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Human-Centered Design: Parent and State Personas

Aim For Independence (AFI), an initiative spearheaded by the Office of Regional Operations (ORO) leadership, used a human-centered design methodology to put families at the center by developing seven parent personas to better understand the lived experiences, pain points and unmet needs of the families HHS serves. Three state personas were also developed to understand the experience of the individuals that administer these programs.

What is a persona?

A persona is a composite character that represents a distinct group according to their attitudes, frustrations, needs and aspirations. It is a tool that helps synthesize observations and draw out insights while building empathy for the people for whom we are designing.

To capture the experiences of families, ORO and AFI conducted interviews with 24 parents across two regions and analyzed over 2000 data points to create the parent personas. Each of the personas depicts a common crossroads scenario where a parent wants to, or is preparing to, take the next step toward greater economic mobility but has challenges or needs.

The parent persona (human-centered design) tool has allowed ACF and its stakeholders to:

  • Empathize with families and see things from their point of view;
  • Understand meaningful and actionable differences in what our user families need from services; and
  • Design solutions to fit families, instead of the other way around.

To learn more about the human-centered design artifacts and methodology and the parent personas, please explore the resources below.

Comments and Questions? Please contact

ReImagining HHS and Putting Families in the Center to Achieve Economic Independence

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This video introduces the Aim for Independence Initiative’s Human-Centered Design Approach and includes recordings and in-depth descriptions of each of the seven parent personas.

Watch Video

AFI Parent Personas

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Listen to the recordings and download each of the seven parent personas.

Meet the Parent Personas

Additional Persona Resources

  • Parent Persona Design Artifacts and Methodology

    This presentation given at the 2019 Aspen ThinkXChange: Advancing Family Prosperity provides details on the methodology and design elements used to develop the personas.

  • Parent Persona Postcards

    Download and print PDF version of the Parent Personas.

  • State and County Research

    AFI conducted listening sessions, surveys, and individual interviews of state and county stakeholders to identify pain points, organizational priorities, and opportunities for ACF. The goal was to understand the experiences of the families who interact with the human services system and the state and county commissioners that administer it. This document outlines the research methodology, design and results.

  • State Personas

    Customers of HHS are both families and states. AFI developed three personas of key state roles. Download and print PDF versions of the state personas.


Last Reviewed: October 23, 2020

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