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Designing for Equity

I was delighted to be a part of the Product Immersion for Small Newsrooms bootcamp organized by NewsCatalyst and the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY, in partnership with the Google News Initiative. I was even more delighted to be working and presenting with Roxann Stafford, my former colleague at Matter. Her expertise and empathy made a huge impact on me then, and her ideas on designing for equity continue to be transformative for me.

By now, we know that human-centered design for products, services, and ventures is a good idea. Putting empathy at the center of our process, rather than naïve solutionizing based on our own experiences and whims, brings us to places where we're more deeply suppporting people. It's not about scratching our own itches and being the smartest people in the room; it's about talking to the people we're trying to help and letting our deepening understanding of their needs guide us. It's about listening and humility.

Obviously, who you choose to listen to matters. Roxann's observation is that to really serve your community, the people who get to design the process also matter. If a design thinking process is architected by people of privilege, the derived insights will be filtered through that privilege. If only a narrow demographic is performing human-centered tests, only that demographic gets to design hypotheses, and only their questions will be answered. The only way to achieve real equity is to invite people to be co-designers and co-owners of the process, and of the outcomes.

The workshop we co-facilitated was a first taste of these ideas, for an invite-only audience of practitioners from small newsrooms around the world. I'm hoping I'll get to do more of these. And while I was a contributor, these ideas are Roxann's instigation: I hope she'll have a suitable platform to share them more widely.

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