Making social investment user-centered was our remit.

Help to seamlessly guide people through the social investment labyrinth, educate them along the way and direct them down the right path. This is an objective we have been working towards, alongside Allen at NDP, for the past 6 months now. It’s been quite a journey but I’m excited to see our collective hard work - and that includes all our great helpers along the way - is coming together to crystallise the next iteration of Good Finance.

Rewinding 6 months, Snook were brought on board by The Cabinet Office to leverage pre-existing research in the space and ensure existing insight was utilised. We all know research projects don’t always end up with something being created but here was our chance, alongside Big Society CapitalAccess and others, to put the thinking into practice and develop something truly user-centered for the sector. 

We began by undertaking an extensive period of research to understand people’s attitudes and behaviour towards social investment. In doing so we could begin to understand their challenges and consequently their needs for a service of this nature. We spoke to a wide range of people up and down the country from charities and social enterprises that fitted the bill of our identified user groups and gradually began to build a set of personas to represent our findings.

This research allowed us to identify common themes and opportunities for the service we were creating. It was the first time a project of this nature had been undertaken involving both sides of the conversation, investors and social enterprises/charities. Taking this approach allowed us to build the full picture of the landscape from both sides and ultimately helped shape the areas of focus for us to begin to define our offering. The key areas of opportunity being language, connection and knowledge.

To reference the title of this blog, our biggest finding was people’s confusion and lack of clarity around the language and terminology used within the social investment landscape. Acronyms and jargon are highly prevalent and in an already complex arena, this just adds to the noise. Connection was an area fast emerging as a key opportunity for Good Finance. This is a face-to-face world and we need to see Good Finance as a facilitator of connections, not a replacement for human interaction (a theme we encounter regularly in our work at Snook). Social enterprises and charities are looking for investors with a similar value set, the relationship will always come first for them. In terms of knowledge we knew going into this project that a core objective of the Good Finance service was to educate. This research has allowed us to drill into the detail around what users really need/want to know to ensure we are building a service that people will use. 

These themes were the springboard for developing the shape of our second round of research. At Snook we take a very hands on, iterative approach to user research and product development and at this point it was time to get stuck in. We held a number of paper prototyping workshops with charities and social enterprises around the country and worked side-by-side with these organisations to start co-designing parts of the platform that would address our key opportunity areas. We’ve explored diagnostic tools, matching services, connection widgets and much more. 

We are now in the process of developing, testing and iterating our digital prototype as we move towards the final phase of the project. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank those that have been involved in the Good Finance research. Every design project relies heavily on the participation of users and without all your valuable input we wouldn’t be where we are today - about to begin the development of a truly user-centered digital product to educate charities and social enterprises about social investment and help them navigate the market in a way that is meaningful for them. 

We will be sharing the research report for this project publicly in due course. If you are interested in reading about our journey in more detail, and want to be kept updated on the project, please sign up to the Good Finance email updates here

By Emma Parnell, Snook