Whether in a commercial or nonprofit setting, you see more breakthrough innovation with new products or programs than with existing offerings. Once programs are launched, it becomes hard to change them significantly for a host of reasons.
We are experimenting with a new approach to drive the evolution of our signature Service Grant program. It is a work in progress but we are encouraged by the ongoing advancements.
At the core of this process has been the articulation of the roughly 50 assumptions we made in designing the program eight years ago. They cover the needs of stakeholders and what is technically possible.
We are now reaching out to our internal teams, looking at relevant other programs in the market (commercial and public benefit), and reviewing the latest research in the field.
What we are finding is that roughly half our assumptions used to design the program were wrong or that technology has changed enough to change what is possible. We have the leading program in the field, and yet it is designed based on a ton of clearly now-false assumptions.
From a program design perspective, this really opens us up to innovation. We can now update our assumptions with this new knowledge and design the second generation of the Service Grant program with permission to make radical changes to best meet the needs of the community.
This is a model for program innovation that more nonprofits (and companies) should try. Write down all your assumptions that drove your design decisions and then honestly test them.
Aaron Hurst is the President & CEO at the Taproot Foundation.
Image by koalazymonkey via Flickr