The problem with many assessments is the fact they are good at identifying problems but generally fall short of showing the best way forward, that is to say, providing solutions that are evidence-based and have broad support with the donor and government organisations. Sadly, this can lead to investments in assessments not being realised and recommendations falling between the cracks due the difficulties in following through.
Antylles’ ASSESS phase is structured to overcome this problem by combining the all the design activities from the assessment right through to the proposal. Our ASSESS phase takes our client through a full cycle of divergent (exploring ideas) and convergent thinking (filtering and narrowing down to a preferred solution).
1. Divergent thinking (understanding the full set of options available)
The objective of ‘divergent thinking’, is to empower our local counterparts, our client and our other project team members to assess the current situation but keep their perspectives wide to allow for a broad range of ideas and influences. We start the design process when our client wants to create a new public good or service, or refine an existing one. The initial influence or inspiration for this can be triggered in a variety of ways. It may involve picking up on social, political or environmental trends, the responding to demands from citizens, or tapping into the ideas of government staff or networks.
“It is about making the undiscussable discussable, about not taking for granted what is taken for granted, about getting the underground above-ground so that the unmanageable can become manageable.”
Wherever the initial idea comes from, the design process in general and the ASSESS stage in particular provides a framework within which to find and process the initial ideas or inspiration. The ASSESS stage helps to identify the problem, opportunity or user need that should be addressed, and introduces the space within which design can provide a solution – the playing field for design. It is important that the design process used allows for ideas to be captured and developed in this way, and fosters this type of creative environment among our local counter-parts, staff and other stakeholders.
2. Convergent thinking (identifying the preferred way forward)
Once the client is comfortable it has fully explored and identified the full set of available options, we now undergo a filtering process where the review, selection and discarding of ideas takes place. This is where findings from divergent thinking are analysed, defined and refined as problems, and ideas for solutions are pitched and prototyped.
A combination of the ideas or directions identified are analysed and synthesised into a brief with actionable tasks related to new and existing product or service development. The ASSESS stage ends with a clear definition of the problem(s) and a plan for how to address this through a design-led product or service. In practice, the stage ends in a project go-ahead through donor and government-level sign-off to begin on design and development.