Focus on humans: Elizabeth, from Hummingly

Tell us about Hummingly

Jolie Wills my fab co-founder and I have worked disasters the world over and came to realise that helping one person, one community, one disaster at a time wasn’t enough. Climate change was bringing more disasters and they were becoming more monstrous so we got cracking designing easy to use tools that people, communities and workplaces the world over could use to do well in tough times. This was the beginning of Hummingly. Our products are now helping thousands of people and organisations around the world to deal with COVID-19 and other mass disruptions.


What are you doing to design with humans in mind everyday?

People are at the heart of what we do – we design with people for people. To create Hummingly products we gathered wisdom from over 100 crisis leaders, feedback from thousands of disaster survivors, scientific insights from cognitive psychology and we mixed it all together with a shared passion to prepare the world to do disruption, stress and uncertainty well. We also run masterclasses and this helps us to be in sync with the zeitgeist and people’s needs the world over – this all plays into our design work. This year, you’re joining MOD’s awesome line-up of keynote speakers for the official opening summit.


Why are you supporting MOD? Why do you think human-centred
design is important?

I think as a society we have lost our way in that we have forgotten how to care for ourselves, our communities and our environment. You can see this playing out in our mental health statistics and the state of our environment with climate change being the deeper emergency right now. I took COVID as a big message for us all to ‘go to our rooms’ and think about these things. To find our way back we need to hold people and the planet at the centre of our design processes so that we can create solutions for an increasingly risk prone and complex world. Human-centred design has never been more important than it is today.


When starting out what is one piece of advice you wish you had heard?

A dear friend gave me a framed poster a few years ago that says “Do no harm but take no shit” I was looking at it one day and realised that actually the one giving me the most shit was me and I wasn’t going to take it anymore! I was hardest on myself and a lot of pressure was self-induced. Once I stopped feeling the need to prove myself, I found I could quieten the inner-critic and focus on what success really means – the quality of my health, my relationships and work that is meaningful and does no harm. I wish I had got this poster much sooner!


What do you want our community to know about yourself and the work you do?

I have been so fortunate to work in many intrepid places around the world. I have sat on the ground with flood affected villagers in Bangladesh and in an office in the Beehive. I feel I have seen the human condition from many different angles and have worked with truly inspiring and generous people. Working on disaster recovery I have learnt about life and leadership in practical ways, the challenges have humbled me, the learnings have been profound. I feel compelled to pass on this experience through my work so others can find their feet in tough times and do it in a way that helps them grow rather than burn out. Many times over I have seen people achieve great things together in times of crisis and this gives me hope that we can collectively design our way through the mighty challenges of our times.


What is one thing you want our attendees to walk away with from your talk?

I would like people to leave the session feeling a little lighter and armed with a good dose of practical tools to make 2020 a little easier!