Designing for impact

How service design can maximise impact

The way that a programme, project or service is designed is critical in maximising potential impact. 

In the real world, what projects or services for young people deliver is often driven by a combination of funding, tradition, levels of training and experience, and what young people say they want or like. Projects and services evolve or emerge, or are set up quite loosely to allow for a wide range of activities to take place under a broad umbrella, working with lots of different individuals and groups.

In practice, this can make it difficult to explain what a project or service actually does and why it does it. In turn, this means that it is hard to be clear about the impact of the project or service, and what it is about that project or service that makes the difference. As the programme evolves, it may be difficult to know what should be changed and what should stay the same – what is vital for achieving impact, and what could be adapted or improved.

Well-designed projects are focused, practical, logical, and draw on a wide range of evidence about what makes the biggest difference to outcomes for young people (read more about why evidence matters). Good design is the foundation for refinement – testing and improving over time; it is also the basis for innovation.  Evidence from evaluations shows us that the projects and services that are most effective in improving outcomes for young people tend to be really clear and specific about the following:

  • Who the project or service is for
  • What the project or service is trying to achieve
  • What the project or service does or delivers
  • The rationale behind the project or service

There are many tools and techniques available to help you design and refine projects and services. Good service design tools are interactive, and intended to be used alongside ‘service users’ – young people. Many of these tools will feel familiar to you – they are creative, consultative, and designed to understand what young people want and need. 

  • Who is the service or project for?
  • What unmet need is it trying to address?
  • What is the level of this need and how do you know?
  • Who is defining ‘need’?
  • How will you reach the young people with the greatest need?
  • What else has aimed to meet this ‘need’?
  • Do young people want the project or service you’re offering?
  • Will you need to do anything to increase demand?
  • How do you connect ‘need’ and demand?
  • What is the difference your project or service is trying to make?
  • Why does it matter?
  • What has worked elsewhere, in the past or for other people?
  • What activities are most likely to make a difference?
  • What needs to be reduced or improved to make that difference?
  • What assumptions are you making?
  • Do young people like your project or service?
  • Do they stick with it? 

Check out our Help Guide on the right side of this page for tailored information on designing projects and services.

We also have resources for:

  • Evidencing Need And Demand
  • Developing A Theory Of Change
  • Using Feedback

For further information about designing for impact: