262: Human-Centered Design with Shauntina Sorrells


In this episode of the podcast, Dr. Sandie Morgan is joined by Dr. Shauntina Sorrells, Chief Program Officer at Orangewood Foundation. Dr. Sorrells discusses what a human-centered design is, the various stages, and how to implement it.

Dr. Shauntina Sorrells, MSW DSW

Dr. Shauntina Sorrells joined Orangewood Foundation in 2019. She holds a Master’s and Doctorate in Social Work. Dr. Sorrells is certified in Trauma Informed Training and has been a Trainer of Trauma Informed Practices for various Orange County establishments such as the OC Probation Department and the OC Juvenile and Family Court Judges. She loves to see youth accomplish something they set out to do. “I believe that every youth can reach their greatest potential and I believe that is what Orangewood has always done.” When Dr. Sorrells is not advocating for OC youth, she loves to craft and go camping with her family.

Key Points

  • Human centered design is a thought process to develop programs that incorporate the needs and the voice of those being served.
  • Incorporating the voices of those affected by the problem ensures the development of quality programs.
  • There are three phases to a human-centered design:
    1. Inspiration
    2. Ideation
    3. Implementation
  • There are three main populations affected by a problem that need to be included in a human-centered design–primary, secondary, and tertiary levels.


Love the show? Consider supporting us on Patreon!


Dave [00:00:00] You’re listening to the Ending Human Trafficking podcast, this is episode number 262 Human-centered design with Shauntina Sorrells.

Production Credits [00:00:10] Produced by Innovate Learning, maximizing human potential.

Dave [00:00:30] Welcome to the Ending Human Trafficking podcast. My name is Dave Stachowiak.

Sandie [00:00:36] And my name is Sandie Morgan.

Dave [00:00:39] And this is the show where we empower you to study the issues, be a voice, and make a difference in ending human trafficking. Today, we’re so glad to introduce to you a local partner, someone who’s just a wonderful voice, an expert in helping us all to move forward on ending human trafficking. I’m so pleased to introduce to you, Dr. Shauntina Sorrells. She is the Chief Program Officer at Orangewood Foundation, a transitional age youth serving organization here in Orange County, California. Shauntina completed her doctorate in social work at USC. She holds a master’s degree in social work from Cal State University of Long Beach and obtained her bachelor’s in psychology from Vanguard University. Shauntina also serves as a professor for her alma mater, Vanguard and Walla Walla University. Courses she enjoys teaching include program development, social psychology, child and adolescent development, community psychology, treating addictions and couples, and domestic violence. Shauntina has worked with families, youth and foster care, individuals in crisis, and organizations seeking innovation and change. Her expertise is in programs that provide community based programing to change the social norms that challenge systemic issues facing underserved populations. Shauntina is certified in trauma informed care training and has been a trainer of trauma informed practices for the Orange County Probation Department, the O.C. Juvenile Court, public defender’s office, and other youth serving agencies. She’s been asked to sit as a former foster youth voice for Orange County Department of Education and Social Services. Shauntina, what a pleasure to have you on the show. Welcome.

Shauntina [00:02:17] It’s an honor to be here today with you both.

Sandie [00:02:20] Well, and Shuanitna and I just had lunch together with 250 other people last month, and she was representing Orangewood, our Diamond awardee, at Priceless because of their amazing programing that covers the spectrum of ending human trafficking from prevention to aftercare. And so I am so delighted to have you on Ending Human Trafficking today.

Shauntina [00:02:50] I cannot believe that I’m here, but I am so excited to be here talking about human-centered design with you today, Sandie.

Sandie [00:02:57] I’m really excited about this because it’s such a massive topic. And when I first heard the term human-centered design, I just went down all kinds of rabbit holes. And when I talk to you and we really reviewed how the programing is designed in your work, it seemed like a really good model to help people get a better handle on this. So it’s a massive topic. But everybody, we have an expert here to walk us through the process. So let’s start with defining human-centered design.

Shauntina [00:03:39] Sure. I think, you know, human-centered design is something that once I start talking about it, you’ll go, ah, it totally makes sense. But it can definitely be one of those phrases that can kind of send you going, wait, what am I doing and how am I doing this? So human-centered design really is, in my opinion, a thought process. It’s a way of thinking about a problem and then a solution. In the formal world of human-centered design, we kind of think of it in three phases: inspiration, ideation, and implementation. In each of those phases have a real core driving force behind them and what you’re doing in those phases and how you’re achieving the things that you need to achieve there to move to the next phase so that you can really build and create programs that at the heart of them are about those you serve. And they really do take into account the voices of those who are impacted by the problem as not only the problem but also the solution, and that they have the knowledge and power of how they need to change their circumstances. And we come alongside them to help them figure that out, amplify their voice, and ensure that all solutions are geared towards the areas that they really define as ways to make the problems better.

