Course Partner:


October 14, 2014


December 16, 2014

Group Size:

4 to 6



Please add yourself to ‘Watchlist’ to receive registration info

Human-Centered Design for Social Innovation

Human-Centered Design for Social Innovation is a seven-week course that will introduce you to the concepts of human-centered design and help you use the design process to create innovative, effective, and sustainable solutions for social change. No prior design experience necessary.

Acumen believes in the importance of incorporating the principles of human-centered design when creating solutions to problems of poverty so that low-income customers are provided with choice, not just charity.

Our Learning Partner

Acumen is excited to partner with in offering this course. uses human-centered design to improve the lives of people in low-income communities across the globe. Together with its project partners, tackles the challenges of water, sanitation, health, financial inclusion, energy, education, employment and more.


What You'll Learn

The human-centered design process is based upon the fundamental belief that gaining a deep understanding of the needs, hopes, and aspirations of potential customers and the lives they live yields incredible inspiration for new solutions. Human-centered designers learn by doing and evolve their solutions based on real-time feedback.

This seven-week course will:

  • Equip you with the process and methods of human-centered design so that you can be more intentional about facing and solving your current challenges
  • Let you experiment with the power of human-centered design
  • Teach you to identify patterns and opportunities for concept development
  • Inspire you to approach challenges differently and experience how human-centered design can add new perspectives to your work
  • Give you hands-on experience speaking to, prototyping for, and testing solutions with potential users.

How the course works

There are no in-person teachers or facilitators for this course. You will work through the course with a group of 2-6 people we will refer to as your “design team”. It’s strongly recommended you form a team with people located in your city before starting the course BUT you must all sign-up individually by clicking the “Register Now!” button.

You will learn the human-centered design process by applying it to a real world design challenge. Each week you will explore the main human-centered design concepts through readings, case studies, and short videos. Then you’ll be expected to meet in-person with your design team to get your hands dirty practicing the relevant human-centered design methods.

Each week you will receive an e-mail with the materials for the upcoming class. The materials will consist of two things:

  • Class readings (1-2 hours): To be completed before your team meets for your workshop
  • Workshop Materials (2-2.5): To complete during your team’s workshop

You’ll select a different member of your design team to prepare and facilitate the workshop each week. This “Class Leader” will be responsible for organizing the necessary space and materials needed before the workshop begins as well as facilitating and keeping time during the workshop.

There are two tracks your design team can follow depending on your experience with the human-centered design process:

  • Track 1: Is for beginners just starting to experiment with the human-centered design process. In this track your design team will pick one of three pre-crafted design challenges to pursue through the course.
  • Track 2: Is for those who took this course before or have a good grasp of the human-centered design process. By following this track you will be guided through how to scope your own design challenge to then pursue through the course.

Throughout the course you’ll have the opportunity to interact and gain inspiration from design teams around the world taking the course with you and ask questions of experienced human-centered designers when you feel stuck.

Building your design team

A team works best if it consists of a core group of 4 to 5 individuals. Many of the design challenge activities will work best if your group has at least four members. However, if your group is too big, it can be more difficult to coordinate schedules and make decisions. Select people who can contribute from different angles. You’ll have a better chance of coming up with unexpected solutions.

No group?

  1. Recruit your friends/colleagues/family
  2. Connect with people at an existing meetup or start one in your city!

Course Outline

The course is designed to run for 7-weeks, each week covers a different step in the human-centered design process, except for Class 2 and Class 4 where you will have 2-weeks to complete the respective step.

Class 1: Intro to Human-Centered Design

In week 1 you will be introduced to the three phases of human-centered design (Discover, Ideate, Prototype) through a mini-design challenge.

Prep time: 1.5 hours
Workshop time: 2 hours

Class 2: Discover

Your team will learn the basics of the Discover phase of the human-centered design process, select a design challenge, and get started conducting Discover research.

Prep time: 1.5 hours
Workshop time: 2.5 hours

Class 2: Discover continued

Workshop time: 2+ hours

Class 3: Ideate

Your team will learn about the Ideate phase of the human-centered design process and start using it to transform your Discover research into meaningful insights that you will then use as a structure for brainstorming innovative new ideas.

Prep time: 1.5 hours
Workshop time: 2.5 hours

Class 4: Prototype

Your team will learn how to take the best ideas that you brainstormed during Class 3 and make them tangible as quickly as possible. You’ll then test your prototypes in the community, getting real feedback and further improving and refining your ideas until you get them right.

Prep time: 1.5 hours
Workshop time: 2.5 hours

Class 4: Prototype continued

Workshop time: 2+ hours

Class 5: Moving Forward

In the last week of the course your team will learn how to distill and communicate your idea to internal or external stakeholders, reflect on what you learned over the seven weeks and how you can take it forward into your daily work.

Prep time: 1.5 hours
Workshop time: 2 hours

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there a fee?

No, this course is free and open to everyone.

What is the time commitment?

4 to 5 hours per week if you are pursuing a course challenge but substantially more if you are pursuing your own design challenge.

How will the course differ from last year?

With feedback from the first iteration, has made two major changes to the course. First, we will be spreading out course material over seven-weeks minimum rather than five (although we encourage you to take additional time as needed). Second, we will be offering a Bonus Chapter, in which participants will receive guidance on scoping their own design challenge. Although we still strongly recommend the pre-crafted course challenges to individuals who are newer to the human-centered design process. The Bonus Chapter will allow those already familiar with the process to bring human-centered design to a challenge that is specific to their community.

Is this course just for +Acumen chapter members?

No, this course is open to both chapter and non-chapter members.

Do my group members need to be in the same location?

Yes. You should sign up with a group that is all physically located in the same place. During this course your team will be asked to go into your local community where you will use the human-centered design process as a design team. Therefore, being able to meet in-person each week will be essential.

Is there a set class schedule every week?

No. There is a set curriculum to cover each week, but you are free to review the prep material and meet with your design team within each week whenever it is convenient for the group. It’s a good idea to consider your team’s availability when forming a group.

Will a certificate be awarded upon completion of the course?

Yes, we will provide a statement of accomplishment to individuals that complete all seven weeks of the course and fill out all their participation reports.

More questions?

Please contact Jessica Martin at

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