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Putting People First

Daily insights on user experience, experience design and people-centred innovation
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12 April 2014

Maybe the Voice of the Customer isn’t

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Criticizing Voice of the Customer (VOC) programs is like speaking out against motherhood and apple pie, writes marketing consultant Ron Shevlin. Yet, he says, there are (at least) two problems with the “voice of the customer” that many marketers don’t take into consideration:

1. It’s not really the customer’s voice.
The prompts included in survey questions may or may not reflect what respondents really think or what they’ve done. They often select a prompt because it most closely matches the answer they want to give. Given the opportunity, they might describe it differently.
If that wasn’t bad enough, market researchers take the linguistic limitations they create, then go and misinterpret the responses.

2. Customers don’t always have a voice to contribute.
Market researchers routinely ask consumers “what influenced you to buy this product?”
Often, consumers don’t really know what influences their decisions. Even when we think we know, we often lie to ourselves–as well as to researchers–about those reasons because we don’t want to appear (even to ourselves) to make decisions for the wrong reasons.

In conclusion, What we really need to focus on is understanding the gap between voice and behavior. That is: Why do consumers say one thing, yet do another?

9 April 2014

Ethnography in action at Wells Fargo

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Only a few years ago, the corporate view of retirement planning at San Francisco-based Wells Fargo Bank tended to focus on dollars and cents — how much an individual needed to invest, by when and for how many years,” write Julien Cayla, Robin Beers and Eric Arnould, authors of the article “Stories That Deliver Business Insights,” in the Winter 2014 issue of MIT Sloan Management Review. This segmentation did not account for context such as whether a person was inclined to think about long-term financial goals.

“As part of an ethnographic project commissioned by the bank, researchers had customers walk through a life timeline and recount activities they engaged in that related to retirement planning in each decade of their lives — their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond,” write the authors. The stories showed that baby boomers faced “a complex phenomenon of continually negotiated personal travails and marketplace dynamics.”

As a result of what they heard, the Wells Fargo team reworked how they think of customers. The bank developed a behavior-based segmentation that divided retirement approaches into three groups — Reactor, Pooler and Maximizer. [...]

As a result, the bank adjusted its marketing strategy and “designed its retirement planning site to include the various life stages used in the ethnographic research to convey the message ‘we meet you where you are’ and provide relevant, unintimidating guidance — as opposed to producing numbers-dense material filled with endless financial projections.”

9 April 2014

Tell me a story: augmented reality technology in museums

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Museums around the world today face the challenge of increasing and maintaining visitor numbers, especially with younger audiences. A fall in visitors is seen by most as a negative outcome, both financially and in terms of wider social and educational impact. It can happen due to a range of factors, but one of the most important is that museums can often find themselves competing with the products of the entertainment industry, which at its heart is in the business of telling a good story.

The EU-funded Chess project (a shorter name for the much longer Cultural Heritage Experiences through Socio-personal interactions and Storytelling) plans to make interactive content such as games and augmented reality available to the entire museum sector.

“The project relies on visitor profiling, matching visitors to pre-determined “personas” – which are designed as a representative description of the various people that constitute a given museum’s visitor base. These are created through data from surveys, visitor studies and ethnographic observations. A given visitor is matched initially through a visitor survey to one of several representative personas, which in turn influences fundamentally the experience delivered by the Chess system.

Doing this makes the visitor experience non-linear. The system constantly adapts to a visitor’s preferences. For example, if a visitor fails in a game or stays longer in front of certain artefacts, the system can adapt the storyline. It makes the experience more dynamic and relevant, so instead of sending the visitor to X exhibit, the system might instead choose to send you to Y exhibit, where you will get more information that’s relevant to what you’ve shown an interest in.”

8 April 2014

[Book] A Web for Everyone: Designing Accessible User Experiences

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A Web for Everyone: Designing Accessible User Experiences
by Sarah Horton & Whitney Quesenbery
Rosenfeld Media, 2013
288 pages

In their new book, A Web for Everyone: Designing Accessible User Experiences, Sarah Horton and Whitney Quesenbery make a case for accessibility that begins and ends with people. “We believe that great design starts by thinking about how to make products work for everyone.”