Sandie [00:05:01] So I think you flipped the script for a lot of us who have been in the professional helping services for decades–victim service providers, case managers, social workers, health care providers. We bring our solutions, our services to the client, and we sometimes see ourselves as fixers. And you bring us your brokenness and here we are. What’s wrong with that?

Shauntina [00:05:32] Oh, wow, Sandie. You hit the nail on the head. That was amazing. Because that is what I often say; is we as social workers, psychologists, helpers, human services professionals, all of these wonderful people, all the best intentions and often come with our own stuff, which I’m sure we’ll get into at some point. But we bring ourselves to the table, and that’s sometimes part of the problem. But we also bring the theories in. All of these educational things that we have learned over the years is this is what you do. This is how you fix things. And so we bring that to the table wanting with all the best intentions to help, to make it better, to stop the pain, to stop the hurting, to really try and help people where they are at and ensure that they get better. The problem with that is, is we all have our own experiences that we’re bringing to the table. We’re also taking, you know, different theoretical approaches that may not actually be conducive for the specific population you’re working with. We may be bringing things in that are actually how the problem is seen by those impacted. And as our society changes and our systems change, we have to understand that the people who are impacted by the problem are the most knowledgeable about how to fix it. And we just have to stop and listen, and we actually have to give them the credibility of lived expertise that what they’re experiencing, what they know is actually the best information that we can have in creating quality, effective programs.

Sandie [00:07:07] OK, so let’s back up and go through those three steps that you mentioned. Let’s start with inspiration.

Shauntina [00:07:16] Absolutely. This is by and large my favorite part of the process because it really does talk about understanding the people. So the in the inspiration phase, it really is about observing, speaking, listening, understanding the hopes, desires, the dreams about those impacted by the problem. This is when you are trying to basically be one with the people in understanding who they are. So you go in with completely no judgment. You take all your reservations away, you take all your preconceived notions, which for us, human beings, that can sometimes be difficult. But you do your very best and you go in and you just ask the questions, you ask the hard questions and then you don’t talk and you listen. You don’t just listen. You also observe. You spend time. Any time I start a new job, I do a 60 day listening tour. And so in that 60 day listening tour, I just spend time with the staff and with those we serve. I am just hanging out if they’re hanging out. I’m going to dinner with the youth who are in our housing programs. I’m spending time in meetings and so you are just as much as you can embedding yourself into the environment as it is, because one, you will see things, you will hear things, you will feel things that you couldn’t necessarily do just by reading a research paper, right? But if you can go and sit with some of our survivors or some of our youth who are at risk and you can just listen to them, talk about what they’re experiencing on a day to day basis. Listen to the words they use. Listen to how they view what’s happening to them and what’s not supportive to them. That inspiration phase is all about really getting inspiration from the people you’re serving to best understand where to go next.

Sandie [00:09:06] So my question now is how do I integrate that, or do I not integrate it with our basic strategies of community needs assessments and environmental scans? And where does that fit?

Shauntina [00:09:26] You’re just perfectly aligned with me. So it really is. I mean, that’s what a community needs assessment is when you really look at the baseline of a community needs assessment. It’s one to understand the literature and research. But the second huge part of a community needs assessment is to understand the community. I think we often go in with our notions of what the solution is when we’re trying to address the community, and this inspiration phase actually says, don’t go in with the solution, you just go in with the problem. Hey, this is a problem. How do you see it? Hey, this is what we understand of the problem. Is that even correct? So you’re just really getting those questions answered, just like in a community needs assessment. That’s kind of what this phase is. We’re just asking you to go a little bit deeper. We’re asking you to broaden your perspective just a little bit more that you’re not going in as a researcher already with the answer; you’re going in is an open book.

Sandie [00:10:19] So tell me how you make that into levels of primary, secondary and tertiary?

