Prototyping remote research methods for

Syria_InsightsIt is possible to do insightful, human-centered design research from thousands of miles away. That’s what a teammate and I found when asked us to develop remote research prototypes for the Amplify program.

From San Francisco, we designed and tested 10 methods for identifying opportunities to improve education for Syrian refugees in the Middle East. Here’s what we did it in just six weeks:

  1. Connected directly with Syrian refugees and diasporans through various networks.
  2. Hired journalists to tell stories about themes, identified through data, research, or prior coverage.
  3. Payed a “connector” organization to access on-the-ground research facilitators.
  4. Created a Syria microsite to drive understanding, attention, and sharing of outreach message.
  5. Commissioned an eye-catching, illustrated overview of the crisis to attract interest and participants.
  6. Personally reached out to people with relevant expertise and / or experience.
  7. Provided storytelling prompts & questionnaires for refugees to implementing organizations.
  8. Explored the use of virtual reality movie screenings and online teasers to build empathy.
  9. Posted on freelance journalist / video producer boards (
  10. Engaged in social media, including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


Our research and prototypes revealed key insights not only about remote research, but also about the needs of Syrian refugee school children. A couple that were particularly impactful were:

It’s a natural instinct for even professional storytellers to synthesize their observations, so any remote research partner needs guidance to gather the inputs needed to inspire design.
Adapting to schools in foreign countries challenges many aspects of Syrian identity, such as their pride in their education standards and curriculum, which reflects their cultural norms and languages.
Read all of our discoveries is in our report: Amplify Challenge 3: The Syrian Refugee Education Crisis.