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Human-Centered Design for Refugee Teacher Leadership Development


We’re back from the IDEO.org human-centered design bootcamp in Kampala, Uganda and my notebook is full of notes, drawings, and sticky notes. It’s bursting with ideas, questions, prototypes, and plans for expanding our Little Ripples (LR) program to better support the leadership development of the refugee female teachers hired and trained to implement the LR program and make it their own.

Months and months ago, iACT responded to startup accelerator Amplify’s global challenge: how might we improve the education and learning opportunities for refugees around the world? We put forth our UK AIDLittle Ripples Ponds early childhood education in-home model as one of the solutions to improving the humanitarian response for early childhood education. Excitingly, it was selected as one of the top winners! As a result, we were given the opportunity to receive human-centered design training and tools as well as a grant made possible by UKAID to implement and test ideas for how we might empower refugee teachers to be leaders in education and to maintain the integrity of our program.

What is human-centered design? Human-centered design is what it sounds like. It’s a creative approach to problem-solving that starts with the people you’re designing for and ends with new solutions that are tailor-made to suit their needs. My favorite part of this approach is that it’s based on working with the people for whom you’re seeking solutions, and developing deep empathy, generating TONS of ideas, building a bunch of prIMG_5261ototypes, and sharing what you’ve made with, well, everybody.

Human-centered design is about iteration, being unafraid to fail, thinking outside the box, being optimistic, and coming up with real, tangible ideas. This was not necessarily a new process for iACT. We’ve always approached our work both in the U.S. and in the refugee camps this way, but we were grateful for the time, space, and peer collaboration IDEO.org offered us in Kampala.

IMG_5238What’s next, now that we’re back full of ideas and inspiration? We head to refugee camp Goz Amer to collaborate with Little Ripples teachers and the community. We will be implementing and testing different approaches to both empowering the Little Ripples teachers and ensuring the integrity of the program is retained as we expand to in-home Ponds across the camp. First we will learn what leadership means to Darfur women, then we will work with them to design a leadership toolkit that supports them in being leaders as teachers and as women in their community.

October 5 is International Day of the Teacher. Honor your favorite teacher, by sponsoring a Little Ripples student at $20 a month. Let us know who you are dedicating your donation to, and we will send him/her a special gift.

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Sara-Christine Dallain

Sara-Christine Dallain holds a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Hawaii at Manoa and a Masters in Public Health from the University of California, Los Angeles. Through her previous work with Direct Relief; Réseau Africain d’Education pour la Santé (RAES) in Senegal, Africa; and Board Member of Chad Relief Foundation; Dallain brings on-the-ground insight and experience in program design, evaluation, and implementation for health and education projects in sub-Saharan Africa. As i-ACT Director of Programs, she manages the development, implementation, and evaluation of i-ACT programs in refugee camps, serves as the organization’s primary grant writer, contributes greatly to social media and marketing content, collaborates with and oversees program volunteers, and supports i-ACT development and fundraising initiatives. Dallain has been working in both southern and eastern Chad refugee camps since 2011, and is one of the staff members regularly traveling to eastern Chad refugee camps and global conferences.


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