Ecosystem Intent Toolkit
Co-authored by Danielle Stanko
Last July, when we first introduced the Preliminary Intent Navigator as part of Platform Design Toolkit’s Community sensemaking event, we aimed to complement platform strategy and the process of value chain platformization with a tool that focuses on how intentions impact ecosystem design decisions. The Navigator was meant to enable platform architects “to share their initial thoughts with each other and determine the degree of alignment around key areas of intent, zooming in and out on value chain ideas, long-tail opportunities, business model considerations, and the overall purpose/impact of the ecosystem.”
Since then, the tool has evolved considerably. After several prototyping rounds, we have expanded it from a single canvas navigator into a multi-canvas toolkit. So, we’d like to share an overview of what we now call the Ecosystem Intent Toolkit.
Go directly to the toolkit.
The Ecosystem Intent Toolkit is an open-source, multi-canvas tool (Miro) composed of six steps that help innovators zoom out to the broadest contexts (e.g., purpose, communities, and the planet) within which an ecosystem operates and zoom in to detailed design decisions related to governance and structure. The exercises focus on a set of key questions:
- Zoom Out: What’s important and what’s possible?
- Zoom Out: What impact will you make on the world?
- Zoom In: What is your idea/concept?
- Zoom Out: How can collaboration make your idea more valuable?
- Zoom Out: How will you interact with communities?
- Zoom In: How will the ecosystem be structured?
As we’ve developed the toolkit, particularly the zooming out canvases and exercises, we’ve paid close attention to the broadest contexts within which all ecosystems operate. This has led us to focus on the importance of regenerative ecosystems. By regenerative, we mean ecosystems that are sustainable and create healthy circulation of value streams among all participants. We feel that this is the key to ecosystem viability, resilience, impact and longevity.
Story Sheets & Context Canvas — Story Sheets allow each innovator to share what they care about most so that the group can create a shared context of what’s important and what’s possible in the Context Canvas.
Impact Canvas — the Impact Canvas uses Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics framework to enable innovators to identify the impact their ideas can make on providing for our social foundations (e.g. — food, energy, health, education) as well as respecting the Earth’s ecological boundaries (e.g. — climate, biodiversity loss, pollution).
Idea Clusters & Priorities Canvas — the Idea Clusters & Priorities Canvas uses design thinking to enable innovators to identify, combine and prioritize their ecosystem ideas.
Value Layering Canvas and Chain Linking Canvas — These canvases enable innovators to use ecosystem thinking to make their ideas more valuable. The Value Layering Canvas helps innovators incorporate progressively more valuable characteristics into ecosystem participant experiences. The Chain Linking Canvas helps innovators identify linkages between their core idea and adjacent/complementary ecosystems.
Community Interaction Canvas — the Community Interaction Canvas helps innovators identify demand and supply-side communities and determine how they want to engage them.
Ecosystem Flow Canvas — the Ecosystem Flow Canvas helps identify how key design decisions (e.g. — participation/access, data, funding, property rights, decision rights) impact how value flows among ecosystem participants in a way that aligns to the innovators’ intentions.
Understanding each of the 6 Steps
The toolkit enables a full day of exploration, starting with context and ending with initial design considerations. It covers key areas that complement platform strategy and are equally important for success. The toolkit is meant to aid preliminary discussions on key topics and includes space in canvases to note down follow-ups, unanswered questions, and areas of unresolved differences. Rather than aiming to finalize, it’s intended to start exploration, with each step as a springboard for detailed design.
Step 1: Shared Context (Zoom Out)
What’s important and what’s possible?
In step 1, innovators get to know each other by sharing stories about what motivates them and what they care about most.
Why this is important: As innovators get to know and empathize with each other, they create a shared context that forms a foundation upon which to explore collective impact and navigate potentially difficult design decisions.
What to do: Each innovator creates a story sheet and shares what they feel is possible and why that’s important. Through discussion, common interests are identified and documented in the Context Canvas.
Target Outcome: Innovators get to know each other in a way that improves group awareness of motivations, personal perspectives and increases empathy towards each other. They create a shared, foundational context from which they can explore how to make a collective impact in Step 2.
