Innovation | Tech for good

Design sprints for social change

The concept of a product design sprint isn't anything new. It’s a process created by Google Ventures (the venture capital investment arm of Google) and design agencies have been been using it to help companies such as Uber to quickly ideate, test and validate a product idea during a 5 day sprint.

By Reason Digital · April 4, 2018

Our own team has a great deal of past experience in running product design sprints in the commercial sector, but the Google Ventures approach isn’t an easy fit for charities or tech for good ventures. In the commercial sector, the relatively small cost of the design sprint, built around the premise of fail fast / fail cheap, makes total sense. But to a charity, that seemingly small amount of money could be used for life changing service delivery, for more hospice beds, or to run a fundraising campaign.

When working within the Third Sector, ROI has an even greater significance.

So, we’ve tailored the (now) traditional design sprint process and made it work for prosocial organisations by enhancing the discovery and research elements to provide our charity clients with an even greater understanding of who their target audience is, and how their ‘product’ can engage with them. Our sprint teams are tailor made for the sector, containing experts in pro-social digital strategy, user research and user experience.

Where appropriate, we can also consider how the sprint outputs can lead into a bid for further funding, working with you to create a funding submission video showcasing the value of your product idea.

Our pro-social approach to design sprints means that they can bring real value to a charity that wants to create a new service, to an entrepreneur with a new idea that’ll have a positive social impact, or even to a CSR manager who wants to run a new campaign.

Our design sprints see us lock ourselves away with our clients for a week in one of our war rooms (or on location with a client) to work on their product idea. Each day has a clearly defined agenda, with outputs that follow on to the next. It’s a busy, intensive week – it’s called a sprint for a reason – and our clients have found them to be immensely helpful.

people sat round a table writing on post-it notes

For Day 1 of the sprint (“Understand”) we undertake audience exercises, perform competitor analysis, create a preliminary assumption map, and explore the problem at hand.

On Day 2 (“Diverge”) the sprint team uses a variety of ideation exercises to create as many design solutions as possible. The team critique and vote on each one.

Day 3 (“Decide”) is all about choosing what ideas to take forward. Assumptions and conflicts are noted, and the ‘product’ is sketched out at a high level.

The designers get to work on Day 4 (“Prototype”), creating a rapid, testable prototype and users are recruited for the usability test.

Day 5 (“Validate”) sees us test the prototype on real users, create a sprint report, apply our learnings to the assumption map, and when relevant, help our clients create a funding application video.