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Work :   UNICEF


User (Staff) Research, Service + Systems Analysis, Design Thinking for Program + Policy

Key tasks: scoping/advisement to senior management on human-centered design + research approaches, strategy, extensive qualitative and quantitative research with staff from 193 countries, journey and process mapping, heavy recruitment, analysis, report writing, presentations and coaching on systems and design thinking

UNICEF staff in the field with displaced community

UNICEF staff in the field with displaced persons


This project was the most extensive user research engagement I’ve undertaken—perhaps more accurately categorized as a human-centered design research engagement as digital components were few. I surveyed over 4,000 staff from 193 countries and received a ~30% response rate, and conductued over 100 interviews, workshops, and focus groups with participants in multiple time zones. I was responsible for designing and facilitating all research, as well as for the analysis of the complex and varied findings of staff experiences of the Mobility program.


Mobility is a policy and program that had gone somewhat dormant at UNICEF (as well as at other United Nations agencies), though it was applicable to its approximately 4,000 International Professional (IP) staff. It follows a UN-wide guideline requiring IP staff to rotate to different duty stations, preferably in a different region of the world, every 2-5 years, depending on their Tour of Duty. The program was difficult to strictly follow for various reasons, and could require serious sacrifices in career, personal life, and even well-being, as many duty stations are situated in emergency regions where conflict or natural disaster has struck. Some IP staff at UNICEF take considerable risks for their work (and receive danger pay and other entitlements) while leaving families behind in relative safety, while others work in comfortable cosmopolitan cities. One goal of the Mobility policy was to ensure that the burden of the most personally challenging duty stations was not always carried by the same staff members.


Though the Human Resources team had facilitated the Mobility program for several years by the time they hired me as a human-centered design consultant in 2019, it had been challenging for them to be sure of what was going well for staff, and what was not, because of the far reach of this program and wide range of situations staff around the world experienced. The team wanted to hear about these firsthand from staff members, rather than only through local HR reps. So this project was mainly an investigation, via quantitative and qualitative research, into IP staff's experiences and perceptions of the program, with the hopeful goal of improving communications, process, and policy so that the frequent disruptive job transitions, then required for staff to fulfill requirements of the Mobility policy, could go more smoothly.


This project helped me gain experience in a deliberative debate style of focus group, requiring tact and diplomacy for the challenging and often sensitive subject matter and frictions that naturally arise over the course of discussions. It also helped me gain experience using systems thinking as an analysis tool (along with design thinking), as the optimal movement of so many staff in a complex way through such a large and diverse organization was undoubtedly a systems challenge.

Note: there is no confidentiality policy for any of the materials I created, but as they are sensitive in nature, please delete any downloads after review.

Click the image or arrows below to browse through this project's samples.

Downloadable + Online Samples

Process Diagram

Mapping the process and service of the Mobility program and rotation exercise.

Condensed findings report

A condensed version of the findings for executive DHR stakeholders and Regional Chiefs of HR.

Design Thinking working session

A working session presentation with the Mobility team at DHR, to help them better understand the core gaps and ideate new solutions

Full findings report

Full user research report for core Mobility team.

Executive summary (distributed to staff)

Shortest version of user research findings.

Slideshare for presentation

at Design Thinking HR conference in 2019 (IQPC)

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