Human Centered Design for Human Services (HCD4HS) Project — Nominate a Human Services Program

November 5, 2019
Methods and Tools
Human-centered Design for Human Services (HCD4HS), 2018 - 2021 | Learn more about this project
  • Published 2019


  • Is your program facing challenges engaging children and families in service delivery?
  • Are you facing staff turnover?
  • Do children and families have unmet needs you would like to better address?
  • Do you wish you spent less time on paperwork and more time on service delivery?

To help identify potential solutions to problems like these, the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) invites nominations of ACF program offices, state- or county-administered human services programs, and local ACF grantees to participate in a pilot study under the Human Centered Design for Human Services (HCD4HS) project. Programs may nominate themselves to participate. Nominations are due by December 5, 2019.

Human-centered design (HCD) is an approach that promotes the generation of innovative solutions to complex problems through new, creative ways of thinking about a problem, and through intentional engagement with the beneficiaries (“users”) of the solution.

ACF is seeking programs that are interested in learning more about HCD through training and coaching activities at both the executive leadership and staff levels. Programs that may be a good fit for the project include those that are both interested and willing to include staff or clients as partners in the problem-solving process. We are seeking programs that can dedicate staff time to the HCD process during the approximately five-month period. Priority will be given to programs that deliver services related to economic security, early childhood, and healthy marriage and responsible fatherhood. Programs that have already used HCD processes extensively in their organization are not eligible.

Benefits and Outcomes of Participation

Participating programs may benefit from education about the HCD process, as well as HCD coaching and guidance tailored to each specific program’s goals. The HCD pilot study team will assist programs to define and refine their problem and design a solution alongside beneficiaries of the solution (“users”).

Possible outcomes that participating programs may achieve include:

  • Improve services through the critical involvement of users in the creative problem-solving process
  • Grow organizational knowledge of how to implement the HCD process in this pilot study and to address future challenges
  • Increase staff capacity to implement the HCD process within a human service context
  • Become a knowledge leader on the HCD process and understand your users deeply, how well your program serves them, and where there are opportunities for better service delivery
  • Share knowledge on the HCD process to inform similar ACF programs and the broader human services field

The Opportunity

Selected programs will have the opportunity to engage in a range of activities spanning roughly five months and focused on learning the HCD approach and collecting research data. This will be an intensive process that involves a series of in-person, onsite, and virtual activities.

Selected programs can expect to:

  • Discuss individual program needs during the program selection process.
  • Attend a three-day HCD primer workshop shortly after selection.
    • Send up to three individuals from your program to the workshop to be held in a centralized location (likely in the Washington, DC area). Travel costs will be covered.
    • Create an HCD plan tailored to your program’s needs and the problem you want to address.
  • Host a workshop at your site a couple months after the HCD primer workshop for up to 15 participants.
  • Receive technical assistance through virtual coaching and support on the HCD process and the content area of your program. This includes the identification of an HCD “champion” to lead the work in your site and other staff members to form a core HCD team. Engage in weekly meetings and other communication with the HCD and content experts. With help from these experts, develop a solution to a problem using the HCD approach.
  • Participate in evaluation activities like interviews, focus groups, and the sharing of data.
  • Programs may receive a site payment to offset program costs associated with implementing the HCD process.

Nomination and Application Process

ACF will select three programs for this opportunity. ACF is interested in nominations of programs that have the capacity to engage in the activities described in this announcement, have staff that demonstrate the qualities listed above, and have an interest in improving human services delivery and outcomes using a new approach. Self-nominations are encouraged.

Nominations should include a brief narrative about the nominated program or agency, and a description of the problem the agency/program would like to resolve. Nominations should be no more than three pages. In selecting participating programs, ACF may consider such factors as organizational capacity, evidence of readiness and interest, and the desired outcomes of the program. Please provide the name of the person in the nominated program who should be contacted, along with their title, organization, address, phone number, and email.

After receipt of the nominations, Child Trends or its partners, Anthro-Tech and MEF Associates, may contact programs directly for additional information. Child Trends has been contracted by ACF to conduct this study and is partnering with MEF Associates and Anthro-Tech, a human-centered design firm.

How to Submit Nominations

Send your nominations and any attachments to Kerensa Nagle at by 11:59 p.m. ET on December 5, 2019. If you have any questions or need more information about these instructions, please contact Jenita Parekh at (281) 660-0471 or

By sending us this information, you acknowledge that you understand that the any information about your program, along with your name and contact information will be shared with the HCD4HS project team. You also acknowledge that you understand that because your information will be shared via email and that email is not secure, there is a possibility that other groups beyond the intended recipients could see your information. You acknowledge that you understand this possibility and consent for your information to be transmitted via email.

Last Reviewed: November 5, 2019