How to focus your approach, understand user and social value and build a strong team.

You’re a digital lead. Maybe it’s your job, or maybe you’re just the most tech-savvy person at your charity. Perhaps you’re wondering how to start a new digital service or maybe you’re applying for a grant

How might you help your project be successful? How can you stack the odds in your favour?

Check if you’re planning to do these three things.

1. Run a solution-finding project

Look at your plans. Are you thinking about building a solution or finding a solution? The difference is important. It’s the difference between old and new ways to build digital services.

The old approach

‘We’ve specified the solution up front, we think we know what it needs to do, and how it needs to work. We’ve worked this out either by people telling us what they need, or because we had a good idea. Now we just need to get on and build the solution.’

A new approach

‘We’ve got a problem we want to solve and some ideas for how we might achieve it. But we understand that we’re making some assumptions and probably haven’t found the right solution yet. So we’re going to investigate the problem further through user research. Then we’re going to run some tests on what we then think are possible solutions.’

Do you see the difference?

Even after you’ve built and launched a digital service, you should continue to use this ‘solution finding’ approach to making changes or adding features.

2. Understand the difference between user and social value

How much do you understand the difference? It’s okay if you don’t yet. User value is a tech term that, until recently, wasn’t used much in the voluntary sector. So let's start with social value.

Social value is something we do know a lot about. It’s the value of an intervention or service in terms of how it affects a social problem. It's pretty interchangeable with "social impact" or "social outcomes".

User value describes the value of a product or service to a user. It’s not about the wider social value, but about:

  • How easy it is to use - e.g. when interacting with the screen or menu
  • How it meets their immediate needs - e.g. for information or to get a referral 
  • How it fits into their lifestyle, habits and day-to-day life e.g. available on mobile at night because the user doesn’t own a computer and thinks about the problem before they go to bed

For example, you could create a digital service that creates great social impact when it’s used (high social impact). But few people might use it because it’s not available or accessible in a way that is easy and timely for users. 

3. Build a kick-ass team

Ironically, even if you don’t focus on the solution, or don’t yet understand user and social value, having the right team can still bring success.

That’s because the ‘right’ team will be willing and supported to embrace new ways of working. They will be willing to learn what’s needed to make the project successful.

Even if that team is just you to start with.

Your team will have…

  • Support from senior leaders including your Chief Executive and Trustees 
  • Dedicated capacity to deliver the project and learn as they go
  • Previous experience of failure and maybe even success
  • A competent and engaged development partner, when it's ready for one

Beyond the team you’ll have a network of partners and potential users, ready to get involved in research, prototyping and design sessions. 

If your team has enough capacity and the right attitude then don’t worry, everything else can be learnt. The odds of success can still be stacked in your favour.

What would you add?

These are three indicators of success before you start your project. More indicators come into play once you’re up and running. Would you add any more?

Photo by Edu Lauton on Unsplash

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