The headquarters of the federal government’s asylum program is in the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Asylum headquarters has a unique branch known as “IDEA” or Innovation and Design for Enhanced Adjudications. They hired me to apply design strategy and qualitative research to their work doing data reporting and technology modernization.
Role: Principal Designer, Lead Qualitative Researcher and Project Manager
Challenge: The data and reporting team are swamped with work. Could applying an equity-centered design approach save them time, while also better meeting the needs of those who use their dashboards and reports?
Strategy: I invited every member, on the nearly 15-person team, to a brief, individual, get-to-know-you interview. They discussed their portfolio of work, current and future challenges on their projects. I then shared a high-level summary of the interviews back with everyone to confirm my understanding of their insights. Next, I worked with the branch manager to clarify a vision for applying an equity-centered design framework to the team. We used past and current projects of the team to communicate each step in the framework, especially as it related to providing data dashboards and reports as a service to field offices, executives in the agency, and officials in Congress and the White House. Four workstreams / next steps came out of this strategy (described below under “Outputs.”)
Equity Considerations: I adapted an equity-centered design approach to this team’s work using a six-step process.
Outputs: In collaboration with others, I led (1) usability testing of a data dashboard with eight people in field offices and Asylum headquarters, (2) creating templates to prototype data dashboards among data engineers and data scientists before they spend anytime building them, (3) process mapping with a data engineer what is happening on the frontend of a case management system, producing data fields on the backend used in dashboards and reports, and (4) facilitating multiple strategic conversations to align the team, supervisors and managers.
Impact: (1) Field offices experienced more usable dashboards to meet their operational needs, saving them hours each month. (2) Data engineers and scientists have scalable templates and processes (a) to prototype new dashboards for internal alignment before spending any development time, and (b) to usability test current dashboards for feedback from executives, middle managers and frontline teams. (3) The Branch also better understands data fields of an asylum case because of the mapping efforts. (4) Branch supervisors and the manager reported how highly effective it was to have strategic conversations with others based on our facilitated discussions.