Teaming behavioural science with design for humanitarian innovation

26 September 2017

Liz Barker, Global Head of BE Intelligence at The Behavioural Architects, spoke last week at an event at the Royal College of Art bringing designers, behavioural experts and humanitarian aid experts together to discuss 'Where next for Humanitarian Innovation and Design?'

Despite a plethora of media-friendly humanitarian 'design solutions', many of these seem a world away from what might actually succeed with impact in the real world. For many stakeholders, the model of such solutions being 'handed down' from a distant benefactor is an uncomfortable one, outdated and politically suspect.

It appears there's a long way to go to improve the development and delivery of appropriate and effective humanitarian products and services.

In her talk, Liz outlined what insights from behavioural science could bring to humanitarian innovation and design:

  • How behavioural science can strengthen methodologies used to research - to really get at the heart of the user experience
  • How we can use behavioural science to better analyse the context - incorporating concepts like discounting the future, affect bias and loss aversion to explain current behaviour or understanding the science of habits to explain embedded behaviours.
  • How we can use behavioural science in design - steering the user experience through how a product or service is designed and used.
  • And finally, how we can use behavioural science to change behaviour - what techniques can we use to encourage adoption of new products and services.

Other talks revealed some of the behavioural problems facing humanitarian aid such as adoption failures. For example, how products like solar cooking ovens handed out by aid agencies in refugee camps are not being used by refugees who prefer their traditional charcoal fires and instead use the reflective material from the solar oven to line their tents.

Yet, by analysing how people are adapting and innovating what they have available, we can learn more about their needs and learn from their creativity to identify the best solutions, looking at how people are solving design problems themselves instead of arriving with a solution pre 'baked' on another continent. Users can be thought of as the 'contextual experts' - the designers are really the novices!

One talk from a Medecin Sans Frontier nurse told how she and a logistician had worked intensely with a UK design agency to devise a design solution to hold up the tubes of IV fluid when transporting patients in a vehicle. With so much contextual knowledge and understanding of the problem from time spent working intensely in the field, teamed with the expert input and guidance from the design agency, they were able to outline and devise a practical and efficient solution which is now being tested in the field.

These and other talks really highlighted that identifying and designing the best solutions is a cross-disciplinary exercise, where the whole can be far greater than the sum of the parts by forming a team with a multitude of different types of expertise - from designers, behavioural scientists, users and other stakeholders.

The event was facilitated by Dr John Stevens, researcher and lecturer in Innovation Design at the RCA, and by Bas Raijmakers and Geke van Dijk of design research consultancy STBY, and hosted in the Royal College of Art's Senior Common Room, in Kensington on 22nd September 2017.

The Behavioural Architects' articles are always stimulating, entertaining and informative and make BE principles both engaging as well as usable for all our readers Editor Impact Magazine and Research-live.com
Our digital clubhouse which is designed to inspire, share best practice and delight would be very different without The Behavioural Architects Gemma Greaves Global Managing Director The Marketing society
Its client testimonials show it has made behavioural economics accessible and actionable MRS judges ‘best new agency’ award
TBA have brought behavioural science thinking to some of our challenges in a way that is accessible for colleagues from across the business and has created actionable outputs Martin Bryant, Senior Consumer Insights Manager, KFC UK and Ireland
The Behavioural Architects did a great job of understanding our needs in this multinational project. They used a behavioural-led methodology to deliver clear and actionable output Ruchika Khattar, Global Marketing Innovation Manager, PepsiCo
One of the best articulated deliveries of insight I have seen in 20 years in the research sector. Damian Stevenson, Head of Insight at the Amateur Swimming Association
The behaviour change research has been the lynchpin of our entire new strategy to get more people swimming Nick Caplin, Amateur Swimming Association, Director of Participation
I’ve worked with TBA on a number of studies... all of them have allowed us to get to a depth of insight into basic behaviour that has transcended borders. Catherine Moffatt, Vice President Global Shopper Planning & Customer Marketing, Diageo
The magic comes from how TBA works with us to get to simple, actionable ideas using the BE principles. Catherine Moffatt, Vice President Global Shopper Planning & Customer Marketing, Diageo
Every project has resulted in activities that have unlocked growth for Diageo but, importantly, they’re also pieces of work that we keep going back to and that continue to inform new activities long after the original studies were run. Catherine Moffatt, Vice President Global Shopper Planning & Customer Marketing, Diageo
We tasked TBA with a challenging brief on a national survey and they exceeded all our expectations throughout the process Jennifer Bufton, Sport England 
Their enthusiasm and relevant application of this theory alongside highly actionable and impactful insight delivery that really engages our stakeholders. Jacinda Norman, Category Insights Manager, Waitrose
The team at The Behavioural Architects Sydney have played an instrumental role in uncovering the key behavioural challenges for the Bundaberg Rum brand. Clara Lee, Senior Insights Manager, Diageo Australia
By using behavioural principles in analysing research, we’ve been able to go beyond the rational system 2 responses and tap into the deeper, subconscious system 1 responses that are often difficult to articulate. Clara Lee, Senior Insights Manager, Diageo Australia
For the first time in over a decade, we have clarity on the shift that we need to make to bring our brand back into growth. Clara Lee, Senior Insights Manager, Diageo Australia
The TBA team are a friendly, highly organised and intelligent bunch of people to work with. We consider them an extension of our internal Insights team Clara Lee, Senior Insights Manager, Diageo Australia
The behavioural science work conducted by The Behavioural Architects Sydney team has uncovered insights that we would never have uncovered by asking consumers questions directly Alla Nock, Marketing Research, Analytics & Capability Manager, Kimberly-Clark Australia
Observing consumer behaviour through a Behavioural Science lens has uncovered key nuggets that we have now used to influence behaviour. Alla Nock, Marketing Research, Analytics & Capability Manager, Kimberly-Clark Australia
The Behavioural Architects Sydney are a valued  business partner of the Water Corporation (Perth), who’s expertise and insights into behaviour change has been instrumental in helping to shape our communications strategy and to deliver an outcome that produces results.    Paul Tuffin, Customer Insights Manager, Customer Strategy & Engagement Water Corporation (Perth, Australia) 

THE BEHAVIOURAL ARCHITECTS