Human-Centred Design

A process that puts people at the heart of tackling complex problems

We live in a world full of complex problems, in which the demand for new ideas and fresh thinking has seldom been greater.

At Common Purpose, we believe that in order to break away from standard approaches, and tackle challenges creatively, leaders need to work better with people who are very different to them. Only by recognizing the value of wider perspectives will they develop solutions that genuinely work for the people at the centre of those challenges. That’s why we have developed our own approach to Human-Centred Design – a process that puts people at the heart of tackling complex problems.

More information

Who is it for?

Our Human-Centred Design process can be delivered in person or online for groups of 20 to 250 and has delivered outcomes for leaders from over 100 cities worldwide – from large corporations to community groups, students to CEOs, local governments to small businesses. 

How does it work?

We start by identifying a common and compelling challenge which a group can address – big enough to be worth the effort, but small enough to grasp. Our experiential process gives participants an intimate understanding of the challenge through the eyes of the people who live it on a daily basis; promotes ideation through intensive small-group work; and builds the leadership skills needed to tackle complex problems that cross boundaries. We create then curate an environment – whether in-person or online – where participants hear new voices, consider the unlikely, and learn how to draw out new ideas from diverse groups. 

The process

You can view the full Human-Centred Design process by clicking on the button below.


"Through Common Purpose, I have seen that the most innovative solutions are usually high-touch (human touch). We have observed that when the design team involves everyone from the horticultural, marketing, procurement, engineering as well as the frontline staff, it often results in more robust and creative outcomes."

The outcomes

  • Human Capital – participants develop the skills and competencies to cross boundaries
  • Social Capital - a diverse network of leaders across a city, organization or community
  • Civic Capital – innovative, practical ideas for a city, organization, system or community

Common Purpose will always deliver Human Capital, with robust assessments in place to measure the impact of the programme. Our process also creates the opportunity – driven by the commitment of participants, stakeholders and commissioners – for Social and Civic Capital to endure, long after the process has ended.

Examples of programmes using Human-Centred Design

Health InnoVenture 2016

Common Purpose: ASEAN Leaders Programme

City Challenge 2018 | RMIT Vietnam

Why choose Human-Centred Design?

We work with partners who use our Human-Centred Design process to meet a range of different strategic objectives:

  • Finding new solutions to complex problems involving multiple stakeholders
  • Culture or system change and change management
  • Delivering social impact within cities and communities
  • Executive leadership development and team building
  • Student leadership development

Previous Challenges include:

  • "How do we ensure technological innovation delivers societal as well as economic value in cities?”
  • “How can we produce the UK’s best wellbeing and care system for older people in Doncaster by 2020?”
  • “How can we encourage Melburnians to embrace a circular economy to move the city towards becoming a zero waste city?”
  • “Is a 40% increase in effective water management possible?”
  • “How do we increase knowledge of and access to graduate employment opportunities in the North East?”

Get in touch

If you would like to find out more about Human-Centred Design, and how we can work with you, please get in touch.