Introducing the Housing Service Provider Toolkit

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Service Provider Human-Centred Design Toolkit

It can be difficult for people with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) to find and maintain safe and secure housing. That’s why researchers created a new resource to help us better understand housing and FASD and to find innovative, research-based solutions.

Housing and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

Researchers currently estimate that at least 4% of individuals in Canada have FASD. As many individuals with FASD are mis or undiagnosed, they often do not have the necessary supports to thrive in their community. Service providers, individuals with FASD, and caregivers have described challenges navigating conventional housing support systems, which often fail to meet their unique needs. In addition, many housing support staff struggle to respond effectively and meet the needs of this population. As a result of these combined challenges, individuals with FASD are described as particularly at risk of being unhoused.

In an effort to combat this risk, researchers are currently conducting a study that brings together Canadian housing providers, youth with FASD, caregivers, researchers, and policymakers to understand the challenges and opportunities for housing options for individuals with FASD across the country. As a team, we are working together to design new approaches that consider the needs and strengths in housing solutions for individuals with FASD. As part of this process, we are creating resources to help both individuals with FASD, and those that support them. The first of those resources to be released from this project is the Service Provider Human-Centred Design Toolkit.

The Service Provider Human-Centred Design Toolkit

Given the unique challenges and strengths that individuals with FASD have, current housing models may not provide the guidance required to match their needs. To provide effective and long-lasting housing solutions, providers must carefully consider each person’s unique experience of being (un)housed. The Service Provider Human-Centred Design Toolkit helps providers to explore these needs, and how each service provider may or may not be meeting them. This toolkit gives housing support staff a variety of tools for engaging with people who access housing services to get a better picture of their needs, goals, and experiences. These resources are designed to provide housing providers with a framework to have meaningful conversations to better improve their services and ensure they are meeting the needs of the client.

Uniquely, this toolkit uses human-centered design, which focuses on the “end-user”. By focusing and involving the users throughout the entire design process, this process ensures that the final product/housing service is tailored to their specific needs, leading to greater success and long-term achievement.

What does the Service Provider Human-Centred Design Toolkit offer?

Within this toolkit are several ways to help deepen discussion between those that offer services and those that access them. The specific tools within the kit include:

  • Empathy Maps,
  • Journey Maps,
  • Personas,
  • a Feedback Grid, and
  • advice on making sense of the qualitative data that these tools will provide.

These tools don’t need to be used all at once, nor do they need to be strictly adhered to—they are meant to be adapted to the needs of the individual accessing the service.

Here is a brief summary of each of the tools included within the kit:

Empathy Maps

A tool for building empathy and to deepen understanding of a person’s experience. This tool is used by the individual developing a service to have a guided conversation with the person for whoever they’re developing the service for. The person responds to six prompts which allow them to break down their experience into what they were thinking, what they saw, what they said, what they did, how they felt, and what they heard. This simple process allows for as much or as little elaboration as needed and gives the provider the insight needed to understand that person’s experience.

Journey Maps

A tool aimed at holistically capturing an experience, while pinpointing moments for improvement and intervention. This map involves providers sitting down with an individual and starting with a key moment —then working backwards to map their journey of how they got there. After discussing the last five steps that brought them here, journey mapping also includes asking the individual to describe 1) what they expected to happen during each of these steps, 2) what actually happened (including positives and negatives), and 3) how these experiences could be improved. By understanding the space between expectations and actuality, journey mapping allows service providers to find points where they can help bridge gaps.


A storytelling tool used to consider problems from outside viewpoints to generate ideas, solve problems, or test a solution. Personas are fictional stories that are based on real world individuals. Although the development of a persona is a more intensive process, it sets service providers up for the future by allowing them to gauge if they are meeting the needs of the individuals the personas represent, without needing to do in-depth research into the population each time. Creating personas involves gathering data from individuals who are impacted by the problem you’re trying to solve and using their quotes and insights to create new and fictional individuals with their own goals, needs, and challenges. It is a way to consider a problem, solution, or situation from multiple different viewpoints and perspectives, and aids service providers in making connections between the statistics known about their target population, and the real people that the data represents.

Feedback Grid

A simple tool to help individuals share their thoughts about a solution. This grid has four quadrants, each asking a separate question: what the individual likes, what they would improve, what questions do they have about the solution, and if they have any new ideas. This grid helps to orient and guide the conversation about a solution that’s hoping to be implemented.

Download the Toolkit!

If any of these tools appeal to you, you can get more detail and learn how you can better engage with people who access your services to get a better understanding of their needs, goals, and experiences, by checking out the toolkit—available here!

Be sure to look out for more information and resources in the future; the team will be sending further updates in the future as the project develops. For more detail on the CHOoSE project and to find out how you could get involved, take a look at the project website.

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