A model to help social products and services progress towards deep and lasting impact, whatever their stage of development

How can you progress through the 3 stages? There are 5 areas to consider at each stage.

During this stage the team works through research and design activities, as well as drawing on their own experience and additional research, developing a detailed and stable concept for a new or improved social solution. They also develop a clear framework to explain how their solution will have its intended impact, as well as a hypothesis for how it will meet the needs of its target audience and generate sustainable revenue.
During this stage the team works through more significant cycles of design and testing collecting evidence that their solution has a positive impact on the social problem they are trying to tackle, that it clearly meets the needs of its users and that it has started to generate revenue that has the potential to become sustainable and, if relevant, scalable. The organisational structure matures to support ongoing design and full implementation.
During this stage the team builds the capacity and culture to support continous cycles of improvement leading to an increasingly standardised and consistent solution, deeper and broader impact at a user and systemic level, increasing engagement and participation of users and the evolution of revenue streams to support long-term sustainability and growth.

How can you progress through the 3 stages? There are 5 areas to consider at each stage.

the product, service or programme
the people developing and delivering the solution
the capacity to deliver impact
the capacity to meet user needs
the capacity to generate revenue
the product, service or programme
During this stage, teams work through a transition from understanding problems and needs to identifying and exploring opportunities for innovation, before gradually narrowing and refining their proposition to focus on a specific solution. By working with target users, mapping existing provision and consulting with those working within the space, teams should be able to demonstrate, by the end of the stage, to be able to point to a space in the landscape for their solution and differentiate it from alternatives.
Teams should be working through multiple cycles of design and testing throughout this stage, gradually standardising the solution and establishing the systems, processes or technologies that will support consistent and sustainable delivery. Teams may be making a transition from testing in controlled environments to testing and delivery in the intended context, so the solution is likely to need to respond and adapt regularly, making this stage potentially unpredictable and challenging.
Teams are trying to balance the demands of delivery with the needs and ambitions of ongoing design and improvement of the solution during this stage. Ideally, they will have access to good user, impact and financial data streams that support this process of refinement and extension. As the solution becomes increasingly stable and effective, teams should explore opportunities to scale, transfer or replicate it in different environments, in full or via key components or methods.
the people developing and delivering the solution
Regardless of the setting or context (e.g. in an existing oragnisation or independently), there should be significant commitments to the project from individuals by the end of the stage and, ideally, dedicated team members. Key individuals may have personal or professional experience of the social problem, as well as access to partners or networks that enable consultation and co-design with the target audience. Ideally, the capacity to design the solution exists within the team, but, if not, the partnerships that will support this should be sustainable or deliberately designed to allow for an effective transition.
Independent teams are gradually establishing stable management and organisational capacity during this stage, while those working within existing organisations are finding the right balance of independence and support for the solution to thrive. By the end of the stage, the capacity required to deliver, maintain and improve the solution should exist within the team or through established and sustainable partnerships.
Teams can operate effectively within this stage in many different shapes and sizes, but there are several common areas of development and progress, including: increasingly transparent and robust organisational and governance structures and processes; a gradual reduction in the reliance on key individuals; the development of the culture and capacity required for ongoing improvement of the solution; an ability to respond effectively to external changes and shocks.
the capacity to deliver impact
The team explores the problem drawing on their own experience as well as further research, and develops a clear framework to explain how they think their solution will have an impact, and how they plan to measure this impact

Ways to make progress

  • Using literature reviews, desk research and expert interviews to:
    • Mapping the key drivers of the social problem
    • Identify affected audiences
    • Identify and review the main theoretical models around the issue
    • Identify measures to assess and capture change
  • Conducting an analysis of other interventions
  • Mapping key stakeholders
  • Creating a Theory of change

End of stage milestones

  • A clear description of how the solution has impact and how this impact will be measured (aka a Theory of Change)
  • Identification of key assumptions (things that must be true for the solution to have impact)
  • Evidence that the assumptions are realistic. Evidence could include e.g. existing research, expert opinion, or initial prototype testing
By running tests and experiments, the team collects objective evidence showing that their solution has a positive impact on the social problem they are trying to tackle, and gains a better understanding of how it is having this impact.

