The use of creative concepts and innovative methods—now often referred to as design thinking—was for a long time a niche practice for nerdy Californian innovators, creative German problem-solvers or arty Scandinavian designers. But since the turn of the 21st Century they have evolved into an approach applied by professionals from different fields and industries all over the world. In the software industry the concept is widely accepted, though design thinking is also becoming popular in other fields. In the social sector, big, very often American organizations such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation , the Acumen Fund and others have been playing around with design methods. Smaller organizations or even local non- governmental organizations (NGOs) are only slowly gaining some exposure to it.

The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) India Office has taken on the challenge of applying design thinking with their partner organizations in a context that is less product- and business-oriented. The goal was to enable experts from the partner organizations to think differently about a topic that they have been working on for years or even decades: improving gender equality in India.
This publication will give you an insight into the process, the strengths and specific challenges of the approach. It features experiences from the FES partner organizations and finally offers a practical guide to some of the methods that have been used throughout the process. This guide has been designed on the basis of the process that the group of partners and FES colleagues have gone through. It is not seeking to be a comprehensive collection of design methods, but should act as a reminder for the project team of the methods they have been using. Additionally, we publish these methods to help other organizations in the social sector to identify how design thinking might be useful for them and to provide some tools for thinking more creatively and collaboratively about their respective topics. Most methods have not been developed specifically for this project, and we will provide links and resources for further engagement with the concepts.