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Olivia Burrus

RTI International
Behavior Change Researcher
Olivia Burrus, MPH, is a behavior change researcher in RTI International’s Center for Communication Science, Social Marketing, and Communication Strategy program. She is passionate about leveraging human-centered design for social innovation and has extensive professional experience in design research, communication strategy, and behavioral science. She has led multidisciplinary teams on many successful social innovation projects for such clients as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Developing research strategies and using tools such as interviews, surveys, journey mapping, personas, design sprints, and rapid prototyping, she played a leading role in developing a digital health intervention for people living with HIV, aided the FDA in more clearly communicating scientific uncertainty and drug risks to consumers, and worked with the CFPB to create financial education services for recent widows. Ms. Burrus received her Master of Public Health in Health Behavior from the University of North Carolina and has published her work in a number of peer-reviewed journals. 

Poster Title: Getting from ‘Yes, But’ to ‘Yes, And’: Five Tips on Introducing Human Centered Design into Government Funded Projects 
How does design research fit into a traditional public health models? How can we leverage human centered research methods within the limits of government regulations, while staying true to the foundations of behavioral health theory, research, and practice? These and many others are questions plaguing public health practitioners eager to infuse innovation into their programs.

In RTI’s Center for Communication Science, we have slowly introduced design research methods, such as journey mapping, personas, storyboarding, designs sprints, and co-creation workshops into more traditional qualitative research and product design funded by federal agencies, such as the CDC, FDA, CFPB and EPA. This poster will offer five strategies we use to successfully get buy-in from government clients on these more innovative methods and avoid some of the common pitfalls and stumbling blocks.
1. Speak the same language: Break down barriers and create a shared understanding by limiting jargon and explaining concepts in terms people understand.
2. Maintain scientific rigor: Use theory to drive your research questions and project activities, and to interpret the findings from that research.
3. Start small: Incorporate more exploratory tools, like journey maps, into contractually-required focus groups and interviews to capture participants’ pain points, problems to solve, and desires.
4. Add in a co-creation design workshop: When the end products are predetermined by the client, as is often the case on government projects, use a co-creation approach with the end users as a way to make those pre-determined products as user-centered as possible.
5. Keep your stakeholders engaged: Build stakeholder trust in your results by inviting them to listen in to your data collection sessions. Then invite them to be part of the first round of sense making.
Despite challenges, human-centered design practices and innovation can successfully be infused into government-funded behavior change programs.

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