Past content and threads on Adolescent Insights

We’re bringing back some archived content from previous discussions on insights to bring people up-to-speed on the conversations, discussions and observations that have helped get us to where we are now in our learning work. Check out these posts, recaps, and blogs below for some thoughtful content on the generation, use and value of HCD insights in AYSRH programming.

Hi Community!

In February 2021, we had our first community call of the year where we tackled the topic of adolescent insights with some great key take-aways from our speakers:

  • Creativity and agility are key to successfully generating adolescent insights for ASRH using human-centred design
  • Successfully reaching young people in HCD research requires generating content that resonates and sharing it through relatable channels
  • Insight gathering is not just for the research and discovery phase, but is an evolving process that should continue throughout the project cycle
  • Upholding rigorous standards of ethics in design research is especially important when dealing with adolescents

Check our the blog for the a great summary of the discussion, and view the recording here.

Thanks to Mary Phillips, Ilana Cohen, Ronard Lubaga and Sahil Tandon for guiding the conversation!


Hello Community! As we continue to gather learnings from our community members on our Learning Area - Adolescent insights in HCD+ASRH, we are looking to frequently share some of our observations. We would love your reactions, feedback, and perspective on these!

From our conversations with practitioners in the HCD+ASRH field, we have gathered that insights generation is not an isolated one-time activity that happens at a single distinct stage of the HCD process. It is constantly evolving and continuous throughout the process - from the inspiration/understanding phase, prototyping, and testing phases to the pilot and implementation phases.

Insights at the inspiration/understanding phase: are broader in nature and are developed to build an understanding of the perceived problem, core needs, desires, and mindsets of end-users, keeping in mind overall program goals. These help in identifying potential ASRH solutions or defining aspects of an already identified and applied intervention, that can be taken forward to later stages of the design process (prototyping and testing phases).

Insights at prototyping and testing phases: insights become narrower and more focussed on specific aspects of an ASRH solution that practitioners want to test. These insights are based on looking at adolescent and youth interactions, their preferences, and life priorities that are likely to determine any changes to the solution. End-users assist designers in rethinking and reshaping potential solutions based on their lived experience. This keeps the end-user at the centre of the program that is being developed. Essentially, the value of insight generation in these two phases is that it allows practitioners to have a grounded understanding of how a community will respond to a particular intervention.

Insights at the implementation phase: As solutions are iterated, through the testing and the pilot phases, so are the insights, honing in on a more focussed understanding of potential end-users in the context of the solution being developed, until practitioners are ready to implement it. In many programs insight generation continues throughout the lifecycle of the program as part of adaptive management, enabling the solution to mould itself to beneficiary feedback and their evolving needs.

Label: A visual representation of our observations on how the nature of insights evolve through the HCD process

We would love to hear about your experiences generating insights through the HCD process, and if you have found that to be similar or different from what we have observed.

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Hello everyone!

Sharing the link to a lovely USAID report that I came across while going through a landscape review process - Dapivirine Ring Design Guide: Human-Centered Design Research to Increase Uptake and Use

The report goes over the HCD process to uptake an HIV prevention method called the Dapivirine ring.

It employs the use of a user journey framework to communicate insights. This framework along with user personas is then used to build solutions that are unique to the different stages in the user’s journey and are targeted to specific personas. I find that this is a great way to keep in mind the nuances in insights when designing solutions.


In June, 2021, we held a Community Call on generating and using adolescent insights throughout human-centred design and project processes, where we explored the question: how might we consider and align the differences between traditional qualitative insights, and the insights generated through human-centred design, and leverage those within our programming?

We heard from a number of great speakers on their experience with insight use and generation, along with they key considerations for cultivating insights:

  • Insights generation is not a one step process, but it is worth the investment of time and resources. From a new HIV project in Kenya targeting young men who have sex with men or YMSM, when they started using HCD approaches, they gained a new perspective from their key population:

“When they set out to prototype and conduct interviews they discovered some compelling concerns from YMSM that had never been articulated before in feedback surveys or review meetings”

  • In generating insights it is important that we are able to differentiate between the facts and the root problem, which we explored using a case from a family planning project in Mozambique:

“Menstruation, sex and pregnancy are not talked about and are very missunderstood especially in contexts where exposure is reduced. Furthermore, you can’t normalise these types of conversations or messaging in communities where it’s often considered as a lack of respect to talk about such topics. So involving parents made adolescent girls even more comfortable to talk and attend the event.”

  • Considerations for how to appropriately include adolescents or young people in the insight generation process, using an example from Indonesia where young girls co-created a period app:
  1. Decide whether to run mixed, gender-balanced or separate design sessions
  2. Work with partners who have established networks and trust with your key population
  3. Choose age-appropriate facilitators
  4. Make everyone feel safe and comfortable
  5. Pay attention to safeguarding and risk mitigation

Check out the blog post for the full run-down of highlights, and listen to the recording here!

Hi everyone!

You may be familiar with the monthly community call series that HCDExchange hosts. These calls are a way for us to discuss pertinent issues relating to HCD and ASRH as a community that is exploring this intersection together. The Youth Leadership Hub (YLH) saw this as an opportunity to analyse how these monthly discussions are relevant to youth, and what lessons can people working with youth take away. So, we have started a series of post-community call reflections where each month, a different YLH member will share what they thought of the community call. We hope that you will find these blogs insightful and will contribute to the conversation!