Ways to make progress

  • Conducting Interviews and/or focus groups exploring impact of solution
  • Conducting ethnography to explore use and impact of solution
  • Running exploratory trials e.g. to explore effect size
  • Running experimental and quasi-experimental studies (eg RCTs, regression analysis)
  • Analysis of automatically collected data e.g. usage data

End of stage milestones

  • Statistically signficant evidence showing a causal link between the solution and impact (e.g. RCTs)
  • Robust qualitative research exploring how the solution is having an impact
  • Large scale behavioural data linking the solution to the impact
Repeated tests show that the solution consistently has a positive impact on the issue being tackled, and the team continues to use testing data to improve the solution's impact for individuals and at a systemic level.

Ways to make progress

  • Setting up external evaluations of the solution
  • Carrying out internal evaluations verified by external bodies
  • Building automatic data collection and reporting capacity
  • Codification of what’s required for successful delivery and/or replication of the solution
  • Development of a solution handbook/ manual

End of stage milestones

  • Multiple evaluations, including external evaluations, show the solution is having its intended impact
  • An integrated data collection system within the solution that captures intended impact of the solution as well as emerging additional impacts
  • A system for feeding emerging insights into the development process to continue broadening impact.
  • Evidence of influence in the field, eg other actors use the solution as a basis for developing similar or new solutions
the capacity to meet user needs
The team identifies a need amongst a specific user group. They develop a concept that will meet this need and fit into the user’s world, validated through research or co-creation w3Dedit

Ways to make progress

  • Audience research via surveys, focus groups, interviews, observation, social media listening, desk research etc
  • Market segmentation and size estimation
  • Competitor mapping (those trying to solve the social problem and meet users’ needs)
  • Gathering examples of target users doing/buying something similar
  • Identification of key insights about the user and opportunities for innovation
  • Concept testing with users; iteration based on feedback
  • Starting a database of potential users
  • Research and developing early look & feel and engagement strategy

End of stage milestones

    • Evidence of an unmet need (with information on size of the market and strength of the need)
    • Description of target user group – showing an understanding of their world, needs, desires and priorities
    • Positive user feedback on the concept

%radually narrowing and refining erest from potential users (like the idea and want it to be made)

The team gathers evidence that users value using the solution and the way it is presented. User feedback is used to improve it. The team develops a user engagement strategy and has evidence these tactics will attract users.

Ways to make progress

  • Testing versions of the solution with users; iteration based on feedback
  • Gathering feedback via observation, surveys, focus groups, interviews, website analytics etc
  • Gathering a database of (potential) users via signups, pre-sales, social media followers, crowdfunding campaigns
  • Brand and engagement strategy development 38

End of stage milestones

  • Consistent positive qualitative and quantitative user feedback, including data around user satisfaction, uptake, recommendation, repeat or sustained use
  • Commitments from users, eg sign ups, referrals, sales
  • Early evidence of power use (e.g. brand advocates, promoters, contributors, unofficial advisors, volunteers)
  • Evidence of feasibility of engagement strategy from trials of intended tactics, demonstration of an existing networks of potential users, prior experience in engaging this audience or the existence of partnerships that will support engagement
The team has the ability to maintain deep, consistent user engagement, has an active network of advocates and is evolving the solution to meet further user needs for a wider audience.

