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Designing successful Models of Impact

*San Francisco Chapter


What if companies can make revenue and at the same time create good impact?

The way of doing business is changing, because there’s much more awareness in people about the power of their choices in making the world more equitable, but also because of a new generation of entrepreneurs, managers, and designers screwing the usual way of doing business. I believe that corporations have a key role in designing solutions to face tomorrow’s grand challenges and they should spend much more time pursuing this goal. How can companies create models of business with a positive impact and at the same time generate revenue? I will talk to you about a method that will help you to do it. I’ve learned it from Matthew Manos of verynice, which I had the fortune to know in a Workshop at Leading Experience in San Francisco in April.


Matthew Manos is the Founder and Managing Director of verynice, a design strategy consultancy based in Los Angeles, he became famous mostly because he gives half of its work away for free to nonprofit organizations and he still leads an economically successful business that in the last year’s donated services and resources worth over 10m dollars to non-profit organizations. I was pleasantly impressed, reading in an interview, that at the questions he made himself before starting his freelance career: “What kind of design studio would I want to start?” he gave quite the same answer I gave myself some years ago before starting Ecos Design: “deliver good work and having good ethics and attitude”. In the beginning, he started to gain clients for paid work, from the pro-bono work contacts, quite the same pattern of my first freelance year. So there’s some evidence that “Doing good is good for business” as Richard Branson said in his book “Screw Business as usual”.


“Doing good is good for business”

Richard Branson

Verynice invented a tool named Models of Impact which helps start-up or group within an organization in facilitating workshops to design disruptive and sustainable business models with a good social and environmental impact. The method is a simple 4-step process: Learn, Invent, Program, and Report. It guides people in a playful way by randomly combining existing business models, factors, and contexts using a 20-sided die, with the aim to generate great innovative ideas, products, services, or initiatives. Working with this method I discovered how a game-based experience can boost the engagement between people, help to build on the idea of others and find unconventional solutions by facing unusual challenges. For these reasons is important to use the tool in a group of at least 3-5 people. The success of “Models of impact” is due to the fact that Verynice released the kit online with the formula “Pay-What-You-Want” and translated it into 3 languages (English, Spanish, and Russian) so that it has been downloaded in almost 100 countries. After that, the potential of creating new models of impact and good business could be huge!



The process begins with the “Learn” phase, in which you can have access to a wonderfully selected glossary of revenue and impacts models. To mention some of the best impact models: the One for One model, which is successfully applied by the famous brand Toms Shoes; jobs for the disabled, as Rising Tide Car Wash, employing young people affected by autism; 20% of the time, where companies as Google encourage employees to dedicate a percentage of their work time to develop independent projects.

When you have learned the instruments you need, before you can start to invent, you must choose those models that could match the challenge you want to face or the context your company are moving in and combine them with key relevant factors that could have an influence in your business (technologies, trend, design or time factors, …). In the “Invent” phase you can start to play and combine, by rolling the die, one impact model with a revenue model and an influencing factor. Once the combination is set you can start to brainstorm together. The invent phase can continue combining more and more elements, but at the end, you have to select the one idea you would like to move forward. It is clear that after a diverging and creative process, it’s time to converge and “Programusing the Models of Impact canvas, to see how that one idea can be developed and transformed into a successful business model. As in every design thinking process, an idea should be always tested and, in order to collect feedback, in the last “Report” phase, you can share it in a pitch and then iterate to make your business model feasible and successful.



This is a very good method that can leverage new models of impact by generating a lot of possible combination and coming up with unconventional and innovative solutions to face the most compelling world challenges. The good thing is that today, people working in the business for-profit and non-profit as much as social entrepreneurs, can have the support of designers, facilitators, young startuppers and dispose of a lot of free methods, process, and tools as Models of Impact to make valuable solutions come real. Some companies are already engaged in creating more value for shareholders, employees, customers and the environment, putting people and planet at the center of their business activities. Companies as Innocent, Lush, Ben&Jerry, Method, D.Light Design, Indiegogo, and Kickstarter, but also big companies as P&G, HP, eBay, Virgin, Patagonia are some great example of successful business models where the profitability of business depends on integrating social and environmental value within the company strategies. These innovative companies owe part of their success to their capacity to move in a more organic way, instead of a linear one, and including the design as an important part of their processes.

The designers, today, have the opportunity to influence more than before the way of doing business and to gain leadership within companies to help them in making a change for good. The perfect context in which this transformation can happen is where technology, business, and design professionals work together and help each other, in understanding people’s need, the environment, and the social challenges, envisioning the future and find together the right answers to design a better tomorrow.


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