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Designing a digital product to help low-income youth save | @BI Ventures | U.K.

Marta Milkowska

As a part of a Harvard team, I worked with the UK government to leverage behavioral science to create a savings digital product. Our challenge was: How might we leverage digital technology to to help young, low-income individuals in the UK increase their rainy day savings (emergency savings). According to projections, nearly three-quarters of U.K. households will experience a major unexpected expense this year. At the same time, more than half of U.K. adults have less than suggested emergency savings of £1,000. Low-income youth are especially vulnerable.  

Working with the BI Ventures, from the Behavioral Insights Team, our team worked in two phases. In the phase I, we conducted research including: interviews with subject matter experts and over 750 pages of articles, books, and other literature; and consequently used HCD tools to synthesize data and brainstorm early hypothesis. Phase II included field work in London. My task was to focused on ii) conducting field user research, i) bringing behavioral science insights to the product design (identifying behavioral problems and design solutions) , ii) rapidly-prototyping and user-testing early designs, and iii) recommend a final product design.  The photos showcase a user field testing phase, conduced in Broxton, London. We tested four behaviorally-informed prototypes with 50 low-income users. 

Applying HCD to healthcare innovation in Washington, DC | @DCDT Summer school of Design | USA

Marta Milkowska

In May, 2016, I worked with the DCDT Summer School of Design – a summer-long project using HCD to design interventions to a challenge: How might we use innovation and entrepreneurship to deliver better healthcare in low-income communities in Washington, DC.

My focus was to create an empathy game for the participants which will introduce personas of the project to the project participants. To do so, together with Kenneth Holmes, I conducted research in  Anacostia neighborhood, which included, among others, interviews, shadowing patients in a health center and in their day-to-day life. Further, we synthesized our insights, designed and delivered the game. It was played by over 40 participants and received fantastic reviews. 

Training Liberian Government on Social Entrepreneurship, leveraging HCD | @World Bank | Liberia

Marta Milkowska

Social Enterprises can offer innovative ways to deliver services, such as healthcare, education, or energy, to the poorest populations. Unfortunately, many governments are unaware of the potential of the social enterprises and struggle to effectively collaborate. The World Bank Social Enterprise Innovation Program aims to identify and scale innovative solutions in service delivery to the 20% poorest populations in Africa and South Asia. One of its pillar focuses on building capacity of the governments on how to support local social enterprises.

In 2015 – 2016, I was tasked to design and deliver a course on social enterprises for the policy officials in several African countries, which included: research and learning experience and teaching materials design. I conducted interviews with a few dozen potential course participants led research, synthesized insights, piloted the course with the government of India in December, 2015, redesigned the course based on the pilot insights and deliver the course in Liberia for 40 government officials including eight ministers, in June, 2016.

The course used a mixture or lectures, role plays, design activities, ecosystem mapping and field work to help the policymakers work in groups to conceptualize and prototype new programs, services and policies that can address these real needs. At the end of the week, the policymakers presented their ideas, a few of which are currently considered for an implementation. 

Training on HCD | @ReWork @Startingbloc | USA

Marta Milkowska

Between 2013 and 2016, I run multiple full-day workshops on design, with a main focus on rapid prototyping. Through a carefully designed methodology, I helped groups to rapidly prototype ideas of solutions to real-life challenges presented by local social entrepreneurs and start-ups. 

Rapid Prototyping is a method used by the most innovative companies to accelerate the innovation process: to test new ideas that decreases development time and cost by prioritizing early user feedback.  Do you know how much time did it take to create the first prototype of the Google Glass? Listen to Tom Chi from GoogleX to learn how the Rapid Prototyping was used to create the Google's new inventions . 

My clients included: StartingBloc Social Innovation FellowsReWork, the American University, DCDT Summer School of Design, and start-ups. 

Designing LEGO game on Economics | @BRICKonomics, USA & Poland

Marta Milkowska

In 2012, together with two friends, I launched Brickonomics, the first LEGO game on economics for high–school students in marginalized areas in Poland. Between November, 2012 and May 2013, we oversaw the whole cycle of the project. As a product person on the team, I led customer research from observations in classrooms to interviews with economists and students. Further, together with two friends, we designed the game, run test experiments on several prototypes, helped design and implement the final product. I also led our marketing and fundraising endeavors. 

Brickonomics received multiple awards including a semi-finalist prize at the Dell Social Innovation Challenge and the World Bank Youth Innovation Winner award. It reached 6000 students from marginalized regions in Poland within the first 6 months.

Watch the video on Brickonomics here.  

Machine learning & mobile health to improve TB treatment | @Dimagi, South Africa & Lesotho

Marta Milkowska


During the summer of 2016, I worked with Dimagi, a social enterprise focusing on mobile health, on a mobile-based tool leveraging machine learning to predict default risk of HIV and TB patients. High default rates are a key challenge in TB and HIV treatment, resulting in thousands of multi-drug resistance cases. The multi-drug resistant TB, for example, causes over 440,000 deaths annually. In South Africa, it causes a drop in cure rates from 90% to 5-35% and increases the cost of treatment 26 (MDR-TB) or 103 (XDR-TB) times. A risk prediction tool could help healthcare service providers tailor its intervention to each patient based on the risk rate.  

I spent that summer living in South Africa and Lesotho to research, prototype, and design a strategy for a mobile-based default risk prediction tool. When I originally arrived in South Africa, I was armed with only a broad concept of a tool and the support of Dimagi’s leadership. After an intensive summer of research, customer and partner interviews, field empathy work, and synthesizing data, I run early experiments with patients and community health workers in the main TB clinics in Lesotho. Based on the insights, I refined the strategy and advised on early design of the tool. The tool was approved by the global senior leadership in Dimagi as a new investment line with a potential to save millions of patients globally.