Since 2013, the Hewlett Foundation has supported and Marie Stopes International to apply human-centered design to improve family planning and reproductive health services for adolescent girls in sub-Saharan Africa. Human-centered design, as practiced in this program by, is a structured process that starts by asking young women what they like, what they care about, and what motivates them. In Zambia and Kenya, the teens then worked with and Marie Stopes International to design and adapt creative new approaches to increase adolescent access to reproductive health information and services.

The foundation commissioned an independent evaluation of the programs in Zambia and Kenya, which was conducted by Itad, a UK-based company specializing in monitoring and evaluation. The evaluation sought to better understand: 1) the feasibility, potential, and limitations of human-centered design; 2) the value of different components of the approach; 3) what organizations need to introduce and use human-centered design; and 4) how different contexts enable or inhibit human-centered design for these kinds of programs.

The evaluation shows the human-centered design solutions increased adolescent use of family planning and reproductive health services in the programs in Zambia and Kenya, especially in urban settings. The approach, however, took more time to design and cost more than the teams anticipated. The evaluators caution that it is too soon to say whether the solutions can be sustained and expanded to other settings. Itad’s evaluators recommend future human-centered design programs develop clear guidance for partnerships, incorporate monitoring and evaluation from the start, strengthen the credibility of human-centered design research, and communicate the process and results of the approach to others who work in reproductive health and family planning.