Family Planning

What are the family planning needs of young people in Colorado?




As a component of an application process, I undertook this small design challenge regarding family planning programs in Colorado. I was given a short brief and asked to outline my preliminary ideas for exploration in a five minute video. I was to outline how we might better understand the realities and dreams of our stakeholders with respect to family, and following that, propose some activities and research methods (outside of interviews and focus groups) that would help us reach a deeper understanding. I decided to make a short animated video outlining my early ideas.

Starting Point

In 2009, Colorado launched a program intended to reduce unintended pregnancies. Over five years, unintended pregnancies were reduced drastically. However, the program was less impactful for women ages 18-24 in two districts - why? I was asked to propose ideas about how the team could gain deeper insight into why the family planning program did not resonate with these women. The research would eventually be used to design solutions appropriate and relevant to their lives, their choices and to their dreams.

Research + process

I began by doing some desk research about Colorado’s program and reactions to it. I wanted to know more about how the program was originally planned and rolled out, what types of interventions were used and what the impact was for different age groups in different areas.

I thought back to my experience with birth control at that age, and chatted to a few friends in this age group about their experiences.

I then mapped out an initial structure for understanding the problem, refining my framing question and organization as I worked through a few versions.


I also kept a living document of notes and ideas as I worked through existing literature and digested the problem


I proposed the following research methods

  • First, contextual observation in the relevant districts to get a feel for the place, particularly in clinics providing family planning care. Shadowing clinicians and sitting in on family planning consultations will offer some foundational insight. And speaking with clinicians, who are not shy talking about sex and family planning, and who have a finger on the pulse of the family planning needs in their areas

  • Second, the ‘if your life were a ……’ exercise with young people. Sex is difficult to talk about, and talking it about it in metaphor might make it a little easier, especially if it’s via a creative medium. This is just like a traditional collaging exercise, but not confined to one medium, the idea being that we will gain deeper insight if we can use a medium that each participant is already familiar with. It could be creation of a soundtrack for one’s life, description of a meal that represents your life, any number of things. After the thing had been made, a discussion about the why can ensue, and eventually a follow-up asking if the soundtrack/meal would change in the fantasy version of one’s life. This exercise will give a high-level view of priorities, dream and self perception among participants.

  • Third, the ‘fairy godmother’ exercise with young people. It’s easier to talk about somebody else’s sex life than your own. The prompt would be to tell a story about an experience a friend had around family planning, birth control, sex, relationships etc. Then to ask, “if you were your friends fairy godmother, what kinds of help would you want to give them? Objects, advice, intervention of some type? Why would you give/do these things?” This will help us understand better how folks in this age group and area relate to one another, and what kinds of family planning resources they wish they had that they don’t.

  • Fourth, some focus groups to glean more specific information about experiences with this family planning initiative, perhaps some card sorting to get an idea of family planning service priorities and more to fill in gaps as needed…..


Don’t know yet! Waiting to hear back, but had fun thinking + drawing through the challenge.


  • I found this project super interesting and have about 1000 questions about it.

  • While the brief spoke only about better understanding women in this context, I felt that talking to men in this age group was also very important. Men are half the equation and can hold more than half of the decision making power when it comes to birth control.

  • Without more contextual information about the program and the areas in question, it is difficult to say whether my proposed research activities are appropriate. I might choose a different approach in light of more info.