Six years on, Minneapolis strategy firm quietly makes waves transforming systems while centering people pushed to the margins

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Six years on, Minneapolis strategy firm quietly makes waves transforming systems while centering people pushed to the margins

November 09
10:18 2021

MINNEAPOLIS – November 8, 2021 – Kate Downing Khaled is adamant. “Most systems are exquisitely fine tuned to deliver precisely – and exactly – the results they produce – that’s why nothing ever changes.”

The 39-year-old Canadian American Muslim quit her job six years ago, after a career spanning philanthropy, community organizing, healthcare research, and nonprofit leadership to launch Imagine Deliver. “I saw all these systems and institutions supporting equitable change, but not making any.”

“Yet, these systems rarely, if ever, fail White people,” Downing Khaled pauses, “especially not White, cisgender, heterosexual men.” For her, that’s not happenstance. “It’s an outcome of systems design,” she emphasizes – which is why over a half decade ago, she turned her lens toward building new methods.

“It turns out that 65% of all civic, political, and financial decision seats are held by White men over the age of 36.” For a group constituting less than 15% of the population, Downing Khaled maintains it is virtually impossible – regardless of intent – for this group to design equitable solutions that work well for others.

“And that’s why nothing works well for other people. If you’ve never been hungry, you won’t make great food security policy. If you’re not an Indigenous blood cancer survivor, you can’t really design a better bone marrow transplant experience for Native patients.” An end-user, she claims, must be the designer.

Imagine Deliver applies universal design principles to its practice. “Our focus is the New Majority. People with intersectional identities that include race, ethnicity, ability status, sexuality, gender, education and income level. That’s the New Majority.”

Downing Khaled saw that most design firms were deeply entrenched in non-intersectional Whiteness and elitism – and disconnected from community. She built a trademarked model where the community leads. “It’s called User As Designer. We literally enlist our community to redesign the systems that fail them.”

It sounds simple, but Downing Khaled gets serious results. For over a half decade, she has brought intersectional community members who experience a problem directly to sit at the center of design sessions with executives and system leaders across industries, resulting in waves of transformation.

But designing with users who have been pushed to the margins is not free. “Community wisdom and experience can’t be extracted; it must be compensated. You can’t build failing systems and ask for free redesign, so we always pay people very well for sharing their time, expertise and ideas.”

As an input to User As Designer, Downing Khaled also created a community-based insights and research practice that leverages her background in organizing. The firm partners with artists and young people, using methods like pop-ups and public art to meet community members where they are most comfortable. 

The approach surfaces raw, current, and emerging insights that most agencies can never access.

“We’re proud of that link to community experience and we don’t take it for granted. But we don’t really see any other firms with the credibility to do it this way, nor the skill to translate into meaningful insights.”

To-date, Imagine Deliver’s methods have seen success across multiple industries, including but not limited to philanthropy, government, healthcare, education, community development and agriculture.

At a prominent Midwestern public library system, Imagine Deliver’s insights revealed a huge gap when it came to Communities of Color and their perception of welcoming public spaces, as well as insight into community’s perceived stigma about having outstanding fines. Library leadership leveraged the Imagine Deliver’s recommendations to convince the City Council and Mayor to use a lump sum payment to wipe out all outstanding fines and eliminate them going forward. The net impact saw 50,000 community members return to become library members within a matter of months.

At a regional $1B urban healthcare system seeking to transform into a justice and health equity focused organization, Imagine Deliver began by looking at modern healthcare gaps as a function of the history of violent removal of Indigenous communities, followed by restricted home ownership for Black communities. “You can’t talk about inequities today as if they came from nowhere. We begin at the beginning.” For senior executives, the context transformed internal readiness for a very complex, 9-month transformation.

Looking into 2022, Imagine Deliver has begun to partner nationally and across new industries. “We’re talking to executives from Silicon Valley SaaS Unicorns to large national banks and what we’re seeing is that our methods hold in a lot of different contexts. So, we’re excited about that.”

To learn more about how Imagine Deliver centers users who have been pushed to the margins to create systems that work better for everyone, contact Rose Martin at (612) 567-6790.

About Imagine Deliver:

A consulting firm for the New Majority, Imagine Deliver helps clients activate insights and strategies that benefit everyone. Leveraging User As DesignerTM, a proprietary community-centered design methodology, Imagine Deliver produces insights and strategies that build toward justice, wellness and prosperity. Imagine Deliver knows that the best systems, services, and products are designed by the same people who use them.

Imagine Deliver is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and is a women-led and Muslim-owned consulting agency. Imagine Deliver is also a certified B Corp, recognized in 2021 as a “Best for the WorldTM: Community” company. For more information about Imagine Deliver, please visit imaginedeliver.com.

Video Link: http://player.vimeo.com/video/640155065

Media Contact
Company Name: Imagine Deliver
Contact Person: Rose Martin
Email: Send Email
City: Saint Paul
State: Minnesota
Country: United States
Website: https://imaginedeliver.com/