Shauntina [00:10:27] Oh my gosh, I love it. Really, what you want to do is you want to make sure you don’t just talk to one aspect of those impacted by the problem. So the primary folks are those who are actually in the pain, right? They’re actually hurting from whatever’s going on. They’re experiencing the problem on a regular basis. And those are your primary targets. You want to understand as much as you can from their perspective, but not forgetting that there are people who are impacted by how the problem hurts that first population or your secondary tier. And so you want to make sure. So if you’re working with our youth, for example, many of our youth are parenting youth and so their children are impacted secondarily. If we help the youth, their children get the help. If we don’t help the youth, their children don’t get the help. So you want to make sure you keep into account any secondary tier, any party that kind of surrounds that first tier so that you understand how would you impact them as well? So if you know that most of your user parenting, then you need to ensure that you have a parenting component and a child development component and some other pieces as well. Because if that you feel successful with their child, that’s only going to expound upon their potential and possibility in future health and healing and growth. So you want to include that. And in tertiary, that’s the community generally. So a community is impacted by human trafficking. A community is impacted by survivor growth. A community is impacted by traffickers. So we have to keep that in mind is what does the community need? How has the community impacted? What’s happening in that community and how does the community see the solution? Part of it may be changing the narrative, helping the community really understand what trafficking is and what might be going on. But then it also may be the community needs healing as well, especially our BIPOC, black indigenous people of color communities who are overly impacted in trafficking. Is that an area that we really need to do some healing with the community as well? So it’s not just an individual thing, but at all levels.

Sandie [00:12:32] Wow. So now we’ve done this and I’m really inspired. So, how do I move to the next phase?

Shauntina [00:12:40] Absolutely. So the ideation phase is what I call like the mad scientist phase, but this really is where no idea is a bad idea. And so you are just thinking about all of the information you’ve collected from those different levels of people impacted by the problem. And you’re coming back to the table and saying, OK, here’s what this group said. Here’s what this group said. Here’s what this group said and trying to find the trends and the themes and looking at what could a potential solution be. And this is where you see those graphics of people with post-it notes all over an entire room. That’s what you kind of want to do with ideation. You want to just put every idea out there, from the extreme to the norm to the mainstream. You just, you don’t want to filter that at this point. You want to put as much ideas out there because usually when we’re looking at problems, we use the same old interventions. And that’s part of the problem, right? So we really want to think outside that box. We really want to put as much out there. And then you’re going to bring others in to look at that and you’re going to slowly filter through the ideas that maybe aren’t feasible, maybe would take too long and the problem is imminent, maybe doesn’t have the funding or backing. Maybe you need some political progress there. Maybe you need this. And so you slowly start to filter through to where you get down to just a few ideas from your magnitude of ideas. And that’s when you go back to the community. You say, OK, I took everything I heard from you, saw from you, felt from you, and I’ve come up with these few things. What do you think? And you help them be part of the decision making in the solutions as well. You help them start to shape what those few ideas would be like to narrow it down to the one idea. And so ideation is really about going as wide and broad as you can and then using a process to come back down to picking an idea that you could actually feasibly launch and see if it works.

Sandie [00:14:41] So you’ve got all these possibilities and now you choose one path for implementation.

Shauntina [00:14:47] There you know go.

Sandie [00:14:50] Implementation, it seems like pulling together everybody’s commitment is another big job for you. You’re the program director. So how do you get everyone to commit to that idea?

Shauntina [00:15:09] That’s a excellent question. You know, implementation, I think, is honestly where most of us start. And I think that’s why implementation can sound scary. And it can sound like something that how do you get that all together? What is lovely about this process is if you really do start from the inspiration and ideation, the people are coming along with you. So you now have the people who are experiencing the problem in the and the secondary and tertiary in line with you. They’re already on your team. So you’ve got those internal contacts, as we like to call it. And now you start to look at those external contacts or factors. So who are the funding bodies? Funders really need to be open to innovation in order to take an idea like this and put it into place. Because many of us, and myself included, we love the evidence-based practice world, and that’s amazing. But they got to evidence-based practice because they did these steps. So we’ve got to fund them at that innovation place and getting out there. We’ve got to get the powers in play, whoever that may be, right? So is it a local human trafficking task force? Is it policy makers, board of supervisors? Who do you need on your team so that you can sustain the work that you’re doing or make a true impact in the community that you’re working in? And then you’ve got to get, you know, your other external pieces that people often don’t think about. Your universities, your churches, your other community organizations that have a stake in this problem that are part of the community; you’ve got to bring them along. But when you already have done that inspiration phase and the ideation phase and brought folks along with you, by the time you’re at implementation, you shouldn’t really be trying to get everyone on the board, you’ve already gotten them there by doing those first two phases.