Step 2: Collective Impact (Zoom Out)
What impact will you make?
In step 2, innovators think broadly about the impact they can have by acting on their shared context. Using the Doughnut Economics framework, innovators consider which social foundations they intend to contribute to and which ecological boundaries they can impact.
Why this is important: Thinking holistically about impact globally or locally creates a frame of reference around a common purpose and opens innovation possibilities that attract participation and expand ecosystem appeal.
What to do: Each innovator creates an impact worksheet by combining social foundations and planetary boundaries to identify current challenges and explore ways to make and measure impact. Innovators discuss their takeaways and combine them in the Impact Canvas to summarize shared ambitions.
Target Outcome: Innovators develop a preliminary intent around the areas they feel can make a positive, measurable impact.
Step 3: Ideation (Zoom In)
What is your idea?
In step 3, innovators use design thinking to identify, cluster, and prioritize ideas that fit their shared context and desired impact.
Why this is important: This step establishes the preliminary opportunity space and value/impact proposition that will form the foundation of the ecosystem.
What to do: Using a design challenge that can be either created during this step or beforehand, innovators brainstorm, cluster, and prioritize ideas.
Target Outcome: Innovators identify the top idea(s) used as the focus for the rest of the toolkit steps.
Step 4: Ecosystem Thinking (Zoom Out)
How can collaboration make your idea more valuable?
Step 4 looks at the experience the ecosystem creates and how it can be enhanced by layering dimensions of value (e.g. — convenience, sharing, fairness, transparency, sustainability) and linking to adjacent ecosystems to expand the experience.
Why this is important: Ecosystem thinking takes two perspectives (value layering and chain linking) to identify strong partnership potential where an ecosystem model can best address people's needs and values. Moving from value chains to value networks makes several types of economic “utility” possible and enables people to better navigate multiple providers.
What to do: Start by identifying the ecosystem’s core value chain. Explore additional value dimensions, like sustainable production, and recognize that most new value layers require better-connected value chain participants. Then, find broader possibilities by looking across value chains to link disparate services and offer a more seamless experience.
Target Outcome: Innovators identify two major types of value propositions uniquely enabled by ecosystem models.
Step 5: Community Interaction (Zoom Out)
How will you interact with communities?
Step 5 looks at how rich and diverse community relationships can create social capital that develops culture, attracts additional participants, and enables the ecosystem intent to emerge.
Why this is important: Community relationships underpin ecosystem longevity and resilience because they bond people around common cause values, foster trust, and form the basis/foundation for governance.
What to do: Identify communities that share the ecosystem’s intended values and require its services. Then, consider the best way to engage with those communities. Also, consider communities that could be initial adopters and validate its design.
Target Outcome: Innovators identify preliminary communities and how they intend to engage them.
Step 6: Ecosystem Model (Zoom Out)
How will the ecosystem be structured?
Step 6 focuses on how key design decisions can balance diversity with efficiency and influence value flow among participants and throughout the ecosystem.
Why this is important: Ecosystem longevity depends on the robust circulation of value among participants. The way value flows throughout an ecosystem determines how attractive it is for participants initially and how beneficial it is to remain over the long term.
What to do: Each innovator considers how structuring participation, funding, data, decision rights, and property rights may best support the ecosystem's intent. Discuss among team members to find alignment and differences of opinion.
Target Outcome: Realizing how important governance is in enabling ecosystem intent, innovators identify preliminary intent on key design constraints.
Step 7: Conclusion
What will you do next?
Step 7 is a wrap-up activity for those using the toolkit as part of a facilitated workshop/event.
Why this is important: Closing the workshop with time to reflect gives innovators a chance to develop their own action plan and key takeaways from the session.
What to do: Reflect and write down closing thoughts. Also, take time to create an action plan if the team is willing to work together before dispersing.
Target Outcome: Recognize the workshop's key insights and what actions they lead to.
We’re excited about this new version of the EIT and hope you are too. We are particularly interested in its application to regenerative ecosystems. If you’d like an overview or need help applying it to your initiative, we’re happy to help. We are also working on a detailed user guide and hope to release it soon.
Learn More About Ecosystem Intent Toolkit.
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