Community Innovation

In Jordan, the Mahali Lab at the International Rescue Committee works with Syrian refugees and socially and economically vulnerable community members to identify and solve challenges posed by long-term displacement. People from within communities can acutely understand them from the inside, but many don’t have access to training, resources, and networks to translate them into solutions.

Mahali Lab undertook three participatory design challenges to foster community engagement in developing solutions to three major issues: access to basic income, improving health services, and strengthening education. Participants built up entrepreneurial teams while working to solve these major challenges. They were able to access co-working space, financial support and access to experts, such as analysts and human-centered designers. The IRC works with teams with the most promising solutions in an effort to find funding and support their implementation, validation and scaling.

Community Tools

Community members have important shared knowledge, language, and collective understanding, which enables them to surface important insights about problems and potential solutions. They can leverage existing resources and networks to create homegrown solutions. By helping individuals access new skills and opportunities, and making key connections with experts, peers, and businesses, we can help power these solutions and drive them forward.

A number of tools have been developed from the Mahali Lab using a human-centered design approach. These tools can help you work with vulnerable communities and empower individuals or community groups to frame and communicate the pressing problems they’re facing and enable creative problem-solving.

Be Open

Be Open image

Acknowledge that you do not know the answer. Be open to answers that are not in your current thinking.

Look & Think

Look & Think image

Put yourself in your user’s shoes. Identify their problems and values.

Create Build & Test

Create Build & Test image

Prototype and evaluate a range of ideas. Learn, iterate and refine with users until it is right. Details matter — great ideas with small flaws fail.

Scale & Sustain

Scale & Sustain image

Consider who will carry out and spread your program. Strive for it to have a life of its own.