A1: Using Human-Centered Design to Influence Stakeholders and Policy

Area of Focus: Government Affairs and Advocacy
Content Level: Doer

Congreso de Latinos Unidos, a multi-service organization in Philadelphia, is using human-centered design (HCD) to engage funders and policymakers in the service design process—reimagining human services for its largely Latino population. Specializing in “last mile innovation,” Congreso uses its homegrown design toolkit to empower staff at the end-user client level to redesign their programs to generate data-rich insights leading to:

  • Improved experience and outcomes for participants
  • Increased influence and collaboration with funders

Congreso’s incorporation of design has created a powerful “feedback loop” between policymakers, funders and Congreso’s clients, ensuring the design of services is equitable and human centered. In taking ownership of the full feedback circuit, Congreso has positioned itself as a key link between policymakers and the end-user experience, ensuring future policies, funding, and service contracts account for the nuanced needs of its target population and greatly enhancing the impact and value that government funding seeks to provide.

As a recipient of multiple government funding streams, Congreso recognizes the disconnect between how services are conceived at the policy level and the actual experience of staff and clients in those programs. Often, services conceived of at the policy level don’t fully account for the nuanced experiences of the end-users, causing attrition, low utilization, and inefficient outcomes. Congreso uses HCD tools to shift this paradigm by bringing the two together, leading to improved client experience and outcomes, increased staff empowerment to influence change and the ability to perform data-driven funder advocacy to influence how policies and RFPs are crafted and implemented. 

This session will cover how Congreso utilizes HCD techniques to understand and improve upon the client experience in its programs, including investigating pain points, inefficiencies, and inequities, and how staff leverage those insights to influence change at the funding/policy level.

This session will cover: 

  • How Congreso built a human-centered design culture at all levels of the organization
  • Overview of Congreso’s homegrown HCD toolkit and design lab process, including practical tips for how participants can get started with their teams      
  • How Congreso leverages design insights from the staff-client level to empower the entire leadership chain to take action both internally and externally
  • Case studies of how Congreso’s feedback loops have positively impacted the funder/grantee relationship and influenced human-centered changes in project scopes, contract terms, and the public RFP process

Learning Objectives

  • Key tenets of HCD
  • Strategies for funder advocacy based on implementation of HCD tactics and tools
  • Specific strategies for increasing collaboration with government funders and stakeholders


Brendan Conlin
Chief Program Officer
Congreso de Latinos Unidos

Jamie Hughes
Vice President of Programmatic Development
Congreso de Latinos Unidos

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