Overcoming Design Challenges in Creating Shared Value
If you are seeking to link profitable business with social good, how do you overcome design challenges in creating shared value?
The Role of Design
Design is used extensively in reimagining and implementing social change, yet it has been largely missing in discussions about creating shared value – a framework utilised in leveraging private sector contributions to social, environmental and economic progress. This is perplexing given the increased acceptance of “design thinking” in business strategy formation.
These skills are needed now more than ever as global challenges mount up. At the same time, companies are seeking innovative ways to improve performance and differentiate their offerings, so it makes sense to be co-creating solutions with customers and communities.
The question is: how do companies find, develop and implement such opportunities? This is where design plays a key role.
Why Shared Value?
Shared value goes beyond the standard corporate social responsibility (CSR) agenda; it’s changing the role of social good from defending value to a source of creating value. Companies are being challenged to develop the capabilities they need to capitalise on these opportunities and to be able to work with new partners in new ways.
Likewise, not-for-profits, governmental institutions and community groups are not accustomed to working with business in this way. As Michael Porter and Mark Kramer have stated,
“Leaders in both business and civil society have focused too much on the friction between them and not enough on the points of intersection.”
Indeed, partnerships with corporations that harness shared value principles are far more powerful than corporate philanthropy or CSR in easing the financial strain on such organisations whilst delivering greater impact. More from Porter and Kramer:
“Businesses acting as businesses, not as charitable donors, are the most powerful force for addressing the pressing issues we face. The moment for a new conception of capitalism is now; society’s needs are large and growing, while customers, employees, and a new generation of young people are asking business to step up.”
Designing for Shared Value
Businesses have started stepping up, as suggested by Fortune’s recently published list of companies changing the world using shared value as a criteria, namely “using the profit motive to help the planet and tackle social problems.”
But figuring out how to create shared value is first and foremost and innovation challenge that is difficult. Corporations that are excessively focused on short-term economic gains may lack the patience required to make it work. It requires the consideration of stakeholder needs across entire ecosystems rather than just focusing on business systems that are within their control.
Corporate executives and managers must shift their design mindset from ‘command and control’ to one that empathises with people and business partners that they typically haven’t had to engage with in the past.
Designers schooled in effectively designing for social and environmental impact know, among other things, how to:
- Consider entire ecosystems and facilitate the meaningful participation and collaboration of many;
- Achieve an adequate understanding of social and environmental issues, suspending often false presuppositions in order to appropriately and creatively frame those issues;
- Generate insights that identify social and environmental opportunities with accompanying business strategy benefits;
- Explore and test potential opportunities for creating shared value without risking damage to the social or environmental sector or a corporation’s reputation.
The integration of such design expertise into the business innovation process supports the identification and creation of shared value opportunities, and greatly helps organisations overcome key challenges in realising their potential.
This article was developed in collaboration with colleague and design expert, Richard Anderson, a Principal at OE Strategy. You may want to reference further information, such as:
- Porter and Kramer’s Strategy & Society and their seminal Creating Shared Value paper
- My articles on A Guide to Shared Value Measurement and Answering the Critics of Shared Value
- Richard’s slides from his workshop Question everything – Designing more effectively for social impact, and recent conversation with Marc Rettig on What it takes for companies to move toward social and environmental responsibility, how we might help, and what that means for design or the curriculum of the Austin Center for Design
Please approach us with any questions you have.
Phil Preston is an independent Shared Value Practitioner and Keynote Speaker on Commercially Smart & Socially Good Strategies. He works with blue chip companies, NGOs and government. You can make contact or visit his website, which includes a free guide to getting started.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com