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Develop Solutions

It’s common for policy briefs and research papers to end with recommendations that flow from the analysis. However, if the recommendations aren’t closely linked to the needs of the people that they’re trying to benefit, the solutions may fail to get political purchase or popular support, hit barriers during implementation, or fall flat with the target audience. On the flip side, if recommendations are too expensive or require big shifts in behavior, they may not be realistic. Human-centered design methods can produce many potential solutions, zero in on the highest potential ones, and test them so recommendations to policymakers are strong. Additionally, many of the methods below involve community members in the creation and testing of ideas so there’s a closer link between policies and the people most affected by them.

Generating Potential Solutions

What is this?

Framing your policy design challenge as a “how might we” question will help you begin to generate ideas. They are another cornerstone of human-centered design and the gateway to creating solution ideas. 

When should I use this?

You’ll formulate a “how might we” question when you shift from articulating a design challenge to generating potential solutions. Do this before brainstorming.

What is this?

Brainstorming is a highly structured process for generating ideas that have some connection to your challenge. 

When should I use this?

Brainstorming is done after you’ve developed a solid fact base, identified salient themes, and formulated a “how might we” question. 

What is this?

The Lotus Blossom template is a way to deconstruct your challenge into design requirements (e.g., “It has to be cost neutral”) and look for examples of how others have fulfilled those requirements in different contexts. 

When should I use this?

Use the Lotus Blossom template when you need to generate ideas for satisfying important design requirements or constraints. 

What is this?

Mash-up questions layer on positive examples from other contexts to inform and expand your thinking on specific qualities of your solution. 

When should I use this?

Use mash-up questions when you’re generating ideas for your policy design or in a co-design workshop.

What is this?

Analogous research (sometimes called “analogous inspiration”) is a way to look for solutions in different contexts that may be applicable to your challenge or inspire an idea that is.

When should I use this?

Use analogous research when you need a fresh perspective on your topic or challenge or when another sector more advanced in a particular area may hold lessons. 

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Narrowing Potential Solutions

What is this?

This method simply consists of saturating a space with lessons and data and then grouping them by themes. You can also use this method when analyzing data and generating insights.

When should I use this?

Qualitative and quantitative research produces a lot of information. Use this method as a way to take it all in and start to make connections. The groups and themes you identify will generate insights and the kernels of potential solutions.

What is this?

This resource provides three ways to choose a subset of ideas generated in a brainstorm to prototype. 

When should I use this?

These methods for idea selection are best suited for a design workshop setting but can be applied any time you need to narrow down a broad set of ideas to a few to prototype.

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Testing Potential Solutions

What is this?

Prototypes are inexpensive, easy-to-make mockups of potential solutions. 

When should I use this?

Once you’ve turned your fact base into insights and your insights into concepts, you’ll create prototypes to test your concepts with real people. You’ll use the feedback your prototypes generate to improve your concept. 

What is this?

This document is a deep dive into prototyping. It provides a scaffolded process for creating and testing more sophisticated prototypes. 

When should I use this?

Use this when you’re ready to test a concept (or multiple concepts) that you generated through brainstorming with real users.

What is this?

Co-designing is a way to design solutions with the people you’re hoping to benefit instead of for them. 

When should I use this?

Co-design is a great method to use when you have a clear target for the education policy you’re working on and want to involve them in the process. 

What is this?

A storyboard is a low-fidelity prototype. It’s a visual representation of how your policy or service will play out to help you think through key moments. 

When should I use this?

If you’re looking for an easy way to prototype your policy or service idea, creating a storyboard is a good place to start. You just need paper, markers, and Post-its to get started. 

What is this?

Change cards are used to push your thinking about potential or existing policies. Each card has a question like, “What would this policy look like if we had unlimited funds?” or “What would this policy look like if students evaluated the results?”

When should I use this?

Change cards are useful when you and your team want to get beyond best practices and think about how policy aims can be achieved in new ways. You can use change cards with your team members or the target population you aim to help with your policy.  

What is this?

A challenge panel is a forum in which experts and users can provide critical feedback on a concept. 

When should I use this?

A challenge panel is a good method to use when you have a refined concept that would benefit from candid feedback from a range of external people. 

What is this?

This policy canvas provides a way to quickly think through the major elements of an education policy such as the primary policy beneficiaries, funding streams, regulation, and desired outcomes. You can also use this to share your recommendations.

When should I use this?

Use a policy canvas when your goal is to design a policy rather than a service or product. The canvas is meant to be used very early in the ideation process and revised multiple times as an idea is researched and tested. 

What is this?

This resource provides some helpful tips about how to elicit candid feedback on your prototype from mainstream and extreme users. 

When should I use this?

A structured process to gather feedback can be done at multiple stages in the design process, but it’s best done when you have a prototype to share externally, you’re open to opinions that can challenge your beliefs, and you have ample opportunities to integrate the feedback.

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What is this?

This resource provides steps to synthesize feedback using methods from earlier phases and turning lessons learned into your next prototype. 

When should I use this?

Use this resource when you’ve collected user feedback on your concept and want to fine-tune it.