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Working towards literacy: Workplace initiatives to increase language proficiency

service design
stichting lezen.png

Design Research 

Service Design

The Context


2.5 million low literate adults live in the Netherlands. Most people don’t disclose that information publicly is there is a taboo around it - opting to keep a low profile and find alternate ways to circumnavigate the issue. The Dutch Reading and Writing Foundation (Stichting Lezen en Schrijven) commissioned the team and I to design project to find new and innovative ways to tackle low literacy rates.

The Challenge


The literacy programs that the foundation already provided were not being utilised or properly serving their target users. They were designed on the assumption that people had time to commute to, participate in, and practice for these courses. It is assumed that they have enough self-confidence to participate despite the taboo nature of the situation. How can taking the problem through Design Thinking research, consolidation, and idea generation phases enable the discovery of new service opportunities and initiatives? 

The Solution

1. We began with immersive Human-Centred Design research methods:

  • Shadowing - four low literate adults were followed throughout a days' work. While expecting to discover many difficulties, there were surprisingly few due to colour-coding and their jobs requiring only repetitive and ingrained work processes (such as janitor work). 

  • Cultural probing - four other low literate adults were given disposable cameras and were invited to take photos of moments or things that they considered to be confusing or stressful. When we developed the photos, we discovered that medical documents, advertisements, news sources, and packaging were among some of the things that they felt to be confusing. 


2. We clustered, consolidated and analysed the findings from our research. To better make sense of the data, we visualised it through personas, empathy maps, insight statements, a value proposition canvas.



3. We began generating ideas and interventions that, unlike the current literacy courses, would integrate language education into their social and professional routine. After a huge collaborative brainstorm, we put the ideas on a matrix (indirect vs. direct learning, collective vs. individual approach)


4. We presented our top 6 ideas to stakeholders, including our research participants for feedback. The workplace was chosen as the environment for integrated literacy learning. 

stichting lezen schrijven website.jpg
value prop.jpg
persona stichting.jpg
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