My name is John Maina, and I am the Measurement and Evidence Associate in the HCDExchange Youth Leadership Hub (YLH). I am also a community professional who has been working with young men who have sex with men (YMSM) for the last five years. I work across physical and digital outreach, measurement and evaluation and project management.

I am well conversant with the Ministry of Health Measurement and Evaluation tools and processes used in the Kenyan health system, especially SRH related. I have spent nine months in the HCD space which I got into through my own research on design thinking to improve experiences provided by digital outreach workers.

The purpose of the call was to bring together those interested in the field of HCD+ASRH to discuss adolescent insights (AI), what they are, examples and how they’re generated within HCD processes.

The call had a great mix of panelists, from a designer, implementer and a gender specialist covering topics around HIV testing, contraceptives and menstrual health, who shared anecdotes from the field to paint the picture on the AI landscape. The HCDExchange learning team also shared a summary of insights collected from across African and Asian countries, to highlight various HCD related learnings all over the world.

There was a fiery chat and discussions from participants and panelists which goes to show how interesting a topic AI is to different groups of people involved in ASRH and/or HCD.

From the call, insights from Indonesia on periods show the importance of geographical contexts that can be brought out by HCD. What was interesting is that they were different from those identified earlier by HCDExchange but continued the theme of a deep and localized understanding of adolescent lives in an intentional manner. The inclusion of boys, parents and teachers in understanding the lives of young girls was a unique approach to menstruation for me. This was also highlighted in engaging the parents of girls intentionally to make safe space for conversations around menstrual health.

The process of generating insights with HCD is more intensive to fully understand more than surface-level factors when it comes to developing interventions to implement. This becomes important especially as you attempt to differentiate the prevailing situation apart from the root cause of issues. This was beneficial to our experience with the Almasi challenge, where we co-created new user journeys for young MSM accessing HIV testing services. This included tweaking our previous call to action to reflect YMSM desires and reducing the number of service providers to add a layer of confidentiality and privacy. Also, field workers got intimately involved with the details of the problem including the YMSM profile, the various iterations of solutions and the indicators the team would be tracking. This rigorous exercise refreshed our current understanding of YMSM in Nairobi and Kisumu by giving us qualitative and quantitative evidence on where YMSM wanted to access SRH information, communication channels of preference and HIVST vs clinic testing preference. Across the 3 areas above we got a lot of information that was missing in our organizational understanding of YMSM. For instance, we had used social media for outreach but had not used an influencer in the past- apart from internal micro-influencers. After understanding that YMSM held specific influencers with high regard we engaged one who ended up contributing to 10% of YMSM subscribing to our digital SRH campaign.

One important lesson I took away was to immerse oneself in the surrounding environment for populations you’re designing for - this is the truest form of displaying real empathy as a designer/programmer. This ensures that there’s a lot of familiarity with all the details of a young person’s life which ranges from parental, peer, religious, pop culture, and even environmental influence. These insights seem to be uniquely local in a way that cannot be simulated through a simple questionnaire or a few Key Informant Interviews with community representatives.

This process, while very important in ensuring more current adolescent insights are generated within programmes, requires a lot of intentionality, resources and willingness to fail at first but it guarantees feasible ideas that are self-evident to all.

Two key questions for me remain:

  1. How do we make the process of AI generation less costly for programmes with low funding?
  2. How can this be integrated into the existing practices of needs assessment and planning with the communities we serve?

What an absolutely wonderful read. Thank you first and foremost for bringing your insights, experience, and unique perspective to this panel. Thank you secondly for sharing your thoughts on the full conversation! It’s nice to know that it’s not just a learning opportunity for us in the audience, but also for the speakers as well!

I wanted to highlight a quote that truly was so beautiful and I appreciated so much:


At the core of the ASRH project work that I have done in Tanzania, I know that in my own heart, and in the hearts of my colleagues and team members is empathy. They are there because there is a deep desire to serve people who are experiencing challenges that often are familiar to the implementing/project team, because they come from those communities (or similar neighboring communities). What I’ve noticed though, is that this idea you mentioned, Maina, of “willingness to fail at first” is something that we’re just not super comfortable with as practitioners.

This is actually something I’m hoping to keep learning more about from design-led initiatives, and designers themselves. I feel like because we only have project funding budgeted for that initial needs assessment, if we don’t get it right, we’re kind of limited on what to do about it and often just kind of keep forging ahead, maybe with some small tweaks, but rarely going back to the drawing board to iterate and reiterate.

I’m trying to think of where this overlap can take place between HCD approaches and ASRH initiatives - it’s probably in the monitoring, evaluation, and learning (MEL) side of things, right? Perhaps if we are crafting out more robust frameworks for the learning part (and subsequent adaptations/iterations) then there will be more flexibility in these projects to take a step back and respond to the insights that come from our users and beneficiaries. Maybe one way to approach it?

Just some of my thoughts based on my own experiences! Love to hear what others have to say - these questions that you posed are super important!! :bulb: :bulb:

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