The book is a great resource for those trying to implement accessibility measures without making sacrifices that compromise design or innovation. In this excerpt, you’ll meet the personas (illustrated by Tom Biby) that are referenced throughout the book.

Sarah Horton is a consultant for strategic planning for websites and web applications. She also does accessibility and usability reviews. Sarah started her career in interaction design in 1991 at the Yale Center for Advanced Instructional Media, creating award-winning interactive instructional software. She was an instructional technologist at Dartmouth College for 11 years before becoming director of web strategy and design. As director, she was responsible for planning and developing Dartmouth’s digital environment, and she led a team of user-experience professionals responsible for web and media design, development, and production. More recently, Sarah was Web Strategy Project Lead at Harvard University, responsible for strategy and user experience design for the Harvard Web Publishing Initiative. Sarah is currently Director of Accessible User Experience and Design with The Paciello Group. Sarah is co-author with Patrick Lynch of Web Style Guide, now in its third edition and translated into at least eight languages. She also wrote Web Teaching Guide, which in 2000 won the American Association of Publishers award for best book in computer science. Her third book, Access by Design, combines the disciplines of universal design, accessibility, and usability into guidelines for designing websites that are universally usable.

Whitney Quesenbery is a user researcher, user experience practitioner, and usability expert with a passion for clear communication. She has been in the field for too many years, working with organizations from The Open University to the National Cancer Institute. She enjoys learning about people around the world and using those insights to design products where people matter. Before a little beige computer seduced her into software, usability, and interface design, she was a lighting designer in the theater. Like every other element of the production, lighting has to help tell the story. The scenery, lighting, costumes, direction and acting all have to work together tell the same story. She learned a lot about the craft of storytelling from watching hours of rehearsals. Whitney has served as president of the Usability Professionals’ Association (UPA), on the boards of the Center for Plain Language and UXnet, and as a manager of the Society for Technical Communication (STC) Usability and User Experience Community. As a member of two U.S. government advisory committees, she is working to update accessibility requirements and to improve the usability and accessibility of voting systems for U.S. elections. Whitney is a frequent author and presenter in industry events and is a contributor to UXmatters.com. Her first publication on storytelling was a book chapter on “Storytelling and Narrative” in The Personas Lifecycle, by John Pruitt and Tamara Adlin. She’s also proud that her chapter “Dimensions of Usability” in Content and Complexity turns up on so many course reading lists.

30 March 2014

Behavioral approaches to product innovation at the Base of the Pyramid

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Alexandra Fiorillo, Principal of GRID Impact, writes that if we want to achieve full financial inclusion, we cannot simply offer more financial products and services to more people and hope they need, want, like, and use them. Instead, she writes, we should spend the necessary resources to ensure our products and services work for clients by doing two things:

1. Design products that meet the needs, desires, and preferences of our clients by collaborating with them on the design and delivery of these products.

2. Help our clients follow-through with the intentions and goals they have for their financial lives by focusing on taking action rather than just providing more information.

She continues:

“A new approach to product and service innovation, behavioral research and design, attempts to do just this. Drawing on insights from behavioral economics and principles from human-centered design, behavioral research and design attempts to uncover deep personal and contextual motivators and influencers to human behavior so we can better design products and services in a client-centered way. The goal of this method is not to focus on stated preferences and opinion or market research, but rather to develop deep empathy for human needs and desires while also making sense of observable behaviors – which may be contrary to people’s stated preferences.”

GRID Impact is a global research, innovation and design firm that specializes in human-centered approaches to policy, program, and product challenges. They use data and evidence to improve social impact in areas such as financial inclusion, global health, agriculture and education.

29 March 2014

IBM invests $100M in interactive experience labs globally

 

IBM this week announced plans to commit more than $100 million to globally expand its consulting services capability to help clients with experience design and engagement. As part of the investment, the company will open 10 new IBM Interactive Experience labs around the world and plans to add 1,000 employees to create new, personalized models of engagement through data and design.

