Societal and Ethical Impact Canvas

If you are working in research and innovation, you may recognize the need to combine the creation of technology and the creation of a positive impact in society. You may call it Responsible Innovation, or Corporate Social Responsibility, or Creating Shared Value.

In that case, you will probably be busy indeed, running from meeting to meeting, talking to clients, managing projects, combining diverse concerns for technology, for marketing, and for society–within your organization and outside, with relevant stakeholders.

Well, have I good news for you 🙂

Here is a tool to get things done, to support your work in business development and project management:

The Societal and Ethical Impact Canvas

  • A framework and practical workshop format
  • To facilitate communication and dialogue
  • To help you in project scoping and definition
  • In larger, complex projects or in programs


Societal and Ethical Impact Canvas (PDF)

Benefits of using the Canvas

  • Clarity about the potential impact(s) of your project/program
  • Cultivate outside-in-thinking and a culture of dialogue
  • Engage the right clients, the right partners and stakeholders
  • Create an innovation eco-system that will actually deliver
  • Improve risk management and reputation management
  • Improve accountability and the fit with law and regulations
  • Better anticipate and serve customers’ and users’ needs
  • More focus, and thus more speed, within your project/program
  • Tap into people’s intrinsic motivations to ‘do good’ in society
  • Advance ‘creating shared value’ and do that collaboratively

Instructions for using the Canvas

Invite 6-8 people, including clients:

  • One or more clients, partners or stakeholders
  • The project manager or program manager
  • A business developer or accountmanager
  • An expert on content or domain
  • A facilitator (who knows the Canvas)

Organize a 60-90 minutes workshop:

  • Step 1 (15-25 minutes): Discuss and clarify impact
  • Step 2 (15-25 minutes): Define outputs and outcomes
  • Step 3 (15-25 minutes): Design collaboration
  • Step 4 (15-25 minutes): Wrap up and actions


  • A clear mission, including impact and collaboration

If you are interested in using this Canvas, please contact Marc Steen, senior research scientist at TNO ( This Canvas was developed in the JERRI project, which aims to promote Responsible Innovation, by Reijer Gaasterland, Suzanne Ogier, Joram Nauta and Marc Steen.


Scaling-up, for societal impact

In a previous post I wrote about my ambition to help to (better) focus innovation projects on promoting people’s wellbeing. In two earlier posts I advocated focusing on promoting wellbeing, and organizing collaborative innovation. Below I will advocate scaling-up innovation projects’ results.

First, let’s clarify what I mean with ‘scaling-up’.

Innovation projects typically deliver a prototype of a new product or service. Preferably a prototype implemented and tested in a realistic setting, e.g., in collaboration with a launching customer and with a group of users. In the case of an e-health service, this could involve a hospital department, and a group of doctors, nurses and patients, and their family members. A trial with such a prototype can impact the lives of, e.g., 100 patients during a period of several months.

In order to have significant impact in society, however, the project’s results need to be scaled-up. This would involve scaling-up the technology, e.g., by using larger servers or more robust protocols, scaling-up the number of users, e.g., by involving other hospital departments or other hospitals, and scaling-up the business model, e.g., by getting parties committed to deploying the new service in a sustainable way. The last point the trickiest.

Many projects were successful in delivering an interesting prototype. But one year later, nothing remained of that. When the project’s budget is spent, the project collapses. That should worry us. Especially when the project was (partly) funded with tax-payers’ money. Noblesse oblige. Researchers, policy makers, developers and designers should put more effort and creativity in scaling-up.

Now, how can this scaling-up be done, practically?

I think there are three key success factors for scaling-up: involving all relevant partners; focusing on practical situations; and covering social, organizational and business issues.

All the parties that will be needed for successful implementation and deployment of the project’s results (e.g., an e-health service) need to be involved during the development. Otherwise there will be a ‘not invented here’ syndrome: organizations that were not involved in the project will be unwilling or unable to do anything with the project’s results.

Second, the project would need to be based on a practical understanding of the problem. Therefore, project team members need to spend a significant amount of their time in practical situations, with future customers, with potential users. Such investments do pay-off, in terms of a better understanding of the problem and of possible solutions.

Third, the project should not only cover technological issues, but also social issues, e.g., the innovation’s impact in people’s daily lives, organizational issues, e.g., the integration with current processes or systems, and economic issues, e.g., fair ways of dividing costs (e.g., development) and benefits (e.g., reducing costs) between the partners involved.

In the case of a mobile app that promotes healthy life styles, e.g., it would be useful to create a ‘societal business model’, which includes not only financial costs and benefits, but also societal costs and benefits, such as reducing health care costs, and improved wellbeing and participation in society. Clarification of these societal benefits can help to motivate a (local) government or health insurance provider to participate in the project.

Do you know any examples of involving relevant partners, of focusing on practical situations, or of addressing social, organizational or business issues? What can we learn from those examples?