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Nine types of innovation

What makes something innovative?

In searching for social innovation case studies and talking to Bond members, we found that many NGOs struggle to diagnose or articulate exactly what makes a new idea innovative.

Being able to articulate how your innovation is an improvement on what you, or others, have been doing is critical to making the case for support internally and externally.

We also discovered that social innovation tended to be viewed in fairly narrow terms – as the creation of a new service or product, or as the use of new technology.

To help address both challenges, we worked with a group of 16 NGOs to test and adapt a framework that identifies the different types of social innovation that exist.

Doblin, who invented an innovation framework for the business world, found that simple innovations may use only one or two types, but more sophisticated (and often more ground breaking) innovations combine a number of innovation types simultaneously.

Funding model

How you finance your work.

Does it have a different revenue model or funding source compared to most NGOs (eg a social franchise)?

Case studies


How you work with new or unusual partners to achieve more impact.

Does it involve relationships with organisations or people that have changed how you work or what you do?

case studies

Organisational structure

How you organise your internal talents and resources to deliver impact.

Does it change the way you use your organisation’s human/other assets (eg new organisational structure or talent programme) to achieve your goals?


How you deliver your work more effectively.

Does it change the way you deliver your programmes or carry out your activities by using new or different processes/methods (eg using new technology)?

case studies


How you develop programmes and initiatives that achieve more impact.

Is it a new or more effective product or service than what you had before?

Case studies

Service/product coordination

How you create complementary products and services that work together to deliver better outcomes.

Have you developed complementary services or products, or connected existing ones in a new way (eg bundling services)?

Case studies

Communication channel

How you deliver your services/products to supporters and beneficiaries.

Are you using new channels to reach people (eg using live video streaming)?

Case studies


How you represent your organisation and its products/services.

Are you using branding in a novel way (eg to challenge social norms or build a movement)?

Case studies


How you foster meaningful interactions with beneficiaries or supporters.

Can your supporters or users participate in your work in a new or better way (eg making loans direct to beneficiaries)?

Case studies