Located in Bangalore, Beijing, Groningen, London, Melbourne, Mexico City, New York, Sao Paulo, Shanghai, and Tokyo, the new labs provide clients with the opportunity to work side-by-side with researchers and consultants as well as experts in experience design, mobile and digital marketing. These multi-discipline teams analyze business challenges and jointly create solutions that integrate next-generation mobile, social, analytics and cloud technologies. IBM plans to open additional labs in the future to support the global demand for data-driven experiences.

“There’s no longer any real distinction between business strategy and the design of the user experience. The last best experience that anyone has anywhere, becomes the minimum expectation for the experience they want everywhere, and the quality of that experience is entirely dependent on the use of individualized information,” said Bridget van Kralingen, Senior Vice President of IBM Global Business Services. “As our clients recalibrate what it means to engage with their customers or employees, we’re bringing them the full spectrum of world-class design and IBM Research, book-ended by strategy consulting and our strength in Big Data.”

As hallmarks of the IBM Interactive Experience consulting practice, the new labs will enable companies to engage with their customers in entirely new ways. Researchers within IBM Interactive Experience are developing capabilities to harness the value of data to help clients create personalized experiences, while designers within IBM Interactive Experience are working directly with clients to develop experiences that are increasingly mobile-driven. These experiences leverage IBM’s MobileFirst portfolio to take advantage of the transformational nature of mobile solutions. The combination of these capabilities and design elements hinge on insights IBM converts from data — including information on individual decisions, choices, preferences and attitudes.

In addition to the 10 new labs and four existing locations in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, and Toronto clients can partner with IBM Interactive Experience teams in IBM Research Labs in 12 locations around the world to personalize their every interaction with consumers.

Along with the new facilities, IBM also unveiled new data-driven innovations from IBM Interactive Experience that help business leaders gain deeper insights into individuals and transform the way customers experience their products, services and brands. IBM researchers within IBM Interactive Experience invented unique algorithms that conduct the analysis for these new capabilities.

Press release ! Core77 interview with Shannon Miller of IBM Interactive Experience

24 March 2014

Crowdfunding for design: ITC-ILO campaign for training and facilitation card set

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Are you a trainer? Do you facilitate meetings?

The International Training Centre of the International Labour Organization (ITC-ILO, a specialised, not-for-profit UN agency and an Experientia client) is currently experimenting with crowdfunding to finance a set of 60 cards featuring participatory knowledge sharing methods. The cards are a handy tool to help workshop facilitators and trainers make informed decisions about the appropriate methods, tools and resources to conduct learning activities.

The cards will feature training and facilitation methods that are frequently used by the ITC-ILO. They have been carefully selected and validated in workshops by the ITC-ILO over many years, and the full-length descriptions are currently available on their Compass website.

Since creating the Compass website, ITC-ILO has had many requests from their own trainers to create a portable tool that is easy to travel with, can be used in offline situations, and offers a brief synthesis of the selected methods.

The card set is highly useful for anyone who conducts training activities, prompting the ITC-ILO to use crowdfunding to develop the project. It not only lets demand drive the project, but offers the available knowledge to a much broader audience. Donors to the campaign receive rewards ranging from digital versions of the eventual card set to varying numbers of full printed sets. The donations will help to fund the design and printing of the cards.

The Compass card set is ideal for people who:

  • need a quick-reference tool to select the right learning methods for a workshop or training session;
  • need a quick refresher on a specific training technique, while actually running workshops and sessions;
  • want to explain to stakeholders how workshops can be participatory and what the variety of training methods can achieve;
  • want a short and visual explanation of participatory knowledge sharing methods, instead of large manuals or tools that are only available online.

Watch the video | Go to the crowdfunding campaign

24 March 2014

What is it that you do exactly?

 

When you work in user experience or one of its many subsets, you tend to hear questions about what you do a lot. UX professionals often get this inquiry from parents, prospects, neighbors, friends, or casual acquaintances.

Too often, Baruch Sachs gets the same level of confusion from clients, people who are actually paying me to provide user experience services.

