loader image

How can I apply design thinking to social work

Jan 13, 2020 | Insights

Eunice Jean Patron

Communications
Officer

In our previous blog, we talked about the amazing framework we call design thinking. To recap, design thinking is a methodology that seeks to understand your users and enables thinking unorthodox solutions for every kind of problem.

We also learned about its importance. Design thinking lets your ideas run wild and does not restrict you to rigid rules. It also emphasizes the importance of empathy, where you go to great lengths just to know your users better. This allows us to create solutions that users really need.

Design thinking can be applied everywhere, even in your personal life. But, do you know that it can also be applied to social work? In fact, design thinking and social work fit together.

Social work shares a lot of similarities with design thinking. Both use a people-centered approach to solving problems, empathize with people to know more about their challenges, and immerse in people’s environments to have a clearer understanding of their daily lives and experiences.

Various international design firms such as IDEO already incorporates design thinking to social and development work. So does Limitless Lab with our Limitless Communities venture, where we encourage communities to create innovative ideas.

Social work shares a lot of similarities with design thinking. Both use a people-centered approach to solving problems, empathize with people to know more about their challenges, and immerse in people’s environments to have a clearer understanding of their daily lives and experiences.

So, how do we exactly apply design thinking to social work? 

Focus on the people

Always focus on the people first and enable them to think of a solution. Instead of just looking at the technical perspective like funding and our preconceived notions with their problems, we should also integrate the needs of our users. Being in social work tends to restrict us from thinking great ideas, and that restrictive thinking is what we need to let go.

There are times when people in social work limit projects into traditional thinking, which results in projects that have less impact and low sustainability. Empathizing with the people and balancing the people’s needs and the budget can ensure a sustainable project with high impact.

Collaborate with organizations

Partnering with organizations that share the same goal is also another way to apply design thinking to social work. Design thinking promotes collaboration and collaborations with other organizations can help in maximizing resources for project implementation and to avoid duplication and redundancy efforts. It is a great opportunity to broaden connections to other organizations and institutions. Sometimes, it’s also better to collaborate than to compete. Collaborating with great minds can produce nothing but the best products and services that people need. 

Collaborate with the community

Not only can we collaborate with organizations, but we can also collaborate with community members themselves. Social workers can think of the community as the heart of every project. The community is the end-user of the project, so why not get insights from them? This is a perfect opportunity to blur your roles and become equals.

Co-creating a project with the community will make them feel a sense of ownership and motivate them to sustain the project. Knowing more about the community will help us define and redefine the problem to ensure that our project is in line with their community challenge. Projectmakers usually dictate what problem to solve without empathizing, and we don’t want our projects to go to waste, don’t we?

Final thoughts

Design thinking elevates the value that social work gives to the community, allowing the actual users to actively participate in project development. Putting them as a first priority will ensure the impact and sustainability of the project. And of course, it’s important to collaborate with the minds of other organizations too!

We hope that by reading this blog, you’ll be inspired to apply design thinking to your social work. If ever you need a helping hand, there’s no need to worry! Limitless Lab aims to help curious minds get into social entrepreneurship through design thinking. Let’s change the world one step at a time with the design thinking framework.

Be part of our
community

Receive updates on our free resources,
workshops, and volunteer opportunities