Cabinet Office - Designing Social Investment

From March to June 2015 we were commissioned by the Social Investment team at the Cabinet Office to prototype ways of strengthening the social investment eco-system. It was to build on the work done by the Design Council and Anna Mouser, that had looked at the user needs of ventures in terms of accessing and using social finance. This second phase of work was to take those user needs into actionable insights and start prototyping ways to connect those needs with the other needs within the ecosystem (that of funders and investors). 

Team: Cassie, Anna, Jennie W, with Snook. 

Why did we do this work

We were attracted to the eco-system challenge rather than the single issue challenge. This was a piece of work that needed to link up needs from across different parts of the system and to use prototyping to highlight where to create different points for change simultaneously. An element of the work was also about capacity building - for the ecosystem to adopt prototyping as an approach and to take ownership over the prototypes that were developed through the work. It was also a rare opportunity to demonstrate the value of a design-lead and systems thinking approach to policy makers, to support their decision to embed design as a resource in the team. 

What was our approach

We partnered with Snook to deliver the work as they bring additional design and prototyping capacity. As a team of 4, we worked with 12 of the large funders (e.g. Big Lottery, Access, Charity Bank, UnLtd, Clearly So etc) each of us working with a group of 3 organisations as our prototyping team. We developed a matrix of ‘open directions’ for the prototypes based on the original research and used this as a starting point for each team to select which challenge/ theme they wanted to take forward. Over a period of 8 weeks we developed 4 prototypes (an open data system, a digital platform, a peer-to-peer network and a new model for due diligence). The prototypes ranged in sophistication from live prototyping to experience and paper prototyping. 


The published report of the work can be found here which gives a more detailed description of the different prototypes and the recommendations we made for the wider eco-system.

We presented the work at Service Design in Government and our presentation is here. This presentation includes some of the challenges we faced in doing the work and some of the questions we are left with.

Feedback from the Cabinet Office team has been that the work helped them to ground policy in user experience, frame their projects differently, help them to ask the right questions and has had a ripple effect on how they work more generally. In terms of the prototypes, with Snook we have been commissioned to design and develop a technology platform to serve the ecosystem.

Any connections with other work

What else is on our radar in this space