Designing for behaviour change: Tip 6 - Creating solutions with User Value, Social Value and Financial Value - RSA

Designing for behaviour change: Tip 6


  • Picture of Tori Flower
    Tori Flower
    Guest blogger
  • Behaviour change

Tori Flower is Creative Director of Shift (formerly We Are What We Do), a behaviour change organisation that designs products for social change. She also set the RSA Student Design Awards 'Everyday Well-being' brief in 2013-14 and 'The Daily Diet' brief this year. In a series of seven short blogs aimed at student designers released each day this week, she shares her insights into how to approach designing for behaviour change.


Tip 6: Creating solutions with User Value, Social Value and Financial Value


In my previous blogs, I discussed how to:

Identify the Outcome, Action and Actor

Identify Barriers and Motivations

Design interventions that facilitate, not communicate

Design around behavioural insights

Test, iterate, improve your solutions

In this final blog I am going to talk about designing interventions with Social Value, User Value and Financial Value, the three elements the team here at Shift think are crucial to developing successful behaviour change interventions.

Social Value

An intervention has Social Value if it has a positive effect on a social problem. If you have done your work on identifying the Outcome, Action and Actor (as I talked about in this blog) then you should be designing an intervention that has Social Value at its core. Doing the positive Action and having a positive Outcome is integral to participation in the intervention, it’s baked in. 

User Value

Something has User Value if people love it, spend their money on it and tell their friends about it. It’s about creating things that are genuinely useful or desirable to people, so they freely choose to use them, do them or buy them. User Value refers to the ability to meet users' needs and drive demand amongst the target audience. I talk about this in my TEDx talk – have a watch to find out more.

Designing around the most pressing motivators of behaviour

Students often design behaviour change interventions and assume their audience is looking to do the Action and achieve the desired social Outcome and therefore the provision of a some kind of intervention that facilitates this Action is all that is needed to get people to take it up. They forget that the user needs some incentives and reasons to use it. For example I’ve seen student-designed apps that help you reduce your carbon footprint or built environments that help you do more exercise that don’t offer the user any reasons to use them, unless the Actor really wanted to reduce their carbon footprint or do more exercise.

But some people don’t want to do the Action (usually lots, actually) and some people do, but it is a lower priority than other more pressing drivers of their behaviour.

Shift’s research into hierarchy of behavioural drivers

When we were looking at domestic food waste in families with young children we identified in our insights report that most people didn’t want to waste food, but that it happened as a result of other things that were motivating their behaviour. For example, they wanted to minimise protests from family so ended up throwing away a prepared meal and making something else to avoid a tantrum, or they wanted to feed their family healthily and properly, so over-bought fresh fruit and veg in the hope that their family would eat it, and then threw lots of it away as it went off. Reducing the amount of food their household wasted and reducing the CO2 emissions were, in some cases, also concerns, but in the day to day battle for their attention, these often came lower down the hierarchy than these more pressing drivers.

Therefore our recommendation was that any intervention designed to reduce domestic food waste amongst parents with young children shouldn’t market itself on its great ability to reduce a household’s food waste or carbon footprint, but on it’s ability to, for example, make life easier for mums.

Marketing based on Social Value vs User Value

Marketing an intervention just on its ability to deliver Social Value has drawbacks.

  • It can make something look less effective (think how eco washing up liquid is perceived as being less good at washing dishes than the mainstream alternative, or how healthy food can be perceived as less tasty than “normal” food).

  • It can alienate people whose cultural identity means they don’t want to be associated with a “worthy”, “hippy” “health-conscious” or “good for the planet” product or service.

But if you market your intervention based in its ability to meet your user’s needs and provide User Value, it is more likely to be taken up. Note how our healthy fast food vans market themselves on their ability to provide tasty, cheap convenient food, (i.e. their User Value) not healthy food (their Social Value).

When designing your intervention, always answer the question “What’s in it for me?” for the Actor. Give people a benefit to use it or buy it.

Financial Value

The third strand of value is Financial Value. An intervention has Financial Value if it has a way of generating money to support itself, allowing it to be self-sustaining and not (wholly) dependent on grant funding.

A successful behaviour change initiative does not necessarily need to generate financial value - this campaign to get more girls exercising, for example, is great (in my opinion), and would have cost money, not generated it. But it's a good idea to consider financial sustainability, as this can help interventions achieve scale and sustainability.

The intervention might be paid for by the users or by a third party like a council, government or organisation who have a remit to solve social problems.

There are many ways of making this work. For example, an intervention might have a financial model like the freemium model - where a product or service is provided free of charge, but there are charges for special additional features (e.g. Youtube channels) or a price discrimination model - where different price points are paid for the same product in different segments of the market (cf our healthy fast food project - where adults pay more and subsidise school kids’ cheaper meals). If your product attracts enough users a private company may want to sponsor it.


Partnerships often provide a means of funding, disseminating and scaling an intervention and should be thought about by students when they are designing interventions.

A good example of a student thinking about partnerships was the No Screen Sunday project, created by Katie Cadwallader for the RSA Student Awards, which was a behaviour change campaign that encourages people to eliminate the use of screen-based devices (computers, tablets, mobiles, televisions, etc.) on Sundays and instead engage in offline activities and interact with people face-to-face. Katie thought about partnerships with media organisations, like the Guardian, who would be keen to promote it in their papers, as well as organisations like museums, sport centres and cultural spaces who would have a motive to be a part of the movement.

Stuart Kench and Helen Parry designed Donate at the Gate for the RSA Student Awards, which used the London transport system to raise funding and awareness for charities via Oyster cards. It provides a quick, efficient way to people to show their support for charities by donating via their Oyster cards at swipe points. Signage denoted the cause which each gate supported and digital screens showed a tally of existing donations, updated in real time. Stuart and Helen realised the only practical way an idea like this would be able to reach scale is through a partnership with Transport for London, so included this in their submitted concept.


Here are some examples of social enterprises which demonstrate Social, User and Financial value.

Find out more

You can read more about Social Value, User Value and Financial Value in a blog by our CEO Nick Stanhope and Dan Sutch from the Nominet Trust on the three stands of value.

And finally

It’s always useful to find out more about other successful social enterprises. Some good places to start are:

  • Nesta’s list of New Radicals - “Fifty radical thinking individuals and organisations changing Britain for the better”- named in both 2012 and 2014.

  • Nominet Trust 100 lists  - “The innovators that are using technology to drive social change around the world” - named in 2014 and 2013.

  • Meet up with other socially-minded entrepreneurs. Good for Nothing is a community of thinkers, do-ers, makers and tinkerers applying their skills and energy to accelerate the work of cause-led innovators and change makers with regular meet ups.

  • Open Ideo. This is an open innovation platform. You can join their global community to solve big challenges for social good, or start by looking at some of the ideas submitted.

  • Silicon Drinkabout is a global regular after work drinks evening for startups every Friday.

I hope these blogs have been helpful. Do share them with others if you have found them useful. Good luck! Tori.


>> Find out more about the RSA Student Design Awards

>> Find out more about Shift

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