1. Map out your stakeholders and establish who could usefully play a role

Make sure you are clear about those who can support you on your journey. People who share your interest or concern will get on board quicker and help drive your agenda. Map key stakeholders out visually to identify the connections and bridge the gaps. Experiment with using different colours or sizes to visualise their relative importance. Who are the key audiences that you will need to bring on board? Who could be your allies or partners in collaboration? Could you make use of the relationships that stakeholders have with each other, encouraging peer learning to help share the story more effectively?

2. Identify key sponsors and champions to strengthen your position

Two roles are particularly critical when it comes to spearheading a design-led innovative approach: sponsors and champions. Sponsors are typically people in leadership at a high level, CEOs or directors, who will understand and get behind what you want to achieve. They may be decision makers themselves, or have significant clout within the decision making process. Champions are typically people ‘on the ground’ who can take ownership on a day-to-day basis and drive the move towards a design-led approach on a practical level.

3. Connect with your peers to understand how your priorities align, and bring your ambitions together to help gather momentum

Create ambassadors. Build a small trusted network around your project and empower people to talk about it from their perspective. Let others take ownership for the things that mean the most to them or connect most to their skillset and ambitions. These people will become advocates for change and share the highs and lows with you along the way.

4. Get to know your target audiences and connect with their needs

It’s likely that your stakeholder mapping will have helped you to identify three types of key audience: (1) the decision makers who have the power to support your approach, (2) the people ‘on the ground’ who will make things happen, and (3) the end users who are the beneficiaries of your sector or project. When it comes to building advocacy and support for taking a design-led approach, you will need to get both decision makers and frontline staff on board in order to be able to move ahead. Use empathy to better connect with their perspectives and needs. What problems do they want to solve? What are their priorities? What barriers and pressures do they face? And what insights and data are they likely to need from you in order to be able to offer their whole-hearted support?

5. Build a common language by sharing in ways that are relevant and meaningful to your audience

Share your story using language and examples that will resonate with your audience. This could mean ‘translating’ design concepts such as prototyping or problem definition into language that is already familiar in your context, or finding examples to share that show the impact of a design-led approach in a similar sector or region. Show, as well as telling: running a workshop on a common example that participants will all be familiar with (for example, the experience of registering with a doctor) can help you to bring to life the power of a user-centred approach.