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The Development Impact and You toolkit has been specially designed for practitioners to dive straight into action

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    Craig Zelizer



    The Development Impact and You toolkit has been specially designed for practitioners to dive straight into action. Yet the tools presented here are grounded in existing theories and practices of innovation, design, and business development.

    Practical tools to trigger & support social innovation

    This is a toolkit on how to invent, adopt or adapt ideas that can deliver better results. It’s quick to use, simple to apply, and designed to help busy people working in development. 


    The tools are not coming out of thin air. It draws on a study of many hundreds of tools currently being used – here we have included only the ones which practitioners found most useful. Many of them are well documented and have been widely used in other sectors. In that sense this toolkit is standing on the shoulders of giants, and we are happy to acknowledge that. All the tool descriptions include a key reference, so it is easy to trace back their origins and dive deeper into other publications about their application.

    This section offers a ‘bird’s eye view’ of the main pillars underlying the theory and management of social innovation and for each of these topics we have provided references for further reading.

    1. Stages of Innovation 

    Innovation is sometimes written about as an almost magical process. But it is wrong to see innovation as a mystery. It is true that innovation is rarely simple or predictable, but looking closely at what actually happens, it is also true that the overall innovation process is structured and systematic.

    Although every real innovation is a complex story of loops and jumps, there are various stages that most innovations pass through. This framework is useful for understanding how to put ideas to work, and focusing on the different methods, and different mindset, needed at each stage.

    The seven stages are:

    Opportunities & challenges: These include all the initiating factors like a crisis, new evidence, inspirations etc. which highlight the need for change. This might involve diagnosing the root causes of a problem, or identifying the opportunities that a new change could bring about.

    Generating ideas: Most of the ideas you come up with at first won’t work. But it’s only through the process of constant idea creation that you arrive at something that is radical and transformative. Use creative methods like design to increase the number of solution options from a wide range of sources.

    Developing & testing: New ideas are always helped by robust criticism. It is through trial and error that ideas are iterated and strengthened. This can be done by simply trying things out, or through more rigorous prototyping and randomised controlled trials.

    Making the case: Before you try to implement your idea, you need to prove that it can work and is better than what is already there. Build up firm evidence to back it up and then share it honestly.

    Delivering & implementing: This is when the solution becomes everyday practice. It includes identifying what is working well, and what is not, as well as securing income streams that enable the long term financial sustainability to carry the innovation forward.

    Growing & scaling: In this stage there are a range of strategies for growing and spreading an innovation – from organisational growth, to licensing and franchising. Emulation and inspiration also play a critical role in spreading an idea or practice in a more organic and adaptive manner.

    Changing systems: Systemic innovation is where maximum social impact can be created. It usually involves changes in the public and private sector over long periods of time, and the interaction of many elements and new ways of thinking.

    Further reading on the stages of innovation: 

    This work is ©Nesta licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence. To view a copy of the licence, visit

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