One issue I have been thinking about is applying user centered design in situations where target users do not have the problem that is trying to be solved. For example if your goal is to build a software program to encourage people to reduce their energy usage, but the users do not need or want to do that, then does user-centered design make sense as the approach to solving this problem?
My guess is the answer to this is no, or rather it turns out that the project is focusing on the wrong user. If users do not need or want to reduce their energy usage, then we do not need to solve this problem for them. Instead the rationale thing to do is reframe it as “how do we help advocates persuade people to reduce their energy usage”. From there we can open up a world of possible solutions.
I encounter a similar issue with my vote.ctnewsjunkie.com platform. Candidates get tons of surveys so we sometimes have a challenging time getting them to answer our questions. However we can think about and try and fix other problems through our project. For example we provide an online presence and social media exposure that they do have, and then they are more likely to answer the survey if we solve these problems.