Business 2.0, Social media & networking, Sustainability

Platforms for shared value creation (redux)

I’ve just completed 3rd semester of my masters degree, and I wanted to share one of the papers I wrote on the concept of Platforms for shared value creation, that builds on the model that I outlined in my Web Directions South 2010 talk.

Diagram outlining the 'Platform for shared value creation' concept

The paper, which is provided under a Creative Commons license:

…proposes a model of service delivery that has the potential to create shared value (Porter & Kramer 2011), addressing pressing societal and environmental needs while delivering commercial returns. The aim of this paper is to introduce the model — the “platform for shared value creation” (PSVC) — as a first step towards further exploration in the future. The model is not yet fully-formed and as such this paper should be considered more as “thinking in draft” for further discussion and refinement.

While the nature of these things means it takes an academic tone, I hope that it provides some value as a contribution to discussions around shared value, Collaborative Consumption, and social innovation. I would love to know any feedback you might have, so please drop me a note in the comments if you find it useful, or want to challenge or probe any of its assertions.

Design, Sustainability

Report on design thinking and sustainability

Posting has been light here the past few weeks, partly due to most of my writing energy being focused on my project report on Design thinking and sustainability (PDF 1.5MB), my first major assessment for the Master of Sustainable Practice postgraduate degree I’m currently undertaking at RMIT.

The summary of the report is:

Media coverage of the impact of ʻdesign thinkingʼ – also described as ʻhuman-centred designʼ or ʻservice designʼ, among other terms – on business and society seems to be on the increase, with much of the discussion focusing on its application to innovation practice.

Simultaneously, the need for business and public services to integrate socially and environmentally sustainable practices is becoming more urgent and important to address pressing issues such as climate change, resource scarcity, environmental degradation and growing social challenges and perceived deterioration of community.

This paper briefly explores the impacts of design on business before providing a working definition and overview of the key themes of design thinking. It then outlines commonly recognised environmentally-focused sustainable design principles and considers how design thinking could be applied in support of these.

Although a (non-exhaustive) review of specific examples of design thinking applied to environmentally sustainable objectives was undertaken in preparation of this paper, such examples are relatively few. As such, while specific examples are touched upon, the primary focus of the paper is on the potential application of design thinking in this context.

While academic in tone (it is a uni assessment after all) and relatively long (20+ pages), I thought it might be of interest to some readers of this blog given the topic/focus.

As is often the case with this sort of things there are elements I’d improve/extend if I had more time – particularly I’d like to provide more than just passing comment to the link between sustainability and innovation – but I do hope the result provokes some interesting and beneficial dialogue.

I’d also like to publicly thank the following folks for their support through inspiration, conversation, experience and pointers to examples and resources before and during the preparation of the paper:

Business 2.0, NGOs & Nonprofits, Social media & networking

Nonprofit Next

Diagram outlining 5 trends from the Convergence report (trends reprinted in text below).

I’ve just finished reading Convergence: How Five Trends Will Reshape the Social Sector (PDF direct link – 856KB), a report released earlier this year by La Piana Consulting that looks at emerging trends in the nonprofit sector.

The report examines a number of key trends, including:

  • Demographic shifts redefine participation
  • Technological advances abound
  • Networks enable work to be organized in new ways
  • Interest in civic engagement and volunteerism is rising
  • Sector boundaries are blurring

It suggests that current funding models need to be revisited, that a strong sense of core values and differentiation is important (I call this values-based branding), that organisational and partnering models may need to be considered, and that technology will play a key role in the nonprofits of the future.

These are the types of organisational challenges that social business design seeks to address. And the all, perhaps to different degrees, require a certain approach that relies heavily on an open and trusting culture. A difficult task for organisations that don’t already have these things in place.

I get a sense throughout the report that La Piana seem to be suggesting an approach not dissimilar to the “integrated flow” approach I advocate in the increasing surface area post from the other day.

It recognises and clearly places social media and network engagement in context and does a good job of expressing some of the challenges associated with it, as well as recognising the benefits including the low-cost nature of the tools themselves.

It also does a great job of presenting mini-case studies of nonprofits and social sector organisations that have successfully embraced some or all of these trends.

I would highly recommend the report to anyone working in nonprofits and NGOs, especially those in leadership/management positions, as I think it highlights many of the challenges nonprofits currently face, trends that are likely to increase in influence into the future.

NGOs & Nonprofits

Donations usability

Today’s Alertbox references findings of a Nielson Norman Group research study on usability of donation forms for non-profits.

I’ll be grabbing a copy of the full report, but I just wanted to focus on a couple of points from the Alertbox piece.

The first is this point about stated motivations of donors – what they are looking for from organisations when choosing to donate:

We asked participants what information they want to see on non-profit websites before they decide whether to donate. Their answers fell into 4 broad categories, 2 of which were the most heavily requested:

  • The organization’s mission, goals, objectives, and work.
  • How it uses donations and contributions.

Makes sense – this is how I’d answer too. The first point turns out to be the most important:

…an organization’s mission, goals, objectives, and work was by far the most important. Indeed, it was 3.6 times as important as the runner-up issue…

…(Information about how organizations used donations did impact decision-making, but it was far down the list relative to its second-place ranking among things that people claimed that they’d be looking for.)

On finding the donation link, the piece says:

Amazingly, on 17% of the sites, users couldn’t find where to make a donation. You’d imagine that donation-dependent sites would at least get that one design element right, but banner-blindness or over-formatting caused people to overlook some donation buttons.

Banner blindness means that using “big bold buttons” can actually have the opposite of the intended effect. (If I had a dollar for every request to “make the button bigger and more prominent” and having to argue this case…)

Having clearly labeled navigation options is also important. In my own testing I’ve found that the word “Donate” far outperforms other labels (e.g. “Support”) – another case of being clear on your trigger words for navigation.

The last point I thought worth mentioning was a point specifically on usability. For the most part usability was ok, except for one standout:

Our testing did identify some small usability problems, but the only big problem was caused by sites that used third-party payment services, which stumped some users.

My interpretation of this point is that when non-profits rely on third-party payment pages such as those provided by PayPal or their bank to take donations, that the user experience is significantly impacted.

I think this is particularly problematic for smaller NGOs and non-profits who can’t afford to setup their own e-commerce system, and who therefore rely on such third-party systems.

My experience with such systems as a user has never been good, so I advise my clients (as I did my previous employers) to avoid such systems. My argument was that the break in continuity (being directed to a different site) and the usability issues often inherent in such solutions would significantly impact donor confidence, and by extension $$ raised.

I’ve sometimes heard the argument that people trust the banks’ system better than the non-profit’s website, or that including PayPal as an option on your site actually increases donations.

But the usability issues have always been my biggest concern in not implementing such third party payment systems. (I have only begrudgingly started using PayPal more often because trying to pay by credit card in a PayPal enabled system is such an awful experience.

To date, however, it’s been only my word against the vendors’. It’s good to have some empirical evidence on the matter – so I’m looking forward to reviewing it in more detail.