Your NetHope IDEA Journey will have four phases. You will imagine a range of innovative solutions to your challenge, you will design your chosen solution, you will execute it, bringing it to life in your context, and you will assess the impact.
The Imagine workshop phase is focused on solving a challenge in a human-centered way. It enables nonprofits to focus on the people who participate in the solution, designing with and for them. You will be pulling together what is desirable and useful from a human point of view with what is technologically feasible and economically viable. This leads to solutions that are adopted faster with less effort. When approaching the solutions to a challenge, the first question should always be, what is the human need behind it?
The Imagine workshop is delivered as a multi-day workshop, virtually or in person. It proceeds through three phases.
During the Imagine workshop, your consulting partners will draw from a portfolio of design-thinking tools to achieve desired results. This will involve collaborating and writing on a lot of post-its, virtual or physical. This workshop experience has been written about extensively in this blog series.
The Dream Book, created through the Imagine workshop, presents multiple potential solutions. The first step of Design is to decide which to advance forward. This is because most nonprofits do not have enough funds to advance multiple solutions into Minimum Viable Products (MVP). A design team sets the parameters for selection and engages key stakeholders in the organization. The selected design is then analysed and a digital representation is planned. This phase is done with an implementation partner who guides you through the process and can build the MVP. A typical approach is to use a build-measure-learn feedback loop to prioritize the most valuable features.
Design goes hand in glove with the Imagine workshop. It makes dreams tangible. It is through the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) outcome of the Design phase that people can interact with the solution and start to make it better. An MVP is a product which usually has one basic set of features. It is released to a handful of people to test a new solution and to gauge people's reaction to it through feedback. Design is an opportunity to re-validate the dreams documented in the Dream Book. It gives more definition to solutions by bringing them to life. Design allows more people to collaborate by interacting with the same reference implementation.
The goal of the Design phase is to learn through a MPV. This can be done by a nonprofit alone, or by co-creating a platform with multiple other NGOs. The MVP is tested as a solution to the initial challenge, data and feedback are collected and analysed, and the MVP continuously improved. Creating the MVP involves iteratively creating a model solution (eg, user flow, wireframe) that fits current architectures (eg, data, enterprise, process). A design budget and plan (eg, for technology and people) typically guide the scope and timeline of this phase.
Plans for adoption, training and support during the Execute phase are usually developed during Design. They are informed by users’ feedback.
No solution has value unless it is practically adopted in regular workflows. Execution is where the designed solution encounters the reality of organizational culture and program operations. This is when usage and adoption take place and where impact can be measured over time.
Execution is continuous learning and adaptation in search of impact, the process of solving the initial challenge that started the IDEA Journey.
Deploying a solution stretches the best designs and plans to their limits. For example, infrastructure components, such as connectivity and power, can become limitations to cloud system operations, and so can inadequate cybersecurity jeopardize the best designs. Then, there is always the inevitable scenario that design did not plan for that comes up at the most inopportune moment, demanding urgent and undivided attention from the team.
However, it is human elements that are most often barriers to Execution progress. The two most frequently encountered human-centric challenges to execution are user inclusion and change management.
Execution requires good planning such as defining sources of funds and budgeting. The right development methodology can also ensure integration with existing systems and be the difference between a system that is costly and complex to manage or one that fits in the existing digital ecosystem.
While program and geography play an important role in Execution, the team should ensure early on that the data needed to measure impact is collected and validated. Finally, communication, training, and support are critical complementary initiatives in technology implementation
The entire purpose of an IDEA Journey is to create innovation that leads to impact. Innovation can create significant and lasting social/environmental impact or enhance corporate/fundraising performance. To know, it must be evaluated.
The Assess phase enables nonprofits to account for the social performance of their IDEA Journey, the value of its contribution to society, and to generate greater credibility with the solution within programs and peer organizations. Therefore, assessing the impact of the initiative is extremely important – and it is often better when performed by an independent entity. Even if the innovation unlocked by the IDEA Journey makes no difference, there is value for the sector in knowing so. Understanding why a solution failed will lead to reduced waste of resources throughout the sector.
Impact assessment starts during the Design phase. This is when the team identifies the data that will be collected to measure impact. It then completes after the Execute phase when the solution has delivered benefits. In this way, impact measurement can be thought to have two phases:
Ante – throughout the Imagine and Design phases, envisioning the impact that will be achieved at the end of the Execute phase. This creates the right data set to collect during the Execute phase and the evaluation framework for the Assess phase.
Post –after the Execute phase, by analysis the information collected to evaluate what impact was achieved and how the effectiveness aligns with the initial IDEA Journey challenge. This evaluation also identifies how success may be replicated and scaled up.
Note that the evaluation during the Assess phase is distinct from performance measurement during the Execute phase, which is the ongoing process aimed at learning and improving the solutions that is typically conducted by the project team.
During the Design phase the team would have decided which modality of evaluation would be best suited for the IDEA Journey. For example, the organization will have decided to conduct the evaluation with internal resources or through independent third parties or by contracting evaluation experts. The team will have also decided if the assessment is an implementation study (ie, to prove the program was implemented as designed) or an impact study (ie, to establish whether the solution is generating the desired effects), or both.
While there are various degrees of rigor in these evaluations, the highest of which are randomized control trials to establish causality, they all depend on the good collection and management of data and planning for it during the Design phase.
It is recommended that all IDEA Journey include an impact report and that a version of this report be shared freely and openly to benefit the nonprofit sector.