Design Thinking for the social sector

By Neeta Kwatra, Senior Consultant, Genpact Social Impact Fellow On 12 January 2021
Design Thinking for the social sector

Organizations operating in the social sector have been aspiring to make bigger impacts on the beneficiaries and communities they serve. And they’ve become much more open to innovative ideas and approaches used by the commercial sector. One key aspect of innovation is identification of a challenge or problem area in order to pinpoint the correct solution. And one approach that businesses have been increasingly using for problem identification and solution is design

thinking. Design thinking is a simple, logical, design-based approach to problem-solving that focuses on people and their emotional responses. It helps identify what matters to people both inside and outside of the organization.

Because of its successes in the corporate world, a growing number of organizations in the social sector are exploring how design thinking can help them prosper on behalf of their end beneficiaries. Design thinking encompasses processes including context analysis, problem finding and framing, ideation and solution generating, creative thinking, sketching and drawing, modeling and prototyping, and testing and evaluating.

Its core features include the ability to:

  • Resolve ill-defined problems
  • Adopt solution-focused strategies
  • Use logic and reasoning
  • Employ nonverbal or graphic modeling media.

In design thinking, several different tools are used to gather and analyze information. These tools encourage participation, make it easier for people to express their views, and help organize information in a way that makes it more useful and more accessible to the group that is trying to analyze a given situation.

Some of the most commonly used tools in design thinking are rose, bud, thorns (RBT), abstract laddering, fly-onthe-wall observation, creative metrics, impact/difficulty metrics, and concept posters.

The following is a design thinking case study about how a team of Genpact Social Impact Fellows helped a not-for-profit organization in India better serve its end


The Genpact Social Impact Fellowship (GSIF) program is professional services firm Genpact’s flagship social transformation program in India. Established five years ago in partnership with the EdelGive Foundation, the GSIF uses a rigorous application process to select a small group of the company’s 95,000+ employees to help not-forprofits reengineer and reimagine their processes through a yearlong fellowship


Program fellows have worked on social projects in the fields of education, skills development, women’s empowerment, and employability. All of the GSIF projects have incorporated design thinking in some capacity, with various partners including Milaan Foundation, the Kaivalya Education Foundation, Saajha, Medha, Teach for India, and ETASHA Society.

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Tag : Design Thinking Social Sector

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