“Clients who don’t exactly get what user experience is tend to fall into two camps: those who believe that I swoop in and tell them what colors to choose and those who believe that I do everything from end to end without needing to talk to anyone, ever. Their impression in that I am basically a magician who, with a wave of my wand, can either brighten up a color palette or create the next App Store—no matter what data or process I need to have.”

18 March 2014

People first, technology second. It’s time for businesses to get personal

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Todd McKinnon, CEO of Okta, explains in Re/Code how also in a business context a people-centric focus is increasingly essential.

“In order to unlock the opportunity for “people-centric” experiences and to realize the new kinds of business value those experiences can generate, IT leaders need to re-prioritize, understanding their people — employees, customers and partners — and their needs first. The technology that should serve those needs comes second. The ease at which end users are able to interact with your business and get the information they need on their terms becomes the differentiator.[...]

Experiences can now be defined by an individual’s preferences, what information people have access to at various points of time, what devices they’re able to access that information from, and the extent to which they’re allowed to interact with that information. There are a lot more rules to follow — and businesses are under much more scrutiny by which rules are enforced. The only relics of the old world are the users involved in each instance, but even that variable has gotten more diverse and outspread.”

17 March 2014

Six ways to design humanity and localism into Smart Cities

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A long post by Rick Robinson, Executive Architect at IBM specialising in emerging technologies and Smarter Cities, admonishes Smart Cities planners and designers not to overlook the social needs of cities and communities. After all, he says, the full purpose of cities is: to enable a huge number of individual citizens to live not just safe, but rewarding lives with their families.

His well thought-through and experience based reasoning is very much worth a read and ends with an in-depth discussion of six practical steps:

  1. Make institutions accessible
  2. Make infrastructure and technology accessible
  3. Support collaborative innovation
  4. Promote open systems
  5. Provide common services
  6. Establish governance of the information economy
16 March 2014

Why smart cities need an urgent reality check

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Responsive urban technology sounds enticing but citizens must not be disconnected from plans drawn up on their behalf, argues Gary Graham in The Guardian.

“It’s not clear at the moment whether future cities are strategic experiments for [large companies such as IBM, Samsung, Cisco and Intel], or if they are genuinely catalysing the regeneration of inner cities. To investigate some of these visions, I went to MIT in Boston for three months last year. The aim was to find out how people would get their goods and services in the city of the future, and how we we get everyone to engage with city plans.

We decided to test out some ideas with the inner-city communities of Boston in a series of workshops. We essentially combined science fact and science fiction by presenting them with a Boston set in 2037, based on current technological trends projected forward through several imagined scenarios.

We combined the traditional science fiction ideas of utopia and dystopia with realistic technological trends such as artificial intelligence, 3D printing and big data and asked Bostonians to come up with fictional stories about their life in these environments.”

And the answers were quite to the point:

“Workshop participants felt smart cities were rather utopian concepts growing from a vision put forward by one group of businesses. There was general agreement that there were often many visions for the city, but “at the moment it’s the rich and powerful who determine that future vision.”

Many were troubled by the notion that people would live in a city purely because of its technology capabilities and thought there were lots of other important social and cultural reasons influencing people’s decisions to live or work somewhere. Just because these urban centres could offer us new ways of living in the future does not negate the importance of the natural environment, history and legacy.”

12 March 2014

A UX view of the future of mobile networks and systems

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The latest post of the User Experience Lab at Ericsson Research presents a UX view of the future of mobile networks and systems.

“The “Remote Control over Mobile Networks” concept is one of several concepts that we have defined in a longer term research project called “UX of future networks”, which is currently ongoing. The main scope for the project is for us at the UX Lab to investigate the next generation of networks and systems (such as 5G) from an UX perspective.”

10 March 2014

Observing the technologists

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Nick Seaver, a PhD candidate in sociocultural anthropology at UC Irvine, makes the case for the importance of “studying up“: doing ethnographies not only of disempowered groups, but of groups who wield power in society, like technology developers. This project focuses on the development of algorithmic music recommendation systems.

