

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In January 2016, four of our team members (from the DFA NYU bindi team) spent 9 days in Nepal to prototype our winning idea on the Amplify Women Safety challenge.  This was an important step in an already long collaboration with Women for Human Rights, an NGO located in Nepal. This trip was a research and prototyping trip which aimed to help WHR and our team refine phases 2 and 3 of the pilot (which started in September 2015) with 36 women in Tripureshwar (a slum area in Kathmandu). It was also for us a great opportunity to test several of our assumptions and to get feedback on the toolkit we have developed.

How did it all started? From an idea on OpenIDEO to a pilot in Tripureshwar slum.

This journey started in April 2014 and January 2016 was the first time we met face-to-face. We’ve been working with WHR since April 2014 when we contacted them to ask if they would be interested to pilot the idea that we had posted on OpenIDEO. To our excitement, they said yes and this was the beginning of our collaborative journey.

DFA NYU's idea was announced as a winning idea for funding, which was to be used to support a pilot in Tripureshwar in partnership with WHR. The Amplify team invited DFA NYU members to travel to Nepal to work as design consultants with WHR to refine the idea further and share Human-Centered Design methods with them.

In March 2015, a team of designers visited NYU to work with us as we developed our research plan and built some design tools. The original departure date was set for May 2015, but was postponed due to the devastating earthquake that took place in April of that year. The trip was later rescheduled for January 2016.

Our mission statement:

The Bindi Project is a sustainable train-the-trainee program that provides women in low-income neighborhoods with the knowledge, skills and support they need to become leaders and catalysts for change with and in their communities.

What we did: Understanding the community and prototyping for learning

  • We visited Tripureshwar (the pilot location) and two Single Women Groups within rural areas, which are supported by WHR.
  • We spent one day at the WHR main office learning about their work, approach, and history. We also shared our plans for the Bindi Project and presented an introduction to Human Centered Design.
  • We spent three days interacting with the Sahayogi Sathis (it means "helpful friend" in Nepalese and it's the name used for the women in the program) using various design methods (card sorting, revenue flow, experience journey, etc.) to understand their needs and to engage them in a co-creation process.  We prototyped a training program with the women and conducted a co-design session with them.
  • One specific prototype we ran: we invited women to volunteer and run training programs after they took them.


    The assumption we wanted to test was: how engaged were the women in the program?     Were they ready to “give back”? This assumption was key if the program was to be     sustainable. 

    Our first experiment was with the Sexual Health workshop run by Bhaktapur Youth     Club. They did a 3-day workshop in September when the program started. They did a     2-hour workshop when we were there to review the key ideas and concepts. At the end     of the session, we asked who would be ready to volunteer (in groups) to facilitate a     workshop for other women. One woman volunteered and run on the spot part of the     workshop on her own. She did an amazing job and we were all impressed. The other     women too and after that, five others volunteered to assist or run in group the     workshop. The next workshop that would be facilitated by the women is planned at     the end of February.

    What did we learn? The women felt comfortable enough to facilitate a workshop. It     also confirmed the desire they expressed to volunteer and train other women in future     phases of the program.

  •  On different forms of prototyping: First, the pilot itself is a prototype, which WHR and our team are now refining based on the women’s inputs and the insights from our trip. Second, our trip was another prototyping effort where we evaluated through various activities (card sorting, lego, experience map, live prototype) women’s perceptions and engagement with the program after the first few months.  Several other prototyping efforts are ongoing including some research that the women will do to figure out if there is a market for the product they want to develop as an income generation activity.  

    The pilot in Tripureshwar is a pilot of the community-centered program for women     empowerment and it is also a way for us to experiment and test the toolkit we     developed to support organizations interested in creating similar program. In the     spirit of prototyping for learning, and as we are continuing to pilot the idea in Nepal,     we are also starting another prototyping with an organization in Queens working with     immigrant women. We hope to be able to refine our toolkit as we prototyped the idea     in a different context with a different group of women. 

  • Interactions with the Sahayogi Youth Club which emerged from the pilot. Some of the kids of the women decided to get together and form a youth club, open to all youth in the community. They were great and helped us a lot when we were there. We did an informal guided tour of the slum with them. Several of them helped translating. We conducted brainstorming sessions and prototyped video pen pal program with the Youth Club. We gave them disposable cameras and asked them to take pictures of their community during the week. Our intention was to get their insiders' perspective on their community. We got the cameras back on our last day and we developed the pictures which gave us a lot of contextual information. 
  • We facilitated an introduction to HCD workshop with Bhaktapur Youth club, which we had met on OpenIDEO during the Women Safety challenge and had invited to join the pilot to run sexual health workshops.

Key learnings: 

  • Community and sustainability matter: In a week’s time, we realized that while women in the slum wanted get training to find financial opportunities, they had a holistic and long term perspective and thus were willing to give back to make this program sustainable. For them, one of the things they had gained from the pilot so far was community and for them that was crucial to enabling all other activities in the program.
  • The power of visuals and rapid prototyping:  By using a lot of visuals and interactive sessions and stimulating live experience for the members of the community, we were able to learn quickly from their reactions. We were also able to facilitate deep and lively conversations with the women in a quite short amount of time and new insights emerged.

To conclude, we'd like to share what one of the sahayogi saathis told us in the name of the whole group on our last day in Tripureshwar:

“We want to thank DFA NYU for coming and spending this week with us. This is the first time that anyone came to listen to us and gives us a space to talk, and now our fear has decreased.“

DFA NYU Bindi Project Team (Rajni Chada, Leslie Martinez, Nadia Pallon, Anne-Laure Fayard, Ashwin Gopi, Noah Geib, and Izabela Correa)


Join the conversation:

Photo of Meena Kadri

Inspiring impact story!

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Thanks Meena! We were ourselves inspired by the people we met in Nepal and are looking forward to keep working with them!

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