CATHERINE HOWARD

Contributed Articles

Navigating Value and Vulnerability with Multiple Stakeholders: Systems Thinking, Design Action and the Ways of Ethnography

MELISSA CLIVER, CATHERINE HOWARD and RUDY YULY A growing cadre of organizations, corporations, NGOs and philanthropic foundations seek to address difficult global problems like poverty using social innovation and technology. Such problems are multivalent, deep-rooted, ever changing and culturally specific. Amid this complicated terrain, ethnographic tools and methods are uniquely suited and key to successfully addressing these large-scale dilemmas. In our project, we use dynamic combinations of research, strategy and creative thinking to develop scalable financial service prototypes designed to promote financial inclusion for the world’s poorest individuals. Fostering holistic solutions in this arena requires new ways of conceiving, designing and delivering innovation. In this paper we describe our process and vision for navigating these complex environments with hybrid strategies and an embrace of systems thinking1. We conclude with six imperatives for success in global social innovation projects....

Guides Not Gurus

CATHERINE HOWARD and PETER MORTENSEN The past quarter century has seen the deployment of ethnographic methods in business grow from a curiosity to a prerequisite for success. But in the process, the outcomes of ethnographic research—customer empathy, strategic directions, lasting market insights that shape design—have not been adopted at the same rate. The hand-off from ethnographers to designers and business decision-makers is the biggest challenge to success. The time has come for ethnographers to again reframe their role within business. Rather than acting as interpreters between the lives of ordinary people and the companies who serve them, ethnographers have the opportunity to instead help the entire business organization to gather a clear sense of its customers’ lives. Ethnographers need to switch from being gurus of customer experience to being guides who take everyone in the company into the outside world....