“Just as ethnography is an excellent tool for showing how “users” are more complicated than one might have thought, it is also useful for understanding the processes through which technologies get built. By turning an ethnographic eye to the designers of technology — to their social and cultural lives, and even to their understandings of users — we can get a more nuanced picture of what goes on under the labels “big data” or “algorithms.” For outsiders interested in the cultural ramifications of technologies like recommender systems, this perspective is crucial for making informed critiques. For developers themselves, being the subject of ethnographic research provides a unique opportunity for reflection and self-evaluation.”

Now I am curious what his research results actually showed.

9 March 2014

Swedish inspirations on design for public policy

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The Forum for Social Innovation Sweden is a meeting place for academia, industry, government, civic society and non-profit organisations in Sweden striving to develop social innovation and social entrepreneurship.

As part of its mission to share news, information, network and what is happening within this field, in Sweden and globally, it is worth calling attention to a few of its events and publications:

Event

Designing Publics, Public Designing
On the 27th an 28th of January, the Forum for Social innovation Sweden, at Malmö University and partners organised an international seminar on the subject of design and social innovation for public policy.
Synthesis article | Report | Conference video

Publications

Public and collaborative, Exploring the intersection of design, social innovation and public policy
Design for Social Innovation towards Sustainability, DESIS, has published a public and collaborative book presenting reflections on efforts of DESIS Labs in Europe, Canada, and the United States.

The Power of the Collective
Research article by Andi Sharma that explores how social enterprise and non-profits can fully realize the potential of co-location communities.

> More publications

7 March 2014

The Great Convergence

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Jesse James Garrett of Adaptive Path argues that the constellations in the user experience field are shifting and that we are experiencing some sort of collision of three different “galaxies”:

“The customer experience community developed out of the marketing and customer support functions in organizations — in other words, the people traditionally mandated to pay attention to customer needs. They’ve led the charge in helping organizations create operational strategies based on measuring customer feedback, and along the way have developed a sophisticated understanding of how to make the business case for experience design initiatives.

Originally championed by a handful of academic design programs, and finding success in the public sector in Europe, service design has now made the jump to the commercial sphere. The service design community wrestles with the operational implications of delivering services by a variety of means, including those messy, ephemeral human-to-human experiences.

Meanwhile, user experience design has pushed beyond its origins in digital product design. More and more people have discovered that the UX toolkit, with its emphasis on the human context of use, isn’t particular to digital products. As a result, the discourse about UX has expanded to encompass the wider world of products of all kinds.”

Either we fight it. Or we embrace it. Obviously Garrett endorses the latter.

7 March 2014

Search results on travel sites: examples and best practices

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Search results pages on travel sites should help customers to find the best deal for them without having to work too hard.

Graham Charlton of Econsultancy looked at a range of search tools from travel websites, which highlighted the importance of flexibility when users search for travel.

For this review he is looking at flight search, but the lessons apply equally to hotel and general holiday search.

He argues that the challenge lies in effective filtering and sorting of results, as well as a presentation style that allows for easy comparison. It’s not always easy though.

These are, according to him, the features of effective search results pages:

  • Ability to sort results. Users should be able to order results according to their own preferences. This may be price and duration of flights, departure times and more.
  • Presentation of results. The default display option should allow users to easily make sense of the information presented. Users should also have options to alter the display to suit their needs.
  • Filtering of results. Users need a good range of options to refine their results.
    Speed. Results should load quickly, and adding and removing of filters should also be smooth.
  • Clarity of pricing. This isn’t always easy for third party aggregator sites, but it can be very frustrating to see what looks to be a good price, only to find lots of extras added by the time you reach the checkout.
  • Quick link to change original search. Searches may produce a small number of results, or the user may not be satisfied, so make it easy for them to amend their search with a clear link.
6 March 2014

How collaborating with patients improves hospital care

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The Guardian reports on how a new UK project where patients and NHS staff work together to improve services shows that even small changes can have a big impact on the quality of care.

The project, with an impossibly long name, has been designed by academics from Oxford university’s health experience research group and studies patients’ experience of illness. Working with professor Glenn Robert at King’s College London, who had developed a new approach to help the NHS make better use of patient feedback, the Oxford academics compiled short videos about patients’ experiences of intensive care and lung cancer services.

