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5 ways to use the Social, User & Financial Value Model for social innovation

By: Nick Stanhope
On: 5th April 2017
Organisation name: Shift

In spring 2013, we kicked off a different kind of partnership with Nominet Trust, which created space to not just develop new products and services, but also to think hard about the processes and methods behind these research and design activities and to share what we learnt.

By the middle of that year, we had in place a process of asking ourselves three sets of simple questions at every stage of research and design and an internal commitment to giving equal attention to each:

  1. How can we generate social value? What social problem are we solving? Exactly what are our measurable social outcomes and what can we learn from existing evidence about how to deliver them? How can we measure impact as we develop and grow these products and services?
  2. How can we generate user value? What user problem are we solving? Exactly who is our user, how can we build a clear picture of their needs and how can we meet them? How can we assess the degree to which we’re meeting these needs and demonstrating traction as we develop?
  3. How can we generate financial value? Exactly what are our potential sources of revenue and how can we learn about the needs of these sources and how to meet them? How can we build a business model around these needs? How can we use them to inform ongoing design?

We started to describe these three buckets of aims, questions and criteria as our three strands of value - social value, user value and financial value - and built our design approach around the need for them all to be carefully understood, deliberately designed into products and services and relentlessly measured. The phrase “not rocket science” came up fairly often in discussion. Nevertheless, it turned out that this was a widely useful triumvirate of questions.

We presented these ideas at a Nominet Trust gathering in summer 2013 and the approach proved useful. For example, it evolved, through discussion and testing with the Nominet Trust team, and was taken up as the Triple Helix of Social Tech Innovation and integrated into the Trust’s assessment and support processes.

After several years of applying (and discussing) this approach, on the portfolio of Shift products, ventures and R&D projects and with partners and clients, the Social, User & Financial Value Model has kept on moving forward into a more intricate research and design methodology, helping us work on both new and existing products, services and programmes.

In 2017, through the next phase of our partnership with Nominet Trust, we will open this up much further, hopefully creating a process that others can use all or, more likely, parts of.

To kick that off, take a look at our paper '5 ways to use the Social, User & Financial Value Model for social innovation'.