Research on how charities approach innovation and new product development processes

Innovation is a challenge in the charity sector. Not only are charities stuck between constraints on funding innovation and the need to create new value and better ways of operating, but all of the innovation methodologies are aimed at commercial organisations. So, how do charities innovate? How do they take a good idea and create social good?

I interviewed four charities with innovation teams in order to try to find out. We discussed their innovation processes, their motivations for innovating and how they judge the success of innovations.

From an analysis of research I built a theory for innovation in charities and develop the ‘charity innovation model’ which plots the approach a charity takes towards innovation on a two-by-two matrix by assessing common characteristics in motivation to innovate, implementation of innovation process and the judging of innovation success to indicate whether the innovations produced are likely to be incremental or radical innovation and strategic or social innovation.

The research concludes that charities do not use their innovation teams to develop radical new solutions to tackle social issues which contributes to answering the question often raised about charity innovation; ‘if charities are innovating, why are there still so many social issues?’

The full research write-up is here.