Using interaction design to break the poverty cycle

A session at Interaction14

Thursday 6th February, 2014

2:00pm to 2:00pm (AMT)

How can governments encourage those who have been dependent on social assistance for years to find their own way in society? The Dutch city of The Hague looks to answer that question with a new programme: “Door-to-Door for Change”.

The Challenge
“Door-to-Door for Change” is a pilot project that targets 150 families in The Hague who have been on social assistance for at least 3 years. The goal is to have 15% of parents find work and 50% increase their community engagement through volunteer work or neighbourhood activities. Research suggests that having parents work and being involved in the community increases chances of future success for their children.
To be successful, “Door-to-Door for Change” needed to answer 2 difficult questions:

  • How to get parents – who have been fully dependent on the state for years and are often socially isolated – to change their lives?
  • And, how to excite social workers who have been working with these clients for years and may be sceptical of “yet another initiative”?

Understanding users and their context
A structured design process started with delving into the needs of the two groups who are key to the project outcome: the families and the social workers.
The project team reviewed 50+ in-depth interviews among people long dependent on social assistance to gain insight into the different attitudes, objectives and capabilities. They identified 6 distinct groups, each with their own needs vs. the programme.

As for the social workers, the team interviewed and observed them at work. Though committed and highly experienced, many have been working exclusively for the city and are used to the procedures and forms that come with city work. New tools that put forms aside and encourage an active dialogue between parent and social worker were crucial here.

The Design
Based on extensive contextual and user research, the programme and supporting materials were designed that built on the underlying motivations of both parents and social workers.

To encourage parents to find work, the design starts from their own motivation. During house visits social workers start by having participants identify why they would want to work, if they could. Is it for the money? To be a better role model? To feel better physically & mentally? They identify their own personal “what’s in it for me?”. The reasons are used to guide and shape the programme participants follow to find work. Social workers register their progress versus that goal in a digital system.

For social workers, their need for an active dialogue and open communication was crucial for the design. The programme uses a visual language with simple text in an informal, non-bureaucratic style. This creates a more human relationship between family and social worker. The cards, supporting materials and the digital system that follows the progress further help social workers to truly interact with participants.

The Results
* 500 families in 2013 visited
* While initially skeptical, now all enthusiastic and convinced social workers
* Engaged, goal focused participants, expressing hope and motivation – first results look positive

About the speaker

This person is speaking at this event.
Lea Ward

Director at C.Note - Customer Experience Design in Amsterdam and contributor to http://www.buildingtrustequity.com. Interested in trust, customers and all things Dutch. bio from Twitter

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Time 2:00pm2:00pm AMT

Date Thu 6th February 2014


Breakout room A, Westergasfabriek

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