Sandie [00:17:06] So when you were talking about primary, secondary, tertiary, I think when I first started looking at human centered design, I had a tendency to isolate the person in this story, but you’ve given me more circles of context. So now I learned a new phrase from you in our last conversation because I was ready to go ‘we have a plan, we’re implementing it, we got approval from the whole community.’ And now you said, we have to stop. We have a learning stop, and we just got started a few months ago. Tell me about that learning stop principle and what it looks like.

Shauntina [00:17:53] Absolutely. So I think this is the hardest thing for us fixers and go getters and wanting to make the world a better place. And it really is a pause. So a learning stop is really just stopping and checking your learning. I mean, it sounds really simple, but at every single step it’s taking a moment to pause. Go back to those communities, go back to the primary, secondary and tertiary folks, go back to the people who understand the problem, are impacted by the problem, or engaged in the problem, and say this is what I’ve learned. This is where I’m at now. This is what I’m seeing at this point. Do you agree? Am I off? Have I gone off into the wilderness and gotten lost? Or am I still on track? You often will maybe get some blank stares, or you maybe you will get some quizzical looks. And I think that’s also normal because if we’re thinking outside of the box, sometimes it’s something people have never thought about. So you want to make sure that you’re not getting too far off of the rails and you’re staying within the confines of the problem, so that learning stop just continually helps you to stop, take a pause, and check in with those who you’re designing for that human-centered design. You’re checking in with those people that who are going to hopefully utilize the solution. So you want to make sure each step of the way that you’re taking those pauses and just understanding how they perceive the work that you’re doing, what you’re learning and what you’re putting into practice.

Sandie [00:19:23] OK, so I need a little structure for what that looks like. Is this a calendar reminder in six months that, oh, I should make a few phone calls today? Is it a formal process? Because I can, I know myself so well. I’m going to be really involved in this implementation, and stopping for me is like an interruption. How do I actually make my program make me do that?

Shauntina [00:20:00] That’s an interesting point. So for me, I have a very structured community needs assessment that I have utilized that is embedded in human-centered design. And so it has natural stops. And so I would be happy to share that with you, of course, but there’s very natural stops embedded in the process. However, that’s a great point. If you know for you that it may feel like an interruption one, I would challenge you to really think of it as part of the process. Like it is the step, right? It is what you’re supposed to be doing. So that might help with thinking that it’s an interruption. But secondarily, it may really be something that you do remind yourself to do. It may be that whenever you’re designing this, you always bring a community member through it with you. And in each phase of decision, if you know you need to make a decision about, OK, should we apply for this funding or not, maybe that’s when you bring in a community member. Maybe that’s when you bring in back the folks who are impacted by the problem at each decision making point. That might be another way to kind of think about it, because before you move to that next phase, you should have their buy in.

Sandie [00:21:04] OK. So basically, now Dr. Shauntina Sorrells has committed to be my mentor in human-centered design on public podcasts radio, right?

Shauntina [00:21:16] I knew there was strings attached to this.

Sandie [00:21:18] Yeah, there you go, Oh my gosh, I’m so glad we’re local. OK, so let’s let’s go down then to back to the community place and the funding. Where do you advise people to have that conversation about innovation? How do you do that? Because that’s a big problem. I have been a grant evaluator and I see and I know from the people that are doing good work, they want to do something different, but they got a grant and they have deliverables and this is the way it has to go.

Shauntina [00:21:56] I mean, this is a challenge in our realm, for sure. I think in the nonprofit realm, I think in the human services realm, this is a problem. We have to adapt to where the funders are. So I actually believe we need to go upstream. So I think if we can go upstream and actually work with the funders prior to them releasing their funding requirements. We need to be involved in strategic planning. One of our local government agencies just invited people to speak to strategic measures for them, and I talked about the contracting process and I said, how can we do things better and differently if we’re not allowed to be innovative? So I think one, we have to be willing to speak up and to stand out to do that.

Sandie [00:22:39] I love that speak up and stand out.

Shauntina [00:22:42] Absolutely. I think we also have to, so our granters and our funders, we really need to educate them. So we have to take a step back and help them understand the problem. One of the things I’m really focused on is ethical storytelling. We’ve always had this narrative person has a problem, we came in and fixed it, now they’re better. But that really leaves the person as the victim in their story and us as the hero. And so we’re starting to change that narrative in our own nonprofit at Orangewood and trying to do ethical storytelling. This person had a problem. This person asked for help. This person received the help, used the help, and is now better. It takes us out of the hero role, but that’s also what we want to do with our funders. We want to help educate them that them coming alongside of us allows us to do something different. And yes, we may fail forward. We may learn from this. We may not be successful, but most of our funders, especially our funders who are in other business practices, actually understand this model even better than us. This is what you did when you developed an iPhone or anything other technology or new gadget or new process out in the world. We’re just now tapping into this and using this in our sphere of the world.

