Developing Social Technologies – Two Pioneering Reports

Developing Social Technology by Lifehack

How do technologies which improve lives get developed?

We’ve been asking ourselves this question at Lifehack for 18 months now, and feel like we’re beginning to find some of our own answers. Not only are we seeing the development of some of the Lifehack Projects through deep programs like Lifehack Labs, but we’re also seeing existing projects which are emerging with lighter support too.

We’ve also been keeping our eyes up for any other projects which we can learn from around the world, and recently came across two ground breaking reports which helped us think deeper about the roadmaps and pitfalls in running a project like Lifehack which seeks to spark new community-led technology projects to improve the lives of young people, and coach them through to releasing prototypes and/or fully developed interventions.

A lot of people build technology projects, fewer people think deeply about how and who develops them, and even fewer take the time to write up their experiences – ups and downs. We’re on the path to doing the same ourselves (with reports like our one from Lifehack Labs 2014), but we really appreciate it when people share their knowledge as well as these next two organisations from the UK:


Innovation Labs - Funding And Delivering Social Technology


“Learning From The Labs: How To Fund And Deliver Social Tech For Charities And Social Enterprises” is a fantastically thorough report which is free to download as an eBook.

In the eBook you’ll find advice for Funders as well as Delivery Organisations (the charities and social enterprises behind the technology). It’s really focused toward organisations who are looking to commission social technologies, such as the Prime Minister’s Youth Mental Health Project or our friends Young & Well CRC in Australia, and the organisations who are looking to design and deliver the technology in partnership with a digital agency or in house team.

Whilst many of the projects being built by the Lifehack community are actually cross-disciplinary teams which have their own technology development, we found this an insightful read for the design-centric methodology which they propose for developing a solution – doing Customer Research, Storyboards and Customer Journey Mapping, and Prototyping. They also suggest heavily that there are business models which underpin the new technology which emerges to ensure that the technology stays up to date and has a paid team behind it to push it forward over time. This is an insight which we proposed 18 months ago, which bucked the current trend of developing websites and apps which organisations would then be left with, but would have no budget to keep them live and updated.

We heartily suggest you download and read the Innovation Labs eBook if you have an interest in Social Tech procurement, or want to better understand what happens behind the scenes when developing a Social Tech project, or the best practice for doing so.

Download Innovation Labs Ebook



Nominet Trust - Triple Helix Of Social Innovation


The Triple Helix Of Social Innovation” is also a wonderful resource which can be downloaded from the Nominet Trust’s site.

In this report you can get the low down on the framework that the Nominet Trust use to identify and articulate the stages a Social Tech project may go through and how it develops, or in their words “The Triple Helix is our shorthand for returning focus to generating social, user and financial value, and from there, exploring how to grow the success of a venture”.

We love this report as it gets down to a great deal of detail about how technology projects with a focus on health and behaviour change need a different timescale to your everyday consumer apps – you can read a bit more about the context for the Triple Helix in their blog post here.

This comment really sums up how we feel about Lifehack’s work developing a model to support our community to develop innovative technology to improve young people’s lives: “There’s so much potential to use technology to address social issues, if we can find the right support mechanisms and models we can realise this potential more quickly”.

This report is great for people who think conceptually about how technology projects and ventures are built, what support they need to maximise their chances of success (such as Accelerator or Incubator program managers, or Social Labs secretariats), and for first time entrepreneurs who have a little grounding in technology but are ready to have a crack at building their idea into a working online intervention.

Download Nominet Trust Triple Helix Of Social Innovation


There’s also a bonus report from Nominet Trust about applying the Triple Helix here.


We’re delighted to be able to share these awesome free reports for all the people and organisations who share our vision of developing projects and ventures which will improve the lives of people around Aotearoa.

Have you seen a report or blog post which moves the conversation forward about social innovation or technology? We’d love to read it – just leave a note in the comments, or tweet us:

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