|From the essay “Designing Solutions to Childhood Malnutrition” by Ramsey Ford and Kate Hanisian in the Public Interest Design Practice Guidebook
Be Sure that “Good” Actually Happens
Design is powerful because it has the ability to both imagine and realize a potential future. And, while this forward-looking practice has contributed incredible change to our world, it has historically done a poor job of measuring its own impact. In public interest design, it is imperative that we remove this blind spot from our process, so that we do not just believe we are doing good, but that good actually happens. Measurement is essential to a responsible public interest design project because rigorous measurement is a requirement for securing support to sustain and scale successful interventions, and understanding the impact of the work is crucial in justifying the expense of a design to community partners.
Designers tend to be good storytellers, and measurement enables them to tell even better stories that are supported by data and thus all the more compelling to funders and community stakeholders. In Design Impact’s Healthy Laddoo Project (case study pages 186–9), great effort was put into measuring the change in children’s nutrition levels during the six-month pilot test of the intervention. The results of the pilot—42 percent of children moving out of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) severely malnourished category—were communicated to staff, parents, and funders, and catalyzed continuing support for the distribution of laddoos, a traditional Indian cookie. The Healthy Laddoo redesigned this small, round treat as a nutritious food—an example of the virtuous circle that can be created by measurement. Investing in measurement, and incorporating it into your project plan, can help a successful project get support, sustain itself, and even reach more people.
To read the entire essay, see Chapter 20: Designing Solutions to Childhood Malnutrition in Public Interest Design Practice Guidebook: SEED Methodology, Case Studies, and Critical Issues, edited by Lisa M. Abendroth and Bryan Bell, 151-5. New York: Routledge. 2015.