Sandie [00:23:57] Wow, that is so helpful. OK. So as we have to close this pretty soon, I want to go back to your early experiences. You’ve been in this for a couple of decades. What perceptions have changed for you?

Shauntina [00:24:20] It’s such an important question. For me, I spent 13 years in the foster care system, and so I had my own personal experience that I brought with me. Leaving foster care with nothing but a laundry basket and getting on a greyhound bus and arriving at Vanguard University. I had plenty of ideas of how the system was broken and what could be done differently. However, I really quickly learned, and especially throughout my professional career, my educational career, that my perspective was only one voice, not the voice. And so I had to take a really giant step back and really understand that I needed to better understand other people who had similar experiences, different experiences, better experiences, worse experiences all across the board so that I could be a better advocate and voice. I couldn’t walk in there with only my voice, because I am only one voice and not the voice. And so that really is something that has shaped my work, shaped what I’ve done, shaped how I view the world, and that my understanding is one sided. It is something and it is powerful and it is impactful and now I’ve done so much research and all of these other things to compound it, so that over time it just really changed how I think about how we need to create change. And I think that’s what draws me to human-centered design so much, is that I can hear so many stories from so many people to better understand something to create a better solution.

Sandie [00:25:57] So wrapping this up, what is your advice to someone who is in especially one of these helping professions where we’ve been for decades programed to be the solution for our clients, which I have to tell you is a lot of stress. It’s also a lot of emotional trauma that’s secondary, vicarious you know all of these things. So human-centered design seems to offer a new direction, maybe is the right word. How would you advise people like me to make this shift at this point in our careers?

Shauntina [00:26:46] I really do believe it offers us another pathway, and I do feel that it can be a pathway with less of those things you just mentioned. It’s the stress and the vicarious trauma and the feelings of failure, if I’m just going to put it bluntly. And I think it can come so heavy for many of us in this field. So my biggest advice would be if you know your program is not working, whether you have data, whether you don’t, wherever you’re at, you know, in your gut, if your program isn’t working, if you’re not seeing things change, if you’re not seeing things go better. I encourage you to just take a moment, schedule a day, even if you have to schedule it two months out, schedule a day to not have any to dos that day and schedule a day where you can take a step back and really think, when was the last time I talked to those impacted by the problem? When was the last time they were part of a decision about the solution? When was the last time I really was able to sit and observe what we do and understand and see if it’s working or not? And if you can’t answer those questions with within the last few months, I really encourage you to go and download. There’s a field kit for human-centered design on IDEO’s website, and it’s completely free and it has fantastic information in there and it has wonderful things, but it’s all that you will need to start exploring human centered design.

Sandie [00:28:17] Wow. Dr. Shauntina Sorrells, what a pleasure to have you as part of my community and part of our Ending Human Trafficking community. We’ll have another conversation in the future.

Shauntina [00:28:30] Thank you so much, Sandie. It was a pleasure talking to you today, as always, and I have enjoyed listening to you since 2007 and I will continue to do so

Dave [00:28:40] Thank you so much both. What a pleasure to be a part of this conversation. Shauntina, thank you so much for your work here in Orange County and of course, influencing the work across the nation and across the globe as as we are always searching to do, Sandie, to really seek out partnerships and experts that are going to help us all to end human trafficking. We’re inviting you to take the first step. If you haven’t already, hop online and download a copy of Sandie’s guide, The Five Things You Must Know: A Quick Start Guide to Ending Human Trafficking. It’ll teach you the five critical things that Sandie’s identified in her work here at the Global Center for Women and Justice at Vanguard University that you should know before you join the fight against trafficking. You can get access to that by going over to endinghumantrafficking.org. And if today’s conversation has raised a question for you, something you’d like to know more, you can always reach out to us directly at feedback@endinghumantrafficking.org. That’s the very best way to get in touch. And we will be back in two weeks with our next conversation. Thanks, Sandie. Always a pleasure.

Sandie [00:29:42] Thanks, Dave.

Dave [00:29:43] Take care, everyone.

Scroll to Top