A friend of mine has a 10 year old son who is experiencing loss of hearing and occasionally loss of sight. It is a scary and anxious time. In discussions with doctors an MRI has been prescribed. If you are the MRI manufacturer who is your customer? The doctor? The 11 year old boy? My friend, the parent? or the nurse technician who runs the MRI machine? or the Trust or hospital which pays for the machine? Who do you design for? Who do you listen to?
It’s not a straight forward as toothpaste. Using technology on the frontlines of humanitarian work is similarly complex. When we make decisions about which technology to use, who decides? Who’s voices do we listen to? The frontline aid worker? The IT team? The donor reporting or engagement team(s)? The communities receiving the aid?
Unfortunately, the voice of the communities is rarely heard or sought out. We consider our organisational requirements and we assume we know what the communities want – aid & some security. But we don’t talk with them. We don’t even do focus groups or user testing with them. It’s likely because we don’t view them as the user (they generally aren’t) or the ‘customer’.
Many MRI companies do design work with doctors, technicians, AND patients. They understand patients experience the machine in a way doctors and nurses don’t. My friend’s son watched TV while in the MRI machine to help him remain calm. In fact, the MRI machine was made to look like a forest he was crawling through. In the design process, he was considered. Children were part of the design focus groups.
We could learn a lot from this. Humanitarian Aid does not need to be one more thing done to those affected by a crisis. We can and should involve the affected in the design of our approach. Yes, it is true that we have multiple ‘customers’, but this not unique to us. We can listen.
The choice is up to us.