Human Centered Design at Anthroscope Media
As an independent Canadian Media company, Anthroscope Media (Anthro (Human) scope (Lens, Perspective)) prides itself on using media as a tool for storytelling. Thero brought an element of human centered design to an already impressively human organization.
When Anthroscope first partnered with Thero, they operated under a different name. They focused on making high quality media, and were making participatory waves in Finland, Greenland, the Canadian Arctic and elsewhere. With so much to do, the idea of their practice was becoming diluted; it was hard to say no to a deserving client without a good reason. There are a great many worthy projects that need their stories told, and only so much time.
In beginning this partnership, Anthroscope was very clear that the people and the art came first. No exceptions. It made perfect sense then, to develop their organizational strategy from a human-centred, systemic perspective.
We started with mindset; the layer that contains the values and habits of the organization in its efforts and interactions. After a series of inquiry-based processes (ethnographic research, interviews) and reviews of artifacts of past work, Thero co-created a new set of processes for workflow and interaction with stakeholders based on values of empathy, co-creation and the value of a good story. Over time, Anthroscope realized they were in fact co-creating all of their work with their subjects, and in many ways were letting their subjects take the lead. Given that many of their subjects were people who had previously been marginalized, letting them hold space and tell their stories in ways that were meaningful for them became the priority goal. This aspect of their practice was incredibly unique, meaningful, and worth committing to.
It was from this human centred perspective and process that the name of the company, Anthroscope, was forged:
They have been extraordinarily successful. Within a short time, they have been awarded Ontario Arts Council Funding, Waterloo Arts Council Funding, launched a podcast and a festival selected short and had a 4 month exhibition at Waterloo’s highly regarded THEMUSEUM of Ideas Transcending Objects.
As the old saying goes, when it rains, it pours. With that deluge of opportunity came the need to scale up their services and capabilities. As new opportunities continued to come in, Anthroscope recognized a need, and again partnered with Thero to sort out a production process that emphasized the humans behind the lens first. Anthroscope decided to partner with Thero to build their organizational capacity. Meeting the needs of each film subject, particularly when those persons are highly diverse, is a great challenge.
By using human centred design practices, we took each stakeholder and put them front and center, in turn, incorporating their needs, hopes and perspectives from the ground up. By looking at job postings from the perspective of the applicant, we were able to realize that high-caliber, applicants deserved to have a moment to produce work that proved their ability. By designing a series of micro-tasks and asking applicants to explain their process, we were able to cut down application time and hassle by an order of magnitude.
By looking at production workflow from the perspective of the editors and others running ‘close to the story’, we realized a series of relatively inexpensive technology upgrades to storage, processing time and ergonomics would pay dividends by optimizing for the high-caliber individual in the chair, while also providing a series of failsafes that protected the story from accidental loss.
Finally, by looking at the process from the perspective of the subjects of the production, we realized that establishing deep rapport and trust was important from first contact onwards. The person who would do the interviewing, it was decided, would always be the first name and face the subject would see. The ultimate responsibility and point of contact would be, from the perspective of the subject, one real human. Real friendships with media subjects have resulted from this human centered, trust-first effort.
Anthroscope has become so committed to their new practice that they now ask if a new input, challenge, or opportunity is Anthroscopic. We couldn’t be happier.
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