JSI RESOURCES: Publications

The Use of Design Thinking in MNCH Programs: A Case Study of the Care Community Hub (CCH) Pilot, Ghana


Responding to growing interest among designers, global health practitioners, and funders in understanding the potential benefits of applying design thinking methods and tools to solving complex social problems, the Innovations for Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health (MNCH) Initiative (Innovations) developed and piloted innovative interventions to address common barriers to improving the effectiveness of basic MNCH health services in low-resource settings.

Central to the initiative’s overall strategy was experimentation and learning related to the application of “design thinking,” a form of inquiry that is applied in the conceptual stages of a planning process and subsequent stages of program or product development. In spite of increased reports of the use of design thinking in developing-country settings, there is little systematically documented evidence of the value of these approaches in the form of in-depth documentation or formal evaluations that link design thinking to health program performance or health outcomes. Moreover, there are few validated metrics to assess the effect of design thinking.

A fundamental rationale for the use of design thinking is that it provides important insights into user experience, needs, and desires and helps to translate these insights into tailored interventions or products, increasing the likelihood of user adoption and reducing the risk of intervention failure.

This case study focuses on the use of design thinking in the Care Community Hub (CCH) pilot project that introduced CHN on the Go, a mobile phone application, to improve health worker motivation and job satisfaction among community health nurses (CHN) and their supervisors in Ghana.

The research design used a mixed-methods, comparative case-study approach. We constructed research propositions to describe and explain the application and influence of design thinking in the CCH pilot and focused our research using the constructs of fit, uptake, buy-in, and ownership and the effectiveness of the CHN on the Go mobile phone app. We refined these propositions over time and, as data emerged, constructed a theoretical pathway to illustrate the influence of design thinking on this MNCH intervention. The in-depth study methodology was intentionally designed to be exploratory and analytical but not evaluative and uncovered information about the opportunities and challenges of applying design thinking in MNCH programming that may be relevant to those considering its use.

Anne LaFond and Nikki Davis, JSI Research & Training Institute, Inc. 2016.

Partner with Us

We strive to build lasting relationships to produce better health outcomes for all.