What is the distinction between ASRH program insights and HCD generated ASRH insights?

Continuing the discussion from Adolescent Insights on HCD + ASRH

In our learning work at HCDExchange, we have been looking at the generation and utility of Adolescent Insights in the HCD process within ASRH. One of the questions that often comes up in discussions around HCD in ASRH, and one that we have posed to practitioners in our research is around the added value of HCD generated insights. More specifically how are these different from what we are already getting from traditional approaches of ASRH insight gathering? While we have been exploring this distinction through our learning work in adolescent insights there is a long way to go in building a good and concrete understanding of the same.

I am sharing below some of what we have heard from practitioners working in different organizations as a starting point to this discussion:

  1. While ASRH program insights will often identify ‘what needs to be done?’ for a program, HCD insights tend to give you an understanding of ‘how that can be done?’ in a way that it is integrated into the daily lives of the target group.

  2. The process of insight gathering differs in traditional approaches versus HCD approaches. HCD methods and processes incorporate the element of observation in the context of interest even outside of planned field interviews. Practitioners noted that when doing HCD, teams often tried to spend time in the community speaking to different people in it and understanding how things work, where do community members meet, how do they get information, etc. These findings in some cases could lead to a solution that builds on mechanisms that are already integrated into the community.

  3. HCD insights are more directly applicable to the solution being created than traditional ASRH insights. Learning is a continuous process in HCD, and insights often become more and more applicable to the solution as the process moves along.

  4. HCD insights end up repeating a lot of the work at the inspiration phase, which is already done through insight gathering with traditional approaches. Instead of using what has already been found HCD processes sometimes result in repetition of fieldwork to get the same insights that were already known.

Overall, I have found that there is a need to define the distinction between insights that are gathered from HCD and ones that are gathered from traditional approaches in ASRH programming. This might help define the boundaries of what HCD can and cannot do in terms of insight gathering, and lead to a more nuanced understanding of the kinds of aspects that we can expect insights about when using an HCD process versus traditional approaches.

I look forward to hearing from you if your experiences resonate with these findings or if they are different, and in what way?


Thank you @Rimjhim for opening this really interesting conversation!

I resonate with HCD having many more ways of understanding ASRH problems than only relying on conversations. Moreover HCD employs fun research tools that serve either as conversation starters or aid conversation on a taboo topic like ASRH.

I have often seen traditional qualitative research insights suggesting evidence from the field and HCD insights highlighting the underlying 'why’s. Which is why I totally resonate with your point of the need for HCD digging further into the evidence from existing ASRH research instead of hitting the field to discover the same.

The beauty of HCD for me lies in the opportunity to gather insights, use them to generate actionable problems and design solutions based on the team’s experience through it all. I often get ideas for solutions from something I may have seen or heard on field which may not even have been formally captured as an insight.


Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts @Meru!

I have had similar experiences in terms of solutions and ideas often coming out of just being in the field for long periods of time and noticing things that are already part of the environment there. Like you rightly said these are not often even captured as insights. I completely resonate with that!

Taking that forward, I think HCD generated learnings (the ones captured and the ones not captured) often also rely so much on the lived experience of the researcher. They leverage a lot of the softer skills of being human and being curious. I don’t know if this is a stretch but I also feel that to be able to gather those unrelated insights that can often become solutions requires researchers to have a learning and exploring mindset versus a more objective specific mindset.

Having said all of that, I wonder if as HCD practitioners in ASRH, we can find ways to actually capture these learnings so that they can actively be considered when ideating, building solutions, and developing evaluation metrics. I think that those are important links that we need to be able to make to measure the impact or the health of a program, and the usefulness of the HCD process.


I love how you put it as “the softer skills of being human and being curious.” For me HCD has been a mindset more than a process.

Qualitative research with its immense history is definitely more systematic and process-influenced than design research but I wonder if that leaves scope for the mind to wander in the latter. But I am intrigued by your suggestion of finding ways to capture the lived experience of the design researcher and the unrelated insights. I wonder if it will aid in reinforcing the HCD mindset and what bit of the process should be left to inspiration and intuition.