How did you make sure that your idea actually fits the needs of the users?

A crucial step before initiating your project is to define your market and identify your users. You need to be certain that your idea thus your product/project has a target group that really needs what you are about to offer. Our team has asked 8 successful social innovators from different fields, sectors and countries to explain how they made sure that their ideas could meet user needs in social innovation fields they were targeting. Here is what we’ve learned.

I am a person that instinctively identifies trends and the problems of others, and I thought that was enough for me to design my business initiatives from. I was wrong. Trial and error made us lose years of effort but at least paid off as valuable insight: Business is about attending an existing, recognised and pressing need, it is not about creating a need, it must be as selling beer! Even unemployed people drink a beer here and there, but few of them participate in free events that could help them find a job. Hope and imaginary solutions do not sell. What we do now: we ask people what are the challenges they are experiencing, then we connect the dots and try to offer a solution.

Jose Antonio Morales, Lincoln Island Initiatives

From the beginning, we worked on the principles of user-centred design. This means involving users in all aspects of design and testing, and taking an iterative approach to designing solutions. We began with a co-creation workshop with a group of vision impaired people, which gave us a list of assumptions. In our early trials, we tested these assumptions and either validated or rejected them. This gave us the fundamentals of the Open Standard, which we were then able to develop through further testing. When we carry out audio navigation trials, we make sure to include a wide range of potential users, in terms of age, type of vision impairment, familiarity with technology, and confidence in travelling etc. This means our solution is designed hand in hand with end users, ensuring that it is high quality and usable for them.

Tiernan Kenny, Wayfindr

We do not follow the needs of the users, we try to change their habits – our first aim was to make them drink better quality coffee (also from known origin and organic), then we made them decrease their waste and we also constantly remind them that their purchase decisions matter. And to make purchase decisions easier for our users, we try to offer them products made in accordance with BUNA concept.

Živa Lopatič, BUNA

You can have a great product but if people don’t understand why you do it, you will not have the results you want. Social business starts with a problem that we saw in the market; there are many existing materials which can be resourced for new products and there is nobody using these materials. This is what we wanted to do, so we started with the problem we wanted to solve and after that we focused on users. Now we are much more focused on our consumers. For example we have adapted the accessories for the Romanian market and as I mentioned previously, we focused more on this market. The product that is now the most popular and provides us with the most sales is the slim wallet. It is designed so that people from Romania can use it. It is suitable for Romanian ID cards, which are bigger that in other countries and our bags also have the perfect dimensions in order to fit the products they were created for. The idea is that we focus on practicability. We want to create products that are useful every day. We sell our products online and also to offline stores. We have distributors as we don’t have our own offline store and we also sell to companies.  We have also participated in different events, fairs and festivals. This helps us to promote ourselves and to receive direct feedback from clients. We decided to focus more on two channels, offline stores and our online shop.

Andreea Zaharescu, Upside Down

We always worked closely with tiphlopedagogues, blind and visually impaired individuals and their parents. With Slovenian visually impaired communities we had always extensively tested our devices, which gave us valuable feedback and insight into their needs and requirements. We care that our users get from us something that actually solves a problem they have. It would be a lot harder to do that without our testers.

Željko Khermayer, Feelif

We did some target group research. The more bags we do, the more bags we sell, the more workshops we have, the more we speak to our end users. We are in constant dialogue with them. We always ask people to give us feedback. We are always in a dialogue. This is how we try to be relevant.

Maja Rijavec and Alenka Kreč Bricelj, Smetumet

The beneficiaries, the people who struggle with personal and social vulnerabilities that find employment in Quid, can be considered the “main” users of the project. To make sure the idea fits the needs, Quid has always been committed to keep in contact and collaborate with the organizations that first offered support to the vulnerable workers that Quid employs. These organizations usually are the social services, NGOs that support victims of violence or of human trafficking, rehabilitation centers for addicts and many others; such organizations, with whom Quid has created a strong network through which it identifies its workers, always remain in contact with Quid also after the individuals have gone through the employment process, as they usually continue to support the individuals on issues that aren’t work-related. In this way Quid receives feedback on each person’s experience and, to a certain extent, has also had the chance to tailor the work inclusion programmes according to the needs of the workers.

Giulia Houston, Progetto Qiud

It is a process because it came out of a need but then the reality changed. We adjust the system all the time and in the meantime it has also become an electronic system. We don’t only do this, but we also adjust the idea to the needs of young people and also link it to the employment market.  It is an on-going process.  Also, young people who are in a situation, who need Nefiks, work closely with us. In our organization young people also have power.

Alenka Blazinšek, Nefiks

Would you like to learn how inspiring social innovators answer other important questions such as how to start your project from scratch or how to change systems and perceptions?

Check out the Social Innovation Academy – the first fully online management training programme focusing exclusively on social innovation.  If you are interested in keeping up with this project, you can subscribe to our newsletter, become one of our friends or follow us on social media (LinkedInTwitter and Facebook). We welcome all requests for collaboration here.

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