My favorite way to get around Denver, if I can map out a safe route, is on my bike. And Denver has a lot of great bike paths and protected bike lanes to get me to my destination. However, there are also plenty of roads where bike lanes end in the middle of the block or merge with car traffic at a turning lane in a busy intersection. When I bike through these places, I often wonder how involved cyclists are in designing these lanes; it seems like they could do better to consider our needs and movements. If they put cyclists (users) at the center of the design of bike paths and lanes—not in a peripheral advisory role or an impotent consulting role—the resulting solutions would probably be a lot safer and more functional for people on bikes.
Putting those closest to the problem at the center of developing solutions is called human-centered design. When building bike infrastructure, designers should take direction from people who bike, just as when we work toward health equity, we should take direction from those most impacted by health inequities. At Center for Health Progress, we have been building out a community organizing program over the past two years that seeks to do just that. Communities that lack access to health care services that meet their needs and those that experience health inequities as a result of systemic injustices—such as racism, transphobia, ableism, and other forms of oppression—are the communities best equipped with the knowledge and experience to solve these problems. If we center their perspectives and needs, we can provide our expertise to implement those solutions.
The principles of human-centered design can help to build equity and inclusion and apply to all areas of our work, not just organizing. Recently, our team attended a training by Weav Studio. They facilitated a number of activities to show us how to apply a human-centered design framework to our internal and external work. Together, we learned to use a tool called journey mapping, and as part of the training we implemented it by mapping out our hiring process. This exercise challenged us to center our job applicants’ experiences, which ultimately shed light on where equity is potentially breaking down in our hiring process. Combining what we learned from that exercise with feedback from our newest staff members—those who are closest to the problem, since they have recent and direct experience with our hiring process—and feedback from the Weav Studio experts, we have already made simple but important adjustments. We’ve added more information about the timeline for applicants, have stripped out unnecessary text from the job post, and have adjusted the interview process to give applicants a more equitable opportunity to present their best self.
Now we’re looking at other areas of our work that could use some
human-centered design. Over the course of this year, we’ll be rethinking our membership program to center our grassroots members. We’re also launching new projects, like EquityLab, and we’re applying what we’ve learned to ensure we design them in better, more equitable ways. This growth and evolution is a critical and exciting part of our work.
I’m so grateful for the opportunity to learn something new—like
human-centered design—and to reinforce our commitment to taking direction from those most affected by an issue or problem. If it sounds like something you or your organization could use, I hope you’ll look into Weav Studio trainings and applying these concepts and tools to your work. And, if any of my fellow cyclists would like to join the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Committee, I encourage you to make your voice heard!