New Modalities for Community-Driven Development through Autonomous Innovation: A Case Study in Human Centered Design by Local Agents in Haiti

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Effective problem identification and solution creation is an essential priority for major development organizations, particularly when strong emphasis is placed on achieving community-driven development (CDD). This often manifests as the engagement of the community to capture local perspectives during needs assessments (problem identification), with generally less opportunity for their collaboration in the development of solutions in response to those needs – solutions they must ultimately embrace if long-term sustainability is to be achieved. But are there processes that can enable the community to drive its own development beyond just identification of needs, but through solution creation and ultimately implementation?

This case study offers Human Centered Design (HCD) as one possible modality to achieve this objective. Human Centered Design is a recognized framework replete with tools that enable its users to develop empathy, gather insights and maintain the openness necessary to innovate creative solutions to posed challenges. Through focus groups and direct observations of a network of independent, local Innovation Clubs in Léogâne, Haiti, the PI and her research team will document how local agents use HCD within their communities to identify problems, source innovative ideas and implement promising solutions. This work will further demonstrate how HCD tools can be customized to better support local agents in this process. The findings of this work will ultimately explore HCD’s potential to enable autonomous innovation wherein communities are empowered to advance their own development, creating an engine that can then be tapped by development organizations.