Valuing service design: Lessons from SROI

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This paper describes lessons learned through the use of a Social Return On Investment (SROI) approach to evaluate a completed Service Design project with a large vocational training company. It is written by the Service Design team that led the original project and who subsequently used SROI to evaluate its impact. Experiencing the SROI evaluation process first-hand, in a live setting, is the approach by which the authors develop a discussion about its potential fit with Service Design processes. The SROI method enabled both the design team and the case-study organisation to acknowledge and measure additional social/stakeholder benefits created through the design work. These elements would not have been visible in a traditional ROI evaluation. There is the promise of a useful fit between SROI and Service Design in larger projects. The approach could be used as a framework for forecasting and evolving indicators for likely social impacts (and their financial proxies) throughout a Service Design project, to guide decisions at each stage. Its usefulness depends, however, on there being a will at Design Management level to rehearse the approach and develop tailored approaches towards it. In the current study, the method was found to be time-intensive for the Service Design team as lay-users and also for some key project stakeholders, but that could be better managed with experience. SROI will not suit every project, however may fit very well with those projects that already count a full business plan amongst their deliverables. One of the main limitations encountered in using the SROI process was difficulty identifying appropriate proxies for the calculations. It is proposed that social benefit might be expressed to multidisciplinary co-design teams through visual and emotive means rather than in quantitative, financial terms. Such ‘visual proxies’ would better fit with the semantic mode of design.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2012
EventDesign Research Society International Conference - Bangkok, Thailand
Duration: 1 Jul 2012 → …


ConferenceDesign Research Society International Conference
Period1/07/12 → …


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