Solving a pain point

April 10, 2014

We’re discovering that what we are trying to do can seem pretty different from how many of the nonprofits we talk to see the situation.  

We’re starting with a really simple premise. We want to understand a user’s circumstances – their routines, their decisions, their regrets, their hopes, their actions – to find something that’s painful or frustrating to them, or something that they wished they could do. And that’s where we start from – finding a way to address that pain point.  

It always starts with the user.

Many social problems are addressed with the reverse – with the “shoulds” that someone else wants a user to do – to eat more healthily, or to stay in school, or to save more, or … etc.

These shoulds might be necessary for social change and we admire the groups who are trying to create this change. In fact, we started off this project helping nonprofits design digital solutions to better serve their users. This was captured in a great article in Fast Company.

But for this first iteration of Significance Labs, we want to start with solving a user’s actual, real problem. If we can incorporate aspects that address behaviours that someone, in their better moments or in reflection would like, that’s terrific. But first and foremost, it’s about understanding potential pain points and starting to guess at solutions.  

To do this, we’re borrowing from the Lean StartUp approach.  

We’re reaching out to potential users using basic principles like User Centred Design, conducting Contextual Inquiry and using Ethnographic research to validate hypotheses.  

These are all fancy terms for go talk to people, and try to understand their lives.  

The start up world does this (can do this) really well. When dealing with communities with power disparities, it’s a little more delicate. In many cases, groups we talk to want us to help solve “their” problems – like getting information about voting out to residents in a better way.  

Instead, we want to find our way to talk to a bunch of potential users, to pay them for their participation in focus groups and for interviews, and then to design a product that we think will solve a problem for them.  

So if you have connections to communities that are underserved by technology – let us know!

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