This piece was originally published in the June 2019 issue of Policy & Practice magazine.

This article shares the story of two organizations linked by their commitment to human-centered design.


Lutheran Social Services of Illinois (LSSI) supports some 70,000 of the state’s most vulnerable residents through programs for children and seniors, as well as individuals with mental illness and developmental disabilities and those who were formerly incarcerated.

In 2015, LSSI worked with Fjord, Accenture Interactive’s design and innovation group, and used human-centered design to develop the Whole Person Care Journey. The Whole Person Care Journey is a game-changing model for coordinating care within LSSI and across its network of 190 partner organizations.

Since 2016, this model has taken root within LSSI, helping shape program design and contracting, as well as training and billing. It also guided LSSI’s selection of Simply Connect as its private Health Information Exchange. The organization is currently running two extended pilots using Simply Connect to support Behavioral Health Services.

In reflecting on LSSI’s progress, Tim Sheehan, vice president of Home and Community Services, is proud of how the human-centered design work translated back to the culture: “We started with a genuine, open dialogue and discussion that led to a solution we could do something with. It has proven to be incredibly useful.”

New Mexico HSD

Each year, New Mexico Human Services Department (HSD) administers services to more than 950,000 individuals and plays a critical role in the lives of many residents. A couple of years ago, Sean Pearson, CIO of the New Mexico HSD, heard LSSI present about their experiences with human-centered design. The presentation resonated with Pearson: “Putting the person at the center and looking at ways to align programs and services around an individual to provide better support is exactly what we’re doing here in New Mexico.

“LSSI’s talk also resonated because they were so successful. They didn’t lead with technology—they first spent the time to understand the care journey through the design thinking process.”

Working with Accenture and Fjord, HSD is using human-centered design as part of its HHS 2020 vision, which includes offering unified access to services across its four division. As part of the process, the team traveled to five cities to conduct field research. Through ethnographic research, they identified four core mindsets among HSD clients. The work illustrates the power of mindsets to help human services agencies and nonprofits create systems that provide the right level of support and guidance at key moments.

"By listening to direct input from clients and customers, we were able to discover key insights that would ultimately guide us to designing a unified web portal."

– SEAN PEARSON, Chief Information Officer – New Mexico Human Services Department

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