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Design Thinking to foster empathy for victims of crime

Academic and researcher in Victoria University’s College of Law and Justice, Ruth Liston is applying the principles of Design Thinking, an approach commonly used in the design world for software development, to a law setting instead.

At VU’s recent Learning and Teaching Symposium, Ruth explained that Design Thinking focusses heavily on the empathy of the user, but in this context the user is the victim. She uses Design Thinking approaches in her workshops to push students to think outside the box when it comes to understanding victims on a deeper level when working in the industry.

Ruth follows the six phases of Design Thinking (empathize, define, ideate, prototype, test, and implement) when structuring her activities in the classroom.

Below is an example of how students are using the 6 Design Thinking phases when reading case studies. After students have finished reading they:

  1. Emphasise with the victim in the case study by using an empathy map.
  2. Students then have to define who the victim is by writing down a few statements answering: what are the wants and needs of the victim? And students need to ask themselves “how might we?” to come up with a solution.
  3. Ideate, students then need to select the most important “how might we” and brainstorm some crazy ideas around potential solutions. Thereafter students have to select one solution that suits the victim best.
  4. Prototype, students put their ideas to practice. Students have to write a day in the life of the victim and tell the victim’s new story.
  5. Test, students get the chance to share their ideas with their peers and receive feedback.
  6. Implement, students reflect upon how this exercise might be applicable in real life.An illustration of the six phases of design thinking by the Nielsen and Norma group.
    Source: Nielsen and Norman

As a result future lawyers, police officers, correction workers see victims as individuals and begin to comprehend that complex solutions for victims are required.

Watch Ruth’s full presentation.

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