They formed the basis for small group discussions between medical staff, managers, patients and relatives who identified priorities for change, many of which were then implemented.

Download background materials

6 March 2014

The user experience of enterprise technology

 

Most big businesses globally are locked into some kind of reliance on enterprise technology. Unfortunately such systems are not only fiendishly difficult to install and maintain, but often equally challenging for the workforce to use. So asks Rob Gilham, why is the user experience of enterprise systems so bad, when the stakes are so high?

“The problem from a user experience perspective is that enterprise systems are generally procured and implemented with the focus purely on solving problems for the business with little attention paid to who the users are and how they want to work. [...]

The result of this lack of user-awareness is that enterprise IT vendors and their business customers often build unfounded assumptions about users into the system – which in turn can lead to a deeply flawed user experience. The consequences of being wrong on this kind of scale can be highly damaging. Companies can find themselves stuck for years with the legacy of a difficult to use, inefficient system with higher-than-expected ongoing costs for user training and helpdesk support to compensate.”

(via InfoDesign)

5 March 2014

De l’importance de l’ethnographie appliquée aux technologies

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For once a post in French!

Hubert Guillaud of InternetActu describes some examples – mostly from the recent EPIC conference – of the great contribution of ethnography in focusing our gaze on real life practices, in pointing out that what technologists do not see, and in explaining how the strictly technological gaze often fails. ["Le grand apport de l’ethnographie est de renverser notre regard sur les pratiques en pointant du doigt ce que les technologues ne voient pas, d’expliquer en quoi le regard strictement technologique bien souvent, échoue."]

“L’ethnographie est une méthode des sciences sociales consistant en l’étude descriptive et analytique, sur le terrain, des moeurs, coutumes et pratiques de populations déterminées. Longtemps cantonnés aux populations primitives, les sociologues, anthropologues et ethnologues ont depuis les années 70 élargies l’usage de ces méthodes à bien d’autres terrains, et notamment à l’étude de nos pratiques quotidiennes, afin de mieux comprendre “les expériences humaines en contexte”. Parmi les repères de la conception ethnographique appliquée à la technologie, citons au moins le travail pionnier de Lucy Suchman au Xerox Parc dès les années 90, ou celui de Genevieve Bell qui poursuit ce travail chez Intel et qui a signé, avec Tony Salvador et Ken Anderson, en 1999, l’un des articles fondateur de l’ethnographie appliquée aux questions technologiques.

Depuis 2011, le site Questions d’Ethnographie (ethnomatters) interroge ces nouvelles pratiques de l’ethnographie et permet à de jeunes chercheurs de discuter la tension entre l’ethnographie universitaire et l’ethnographie appliquée, tel que de plus en plus d’ethnologues la pratiquent. Pour eux, si l’ethnographie est importante, c’est parce qu’elle aide à maintenir “le développement technologique réel”, concret.

Récemment, le site a publié une série d’exemples tirés de présentations qui se sont déroulées lors de la conférence Epic 2013 qui avait lieu en septembre dernier à Londres, une conférence sur la pratique ethnographique dans le monde des affaires (voir le brouillon non finalisé des actes (.pdf)), qui éclaire d’une manière concrète l’intérêt de l’ethnographie appliquée. Le grand apport de l’ethnographie est de renverser notre regard sur les pratiques en pointant du doigt ce que les technologues ne voient pas, d’expliquer en quoi le regard strictement technologique bien souvent, échoue. Prenons quelques exemples pour mieux comprendre les enjeux.”

5 March 2014

Campaign: Mobile card set of facilitation and training techniques

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Are you a trainer? Do you facilitate meetings?

Help the International Training Centre of the International Labour Organization (an Experientia client) to develop a mobile card set of 60 participatory knowledge sharing methods and technologies that you can use in any of your upcoming workshops or meetings. The cards will help you to make informed decisions about developing learning activities and choosing the appropriate methods, tools and resources to conduct them.

Watch the video | Go to the crowdfunding campaign