​Innovation & Design Thinking for Africa’s Malnutrition Crisis

Project Brief

Quicksand was commissioned by one of the world’s leading humanitarian relief agencies, to provide training to its staff in design thinking and in applying design principles and approaches in developing projects and programs. The client had identified a need for taking a more user-centered approach and to build internal capacity in fostering innovative thinking within its ranks to achieve greater impact, and engaged with Quicksand to help facilitate this.

The initial touchpoint for this was to work with the organization’s nutrition team, as they had been struggling with the development of a program for bringing the identification and treatment of severe acute malnutrition to the household level in countries throughout Africa. The engagement began with a week­long workshop in Mali, where the client's staff worked with the Quicksand team to understand the use of various design tools in identifying innovation opportunities within their nutrition program. Insights from this exercise helped lead to the development of a new system of tools which, when used in conjunction, can inform on the treatment protocol to ensure timely medical care for the most at-­risk children. 

A key mandate of the project was to ensure that the tools could be used by healthcare workers lacking literacy or numeracy, and that the same system of tools be deployed across all countries in Africa where the humanitarian agency works. This necessitated field testing the system of tools which emerged from the field testing in India in South Sudan, which was identified as the most challenging context by the client for its nutrition program.

Accordingly, a team of design researchers from Quicksand embedded themselves with the client's field staff in South Sudan for further testing in real world settings. This team worked with 30 community-based health workers in three villages to train them in the use of the tools, observe them using the instruments with actual patients, and to translate feedback and insights into new iterations of the tools whilst in the field.

Learnings from the South Sudan engagement were incorporated into the final product refinement process. A final toolkit, along with a detailed training manual for the use of composite artefacts, was delivered to the the client for deployment across its nutrition program in Africa.

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