Social impact and development face significant hurdles that stem from the complexity of navigating and coordinating stakeholder ecosystems, the difficulty in changing end user behaviors, the barriers to scaling compelling solutions and the challenge of appropriately measuring impact. Human-centered design and its sibling design thinking are well suited to tackling these issues.

Making the Case for Design (publication, 431 KB pdf)

Human-centered design delivers value to programs by actively engaging end users, providers and other constituencies throughout the development process to ensure that their needs and expectations inform design decisions and lead to a higher likelihood of adoption and lasting human impact.

The HCD Process (poster, 112 KB pdf)

Despite the appeal of human-centered design, social impact and development organizations often struggle to integrate design methods and outputs. Our integrated approach brings together rigorous, data-based analytical approaches with creative, empathetic and participatory methods to inspire better solutions, more actionable plans and more sustained engagement.

Integrated Approach to Design for Impact (coming soon)



Service design methods draw from private sector companies like jetblue and fedex. Service design can help organizations in the social sector maintain a cohesive picture of different touch-points with users and other beneficiaries so that they can better coordinate their activities to deliver value on a consistent basis over time. These methods can be critical in creating a compelling picture of the “user journey” and identifying critical gaps and opportunities to build trust and increase engagement in target communities.


System mapping allows multiple, diverse stakeholders to generate a picture of a dynamic system – such as community health or sustainable fisheries – that reflects a common understanding of key stakeholders, relationships and feedback loops. This common understanding can be a critical jumping off point for identifying leverage points and revealing opportunities to change or improve the way in which an organization functions, create collaborative relationships or networks, or change the context or environment in which social change occurs.



Rapid prototyping can accelerate the process for testing assumptions and iterating through new product, program or delivery models directly with participants. For organizations with scarce resources, it can fill a critical need by removing risk and increasing certainty early in the process. DIG specializes in using agile techniques to test and validate new product, program or business concepts.

“The easy and the simple are not identical. To discover what is really simple and to act upon the discovery is an exceedingly difficult task. After the artificial and complex is once institutionally established and ingrained in custom and routine, it is easier to walk in the paths that have been beaten than it is, after taking a new point of view, to work out what is practically involved in the new point of view.”

— John Dewey, Experience and Education


GLOBAL HEALTH                             


The DIG team has extensive global health expertise across both the provider and patient experience. We partner with a broad set of actors from the private sector, funders, NGOs, governments and social enterprises to strengthen health systems and target key issues areas in maternal and child health, reproductive health and non-communicable diseases. Representative engagements encompass health product innovation and scale-up, innovative service delivery models, user adoption and behavior change models in low-resource settings. We work closely with the broader Global Health practice within Dalberg to tap relevant expertise and knowledge across the sector.

Learn more about Dalberg's Global Health practice



The DIG team has deep experience devising solutions for improved financial inclusion. Our work in this space often starts with an assessment of the fundamental human needs and motivations that drive behavioral change. We use these insights to inspire new ideas for products, services, solutions and strategies – to be brought to life by financial service providers, social enterprises and new partnerships. A few of the major challenges we tackle include customer segmentation, finance for smallholder farmers, inclusive banking strategies and new product innovation and scale-up. We work closely with the broader Access to Finance practice within Dalberg to tap relevant expertise and knowledge across the sector.

Learn more about our approach to Customer Experience for Financial Inclusion (video)

Learn more about Dalberg's Access to Finance practice



Communication technology can play a transformative role in increasing the availability and timeliness of information to support better decision-making and more meaningful collaborations in every sector, from financial services to disaster response. But technology must be designed so that it fits user needs and expectations at every level within the value chain, from end-users to providers and other participants. The DIG team has extensive experience across established and emerging platforms at the consumer and enterprise level. We are equally capable at designing rich data visualizations and streamlined SMS or USSD information services for mass distribution. In each case we work with our partners to ensure that the goals and desired user experience are aligned with the technology strategy.

Learn more about Dalberg's ICT & Mobile Practice



It is impossible to meet the nutritional and economic needs of a growing global population without a new approach to effectively and sustainably manage our oceans’ fisheries, a critical driver of both food security and livelihoods for vulnerable coastal communities around the world. Much effort has been invested in building a global supply chain to certify and reward sustainable fishing practices. But small scale fisheries have been largely left out of the equation. Smallholder fishermen deliver more than half of the seafood that ends up on our plates. The DIG team has spent considerable time working with communities in Mexico, Chile and Indonesia to better understand the needs of smallholder fishermen and effectively test and prototype livelihood interventions that strengthen benefits for a variety of stakeholders in local value chains. We have also developed the business models to ensure that these approaches are viable and sustainable.

Learn more about our work with smallholder fishers


Smallholder farmers represent the most underserved group in the world by the financial services, education, social services and healthcare sectors, with women and youth at a particular disadvantage. Agriculture plays a critical role in the fight against rural poverty, increasing regional food security and improving health outcomes around the world. The DIG team has worked extensively in this space, seeking to understand the wide diversity of behaviors and needs across distinct farmer sub-segments. Anchored in this human understanding, we’ve also explored how the complex agricultural ecosystems involving the private sector, value chain players, extension service providers, retailers, governments and the technology industry can come together to unlock new opportunities for innovation and regional impact.

Read our report on the human impact of rural and agricultural finance




The potential of youth remains untapped today globally, with their skill levels not meeting the needs of the over-burdened labor markets. Over 201 million people are out of work globally, resulting in social and political conflicts and migration, permanently lowered future productive potential and earnings, and prolonged “scarring effects” on those jobless individuals. 40% of people who join rebel movements worldwide are motivated by a lack of jobs. Further, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, around 10 to 12 million youth enter the labor force annually, while only 3 million wage jobs are created each year. The DIG team has spent considerable time working with youth across communities in Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Rwanda and Egypt to understand the overarching patterns in their career journeys, key defining moments, and employment challenges in their specific socio-economic contexts. We have also developed a comprehensive behavioural framework to identify their drivers and motivations, and used that to inform a large-scale pan-Africa initiative aimed at launching training programs focused on developing digital, agri-business, entrepreneurship and industry-specific skills."


In addition to these key areas of expertise, the DIG team has a breadth of design experience from the public and private sector that enhances and augments the deep vertical knowledge of Dalberg Global Development Advisers, with over 300 consultants and 15 offices on five continents. As an integrated practice within Dalberg, we have touched on the full range of issues that are critical to social impact and economic opportunity in underserved markets, including: Energy and EnvironmentConflict, Human Rights, and Humanitarian AidGender EmpowermentInclusive Growth.