What we think

Structuring for Innovation: Setting up your organisation for more systematic innovation

5th December 2017 Posted by: Ethicore

by Rachael Clay

Structures to support innovation vary depending on the strategic intent and ambition of an organisation. Setting up your organisation for more systematic innovation is a journey. As organisations evolve from centralised to decentralised structures for innovation, they may outsource some activities to support their transformation. More mature innovative organisations have distributed responsibilities for innovation. At an extreme, an organisation may spin off start-ups to enable their innovations to operate outside of organisational constraints.

It is important for organisations to be conscious of their innovation approach and the models that can be employed to be more strategic and systemic innovators over time. This infographic identifies the structures to develop systematic innovation. We recommend mapping out your journey to more systemic innovation and how it will evolve over time.


Innovation Lenses – Take a different perspective

24th November 2017 Posted by: Ethicore

by Rachael Clay

More systematic and effective innovation is desperately needed to deliver sustainable development.  The challenge is to move from doing what you’ve always done, to co-creating what progress could be. Increasingly innovation will demand a focus on local approaches to innovation. We’ve been looking through 3 different lenses to facilitate this – all with local communities and experiences at the heart:   the solution lens, the problem lens and the experience lens …

Innovation Lenses

Innovation approaches are often focused purely on the problem lens, identifying the problem to solve and innovating from there.  We have identified some useful tools to improve this approach.  However, the solution lens and experience lens can also be powerful.  The solution lens actively seeks out solutions that have been developed – the positive deviants.  The experience lens takes a human centred design approach and with walk throughs and immersive experiences helps you design from the users point of view.

We encourage you to try a different lens, or two when you approach innovation.  You won’t know what you will find until you look!

Have you set your Innovation ambition?

To find out more about problem definition: Julier J., Kimbell L. (2012) Problem Definition. p30. In: The Social Design Methods Menu click here.

More about positive deviance: Tuhus-Dubrow, R. (2010) The Power of Positive Deviants: A promising new tactic for changing communities from the inside. Boston Globe. November 29, 2009. Pascale, Sternin, & Sternin click here.

The Power of Positive Deviance: How Unlikely Innovators Solve the World’s Toughest Problems. Harvard Business Press click here.

Where’s the Ambition to Innovate?

16th November 2017 Posted by: Ethicore

by Rachael Clay

The INGO sector is immature in innovation terms, as demonstrated by the Bond Innovation Audit.  The vision to transform lives, systems and models are compelling organisations to innovate.  But often we’re missing a strategic, systematic approach which is driven by AMBITION.  Organisations need to define their innovation ambition first, then set out the formal structures, processes, roles, resources and incentives to deliver consistently, and communicate that ambition clearly.

Other sectors have led the way in creating the climate, capability and commitment to innovation.   H. Igor Ansoff developed the Innovation Ambition Matrix in 1957.   It describes the work to optimise existing ‘products’ in the CORE; expand into adjacent markets or incremental products in ADJACENT; and invent new products or create new markets in TRANSFORMATIONAL.  A diversified Industrial Company would have a ratio of 70% core, 20% adjacent and 10% transformational, according to Nagi and Tuff.  Leading consumer goods companies have ratios more like 80%, 18%, 2%. If we shift the language to ‘interventions’ instead of products, and ‘needs’ instead of customers, INGOs can develop an innovation portfolio that aligns with their strategic ambition.

Innovation Ambition for INGOs, Ethicore 2017

Image adapted from H. Igor Ansoff’s Innovation Ambition Matrix

Defining your innovation ambition will enable you to clearly assess the level of risk you are ready to take, balanced with the scale of impact you seek.  The first meaningful step is for the Board to discuss, ‘what is our innovation ambition?’  Innovation ambition pays back inversely.  The greatest return, but also risk and disruption, comes from transformational innovation.   Planning a portfolio of innovation focuses the minds on the kind of innovation required to create the transformations desired.

As new and complex partnerships are raising expectations and funders are demanding innovation and impact data, new entrants are disrupting the system.  The question remains whether the ‘incumbent INGOs’ have the ambition to be the necessary disruptor or whether they will end up as the disrupted? INGO’s need to rebalance the innovation portfolio for greater long-term rewards, extending and adapting to adjacent areas and truly transformational innovation.  

In the coming weeks, Ethicore will be sharing the Innovation Series, a set of blogs and infographics, to stimulate systematic and strategic innovation. From establishing the innovation process through to tools to support idea generation, please read and share to get innovation ambition on the agenda of our Boards.


Partnership trends transforming development

19th September 2017 Posted by: Ethicore

by Calvin Jennings

The development system is shifting and new structures of funding are accelerating the pace of change.  Partnership remains essential, but the scope, scale, and systems behind new partnership models and investments are reframing relationships between development actors.  There is a desire for transformational change and here we take a look at the top trends shaping this trajectory:

1. Private sector as development actors. Increasingly private sector actors are managing and implementing development programmes, either directly with partners on the ground or through NGO sub-contractors.  They have a strong, competitive delivery position with the adaptive management capabilities to innovate.  INGOs have distinct capabilities (e.g. accessing markets, working with communities and influencing structures), to deliver systems change where otherwise they may look uncompetitive.

2. Grants look more like contracts. Grants are increasingly replicating contracting characteristics, with a focus on service delivery and payment by results. From 2011/12 to 2013/14, contractors provided 71% more technical cooperation to the UK government, the fastest growing element of DFID’s bilateral development programme in that period. Partnering with the private sector can augment NGOs position and help to manage financial risk.

3. Donors drive consortia working. The SDGs focus on “new partnerships” has broadened the number of actors involved in the delivery of development. Donors accelerate this trend with a focus on public-private partnerships Morethan 300 multi-stakeholder partnerships are now registered with the UN Commission on Sustainable Development. This trend is set to continue to 2020.

4. Companies shift from philanthropy to business development.  In 2015, 71% of corporates considered most of their partnerships as strategic, up from 43% in 2010. More advanced companies are focusing their sustainable development initiatives on market, supply chain and product development.  Such investments promise mutual benefit as, for example, FMCG playersextend sourcing networks and target the bottom of the pyramid and the financial sector builds towards financial inclusion. This presents an opportunity for more sustainable and scalable activity, when business is accountable for the social impact it creates alongside business benefit.

5. Globalisation vs regionalisation. Funders, INGOs and corporates areincreasingly enabling investment and development at  regional and country levels.  Barclays shifted their significant global programmes to a market led model recently and other companies are following.  Funders and INGOs have been working to support South to South cooperation and localisation in development and humanitarian aid.  This reinforces the need for future funding and partnerships to build partnering capacity at a national and regional level, while maximising learning and collaboration globally.

7. Companies looking for solutions. The activist CEO is on the rise with visionary CEOs and institutional leaders leading on issues, often outpacing their company direction. As the political environment becomes more fractious, will business leaders continue to exert their ethical authority?  

As sectoral partnerships transition from philanthropy to business partnerships, a focus on delivering business agendas with social accountability will be critical. New and transformational partnerships and solutions will be required as these trends accelerate and reshape the development world,

Calvin has significant experience promoting social innovation within nonprofit organisations. As a research assistant at the University of Pennsylvania, he co-authored a refereed conference presentation and a forthcoming article on fostering socially innovative cultures.

Image: Tim Trad