How Might We Enable More Young People to Become Social Entrepreneurs?

georgia glaze
Jan 28, 2016 · 7 min read

My team and I designed this website while taking a course in Human Centered Design and Design Thinking. We decided to use these problem solving techniques to answer the question: How might we enable more young people to become social entrepreneurs?

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Our Solution

After researching, synthesizing and brainstorming, we decided that an effective solution to our initial design question would be to design a website that met the needs of our target audience: social entrepreneurs, as well as other stakeholders in the social change space. We decided to create:

We designed an online community where individuals interested in creating positive social impact can connect to learn from each other, share skills, collaborate, and obtain peer support and mentorship.

Specifically, we designed this social site in order to connect individuals to teams, donors, and repositories of information.


In order to develop an effective and human-centered design, we needed to gain a deep understanding of the social entrepreneurship space in terms of the individuals and groups that comprise it, as well as the culture and community that has built up around it. We set out to find answers to questions such as:

  1. How is social entrepreneurship defined by those in the field? We needed to know exactly who we were designing for in order to successfully meet their needs.
  2. What are met and unmet needs of established social entrepreneurs and aspiring social entrepreneurs?
  3. What motivates people working in the social change sector and what discourages them?
  4. What are the challenges they face? What are the success stories and what are the stories of failed enterprises?

We spoke to experts in the field of social enterprise in both the for-profit and non-profit areas. We put ourselves in the shoes of an aspiring social entrepreneur to see if we could find out how one would start the process of having a career in social enterprise. We scoured through online resources and communities and worked to understand the ecosystem. We talked with individuals from accelerators and individuals who have successfully started their own social enterprises, as well as individuals who advise social entrepreneurs.

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We grouped our key research insights into 4 themes.

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We turned our most interesting and promising insights into actionable questions we could design a solution for. We brainstormed various solutions to each question and decided to ideate and prototype a solution to the last question, #3.

  1. How might we create a specialized community to connect small donors to social entrepreneurs?
  2. How might we design and implement curriculum to teach elementary and middle school students to use business and problem-solving skills to make a difference in their communities?
  3. How might we create a sustained, dynamic, dedicated network for social impact participants to obtain peer support, collaborate, and share skills and information?

Our Answer

We found that many people want to be a part of something larger than themselves and positively contribute to social good, but do not know how to go about doing so. They might have time, money, knowledge or other resources they want to contribute, or perhaps want to address a particular problem, but do not have the necessary resources or people to successfully move forward. This site addresses these problems by facilitating connections between those interested in the social impact space.

Site Components:

  • Individuals can find projects and contribute by sharing knowledge, making donations (whether it be in time, money or other excess resources)
  • Individuals can contribute by working on projects and with teams.
  • Individuals can collaborate with others. They can start their own projects and find other people to work with
  • Individuals can learn from each other through skill matching and knowledge sharing, as well as gain mentorship and support through a buddy system.

The site allows for a variety of interactions and relationships in a complex and often geographically disjointed field. This site also paints a picture of the larger ecosystem of the social impact sector, so people can see what others are doing and where there is an opportunity to make a difference.

Participants comprising the site are:

  • Individuals seeking teams, support, or knowledge. These individuals have a “Personal Page” and accompanying profile.
  • Donors — Individuals who are looking to donate time, money or other items to projects and causes. Donors have a “Donor Page” and profile.
  • Teams — A group of individuals who work together. They work on projects have a “Team Page”.
  • Buddies — A way to connect individuals for peer and mentor support. A buddy is usually a more experienced individual who mentors a novice.

Highlighted Website Feature:

We developed a feature called: “Impact Level” — a unique method of credit that acknowledges and mirrors the user’ s level of interaction with others on the site. The more a user interacts on the site, whether by donating, collaborating, sharing ideas, or connecting with new people, the higher the user’s “Impact level” becomes. The “Impact Level” is a measurement that reflects and rewards the user’s pro social behavior, which we think will encourage further interaction. Together with Endorsements, these “Impact Level” points are used to set create a sense of legitimacy on the website.

Storyboard - User Journey

Our Individual user is Heather. Here is her first journey using the site.

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The Home Page is what each user sees when they sign on. It is the user’s home base for navigation and serves as a repository of information. The user can search for groups, people, and teams, see friends and groups and get to different pages — Friends, Groups, Projects, Teams, Resources, Chatboard, Blog.

The pages the user is able to navigate to depend on if the user has signed up to become an individual (social entrepreneur) or a Donor. Donors are not a part of Teams and do not directly work on Projects. Donors can participate in other ways by donating, joining groups, and contributing to community discussions.

On the Home Page, there is a “featured story” of a project or team. This increases exposure and connection. As a user, you can also look through “other projects and bios” for inspiration.

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The personal page is where the social entrepreneur user can show others what he or she is all about. It is the user’s profile with his or her interests, projects, friends, endorsements, and more. The user can get to his or her messages and team page from their personal page. The user can also edit his or her profile, add videos, blogs, updates and more.

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The team page is where a team can show what they are up to, their projects, members, goals, etc. Those interested in joining a team or working on a project can look at this page. Donors can click on particular projects the team is working on to see what resources/donations they need. The Team Page also allows for collaboration in the ‘Workspace.’

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The Project Page illustrates what the project is all about. There are videos, updates, and goals. There is a list of ‘resources needed’, so potential Donors can see how they can help. The Project Page also has ‘fans’, who follow the project.

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The Donor Page shows what the donor’s interests are, the resources they have (time, money, particular items or objects, knowledge, skills). Donors also have endorsements so others can see how the donor is to work and interact with. This endorsement feature works to maintain the social and reputation aspects of the site. The Donor is also a part of ‘groups’ and has ‘friends’.

Interaction/Flow Diagrams

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We made Interaction Diagrams to help us visualize and keep track of the various relationships within the site. They diagram the interactions between the different participants, the parameters of connection and interaction, and the outcomes of certain actions and interactions. These maps helped us lay out the site flow.

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Takeaways/Next Steps

We think this site will increase connection and allow for young entrepreneurs with an inclination toward social improvement, to connect to individuals in the social change sector in a way that will help them succeed in becoming social entrepreneurs.

My main concern with the site, at this stage of its design, is that it is very complex with different roles and interactions. I would like to get feedback from testers on it’s level of complexity. For user testing, I would refine the wireframes and add some example content in order to better test the concept, site flow, interactions, and the user’s ability to parse and navigate through the site.

Thank you for taking the time to explore this design journey. Feedback is always welcome.

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