by Thomas Brandenburg
“One of my personal goals for measuring the true impact is by seeing how much the people within an organization have internalized the core values of service design.”
1. Within the social innovation landscape, what issues/problems do you find lend themselves best to using a service design approach?
One of my favorite applications of service design in the social enterprise landscape is in using service design to create a corporate social responsibility program for a company. Going through the design process can help a company better identify what type of program can make the most meaningful impact. This can involve using the design process to determine what kind of program to create based on opportunity areas, setting up backstage systems to effectively run it, and testing out different ideas.
2. What are some of the biggest challenges you face applying service design for social innovation?
There is so much great work to be done in the social impact space that sometimes it can honestly be overwhelming for someone like me who wants to help facilitate impact on all levels. This includes: imagining new social innovations/enterprises, solving problems in existing ones, engaging the community for public sector ideas, and generally advocating for the service design process.
3. In developing social innovation, what some of the most useful activities and tools you have used, especially if you consider how you would engage stakeholders with diverse perspectives and backgrounds?
In general, I love hosting workshops and design-athon sprints to help teach the design process and develop/test some ideas. As individual tools, I’m a big fan of customer journey mapping, especially with an added layer of emotions at each step of the journey, to help encourage empathy from all stakeholders. I also employ the Business Model Canvas to help provide a holistic overview of any challenge or company. There is a wonderful toolkit called Models of Impact by verynice. design, which helps the team imagine different revenue models in an interactive way. Finally, I utilize mind mapping to talk through core values, messaging, or content, to bring it all together.
4. What organizations come to mind when you think about social innovation?
There are so many good ones! One of my favorite social enterprises is Swell Investing - a new social impact investment firm based in Los Angeles that allows people to select portfolios with causes such as renewable energy, green tech, zero waste, etc. They used the design process to build the entire service experience from their product offerings, to their user experience, and even their internal organization. I also admire Daily Table - a supermarket in Massachusetts that aims to end food waste by purchasing extra stock from supermarkets and selling them at discount prices in a low-income neighborhood. Another great social enterprise is Barnana - a snack company that takes bananas that would be wasted at the farm level and makes them into delicious packaged snacks. There’s also Meathead Movers, a moving company that also donates its services for free to victims of domestic abuse - a perfect use of corporate social responsibility.
5. What are the most useful framework(s) for measuring social impact?
It really does depend on context, as with all measurements of design. But one of my personal goals for measuring the true impact is by seeing how much the people within an organization have internalized the core values of service design. I always hope that going through the design process is a transformational experience for others, so that an individual or a company can later find themselves more likely to co-create their next solution, or to do meaningful design research, or prototype and iterate quickly. When I see design principles adopted proactively without my help, I know that a company is on a sustainable path towards current and future impact.
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