Last week on the event fundraising blog, I wrote about why event fundraisers need design thinking. Design thinking is a method centered on innovating through the eyes of the constituent–be it the consumer of your microfinance services or a participant in your fundraising event–and as such encourages in-the-field research that builds empathy for people, which results in deeper insights about their unmet needs. This focus helps avoid the common problem of enthusiastic “outsiders” promoting inappropriate solutions and ensures that solutions are rooted in the needs and desires of the community.

Tim Brown of IDEO has penned a new blog post on McKinsey’s What Matters blog about why design thinking deserves to be part of the conversation among nonprofits. Given the scale and diversity of social challenges facing us today, ranging from climate change to failing education systems to threatened food, water, and energy supplies, to chronic health “pandemics,” Browns argues that it makes sense to use every approach we have in the toolbox to seek out new solutions to improve the state of the world.

Teach a person to fish…. Sometimes the end solution is not the only benefit of design thinking. We have found that designing effective tools for others to design with can have significant impact. Not every nonprofit has access to designers; indeed, there are far too few designers focused on solving challenges in the social sector. To help mitigate this deficit, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funded a project to create the Human-Centered Design Toolkit to act as a field guide for NGOs and non-profits looking to innovate. The toolkit has been downloaded well over 60,000 times and used to support projects such as the design of a maternal hospital in Nepal, a cooperative of weavers in Rwanda, water distribution management systems in Malawi, and hand washing stations in Vietnam.

You can read the rest of Brown’s article here.

 Jono Smith is vice president of marketing at Event 360. You can find Jono on Google+, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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