Ways to make progress

  • Establishing a repeatable process for acquiring and converting customers
  • Optimising user acquisition costs
  • Ongoing measurement of user numbers and user satisfaction
  • Segmentation of your users base, based type and level of engagement
  • Developing strategy for moving users to deeper levels of engagement
  • Continuous improvement process allowing you to maintain and enhance user appeal
  • Codify and embed principles on how to appeal to the user group

End of stage milestones

  • Predictable (and, where relevant, growing) levels of demand for the solution
  • Positive qualitative user feedback that is showing signs of constant improvement (e.g. higher customer satisfaction scores, improved NPS)
  • Positive quantitative user feedback that is showing signs of constant improvement (e.g. increased frequency/length/repeat usage and referral rates)
  • Predictable conversion from users to power users (e.g. brand advocates, promoters, contributors, unofficial advisors, volunteers) 67
the capacity to generate revenue
By the end of this stage, teams should have identified potential revenue sources that could sustain and, if relevant, scale their solution beyond initial funding or investment. They should have a hypothesis for how their solution meets the needs and priorities of this customer, commissioner, sponsor or delivery funder, as well as examples of competitor or analogous products, services or programmes and clear points of differentiation. Teams may have consulted or collaborated with both potential sources of revenue and solutions in a similar space.

Ways to make progress

  • Mapping of sectors, markets and stakeholders related to the problem/s and audience/s in focus
  • Analysis of relevant types and sources of income
  • Case studies of relevant business models, including testing or observation where possible
  • Sizing and scoping of the relevant target market (e.g. customer segment, type of commissioner, type of delivery funder)
  • Interviews or co-design sessions with potential customers, commissioners, sponsors or delivery funders
  • Consultation with key stakeholders, including potential competitors or partners
  • Basic business model development, such as the business model canvas

End of stage milestones

  • Segmentation of potential future revenue sources, including size, scope, needs and preferences
  • Analysis of how the needs of these income providers are currently met, including mapping of comparable solutions
  • A value proposition for future revenue sources that describes how the solution meets specific and concrete needs, and is differntiated from existing solutions
  • A business plan and roadmap, including plans for the engagement of and collaboration with target revenue sources
Teams are investigating, developing and testing their business model during this stage. By the end of the stage, they should be able to show some evidence of a transition from short-term or one-off income focused on development (e.g. innovation funding, seed funding, own resources) to repeatable and, if relevant, scalable types of revenue related to delivery (e.g. initial commissions, early sales, outcome focused grants).

Ways to make progress

  • Business planning, including a roadmap that takes the solution from its current state to delivery in its intended context
  • Developing and validating (e.g. drawing on existing examples, data and experience) of a sustainable financial model
  • Building delivery and route to market partnerships
  • Presenting, pitching and testing the proposition with customers, commoners or delivery funders
  • Standardising the financial elements of the solution alongside the standardisation of the experience and outcomes

End of stage milestones

  • Evidence of income related to delivery that can be replicated, sustained and if relevant, scaled
  • Commitments or positive feedback from further customers, commissioned or delivery funders
  • Evidence that feedback from potential customers, commissioners or delivery partners is being used to refine the solution and business plan
  • A detailed and feasible business plan, including evidence of consultation and collaboration with key external stakeholders
A picture of financial stability should be emerging during this stage, based on the development of consistent sources or types of revenue, and evenue generation is likely to become less reliant on specific individuals. Ideally, delivery of the solution will be generating a surplus that supports a combination of improvement, growth, diversification and stability.

Ways to make progress

  • Establishing financial management and accounting functions that support stability and, if relevant, growth
  • Developing systems for generating revenue that reduce reliance on key individuals
  • Analysing the cost of sale (or equivalent, such as cost of generating commissions) and cost of delivery and generating efficiencies
  • Capturing data and feedback from customers, commissioners or delivery funders and using this to refine the solution, its marketing and its revenue generation strategy
  • Investigating opportunities for income in new markets or contexts and diversifying revenue streams

End of stage milestones

  • Financial management and accounting functions that support stability and, if relevant, growth
  • Growth, diversification or refinement of revenue streams
  • Evidence of investment in improvement and/or innovation that further strengthens income generation potential and financial sustainability
  • Access to and use of accurate and up to date financial data that supports improvements in revenue generation and value for money
Read more Read more Ways to progress Download