Unit 1 – Understanding the “social innovator”

Unit 1 – Understanding the “social innovator”

This section will support you to develop a deep understanding of  the social innovator and to determine his/her strengths and values. The core ingredients of it are …

Awareness. Change is impossible if we are not aware of the fact that something can or needs to change.

Change. Once Social innovators are aware of the desired pathway of change, the next step is manifesting change. The Facilitator helps them to move closer to the desired direction by offering advice or support and monitoring progress.

Positive Emotions. The facilitator broadens the Social Innovator’s perspective by having him or her undertake activities that generate positive emotions.



Again we come back to Personas because it’s very important!

Who are my beneficiaries and users, and what are they looking for from the project or development activity?

  • Describe what a persona is and identify why and when to use
  • Explore how personas can be applied to create

Personas are word profiles of fictional but realistic individuals that are used to describe particular groups in your intended audience. The persona is given a name, age, gender and perhaps even a picture, coupled with some insight into their lifestyle, aspirations and motivations for wanting to engage with or use the project or service at issue.

Personas can help you to “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes”. It is important to be clear that personas are based on facts. Think about someone at work, either a colleague or one of your customers, partners, clients, beneficiaries etc.

      1. Make a note of the facts that you know about them, for example:
        • age
        • gender
        • what you know about their job or other role
        • where they live.
      2. Now consider the same person from a different perspective.
        • What can you guess about how they feel?
        • What motivates them?
        • What is likely to cause them concern?
        • What makes them happy?
      3. Finally, reflect on the difference between these two perspectives on the same person; the factual and empathy-based perspectives. Can you see how empathising with someone could help you understand them and therefore be better at meeting their needs? Make some notes.

Download here a tool to organize user information.



Strengths can be defined as “a pre-existing capacity for a particular way of behaving, thinking, or feeling that is authentic and energizing to the user, and enables optimal functioning, development and performance”.


The aim of this exercise is to create a graphical representation of the possibility for existing strengths to be used more or less. The advantage of using this approach is that a social innovator can immediately see what strengths are used too little, or too much. In addition, this exercise offers a nice starting point for creating future plans to increase or optimize strengths use.


After identifying the strengths of the user, it can be helpful to investigate if there is room to use the strengths more often. The Strengths Circle can be used to make a graphical representation of the extent to which strengths are used (current use) and the room that exists to use the strengths more (scope). The centre of the circle represents a score of ‘0’ and the outer rim a score of ‘10’.

Ask the social innovator to place two marks in each segment of the circle that you can download here.

  • to what extent they currently use that strength in the chosen context (e.g. work); and (2) how much scope there is for using that strength more in that context. Next, draw a triangle that connects the two marks. The bigger the gap between the current use and the scope, the bigger the triangle should be and the more potential there is for using that strength more.



As noted before, this exercise provides a nice starting point for creating a plan to optimise strength use. Here are some questions that you can ask your user when the graph is completed:

  • What do you notice when you take a look at the graph?
  • Overall, how would you consider your strengths to be useful in this context?
  • Which strengths allow to be used more?
  • Which strengths leave little or no room for expansion?
  • What could you do to start using your strengths more in this context?


Although every person has certain signature strengths, it is argued that most people are not truly aware of the strengths they possess (Jones-Smith, 2011; Niemiec, 2013).


Invite your user to identify two occasions when they have been at their best (when they felt at their best or performed at their best). The occasions can be of any duration from a few minutes to a year. (It is important that being ‘at your best’ is meaningful to your client, not an attempt to impress or conform to what others think)

  1. Get him or her to talk about the experience, re-living it as vividly as possible as they go.
  2. Note down every example of a possible strength they display as they talk (use the lines below).

After they have talked about the events, invite them to consider the list you have noted down and to hone it into four or five areas of strength which characterize them at their best.

Possible strengths of my client (check the list):


Ask your client to complete the VIA questionnaire online:

  • Go to: www.viacharacter.org
  • Click on the Take Surveys button in the menu bar.
  • Click on the VIA Survey option.
  • Click on the Enter the Survey Center to Register button.
  • The test is free, but you have to register to be able to take it. Fill out the form.
  • Click on the Register button and you will be taken to the test


The Bull‘s-Eye Values Survey (BEVS; Lundgren et al., 2012) is a tool that can be used for assessing values, values-action discrepancies, and barriers to value-based living. The aim of the BEVS is to identify and measure personal values, values attainment, and persistence in the face of barriers. It can be used to assess the current discrepancy between values and actual valued living, but can also be used to measure progress.


The Bull’s Eye dart board on is divided into four areas of living that are important in people’s lives: work/education, leisure, relationships and personal growth. You can download it here.

  1. Work/Education refers to your career aims, your values about improving your education and knowledge, and generally feeling of use to those close to you or to your community (i.e., volunteering, overseeing your household, etc.).
  1. Leisure refers to how you play in your life, how you enjoy yourself, your hobbies or other activities that you spend your free time doing (i.e., gardening, sewing, coaching a children’s soccer team, fishing, playing sports).
  1. Relationships refers to intimacy in your life, relation- ships with your children, your family of origin, your friends and social contacts in the community.
  1. Personal growth/health refers to your spiritual life, either in organized religion or personal expressions of spirituality, exercise, nutrition, and addressing health risk factors like drinking, drug use, smoking, weight.

Part 1. Identify Your Values

Start by describing your values within each of the four values areas. Think about each area in terms of your dreams, like you had the possibility to get your wishes completely fulfilled.

Now, look again at the values you have written above. Think of your value as “bull’s eye” (the middle of the dart board). “Bull’s eye” is exactly how you want your life to be, a direct hit, where you are living your life in a way that is consistent with your value. Now, make an X on the dart board in each area that best represents where you stand today. An X in the bull’s eye means that you are living completely in keeping with your value for that area of living. An X far from bull’s eye means that your life is way off the mark in terms of how you are living your life.

bull's eye dart_unit1_task5

Part 2. Identify Your Obstacles

Now write down what stands between you and living your current life as you want to, from what you have written in your areas of value. When you think of the life you want to live and the values that you would like to put in play, what gets in the way of you living that kind of life? Describe any obstacle (s) on the lines below.

Now estimate to what extent the obstacle(s) you just described can prevent you from living your life in a way that is in keeping with your values. Circle one number below that best describes how powerful this obstacle(s) is in your life.


1 Doesn’t prevent me at all 2 3 4 5 6 7 Prevents me completely
n. 1 obstacle 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Part 3. My Valued Action Plan

Think about actions you can take in your daily life that would tell you that you are zeroing in on the bull’s-eye in each important area of your life. These actions could be small steps toward a particular aim or they could just be actions that reflect what you want to be about as a person.


The aim is to identify and measure personal values. So what is really important to you? What are the things that make you feel you are really doing what you were put on this earth to do? Which activities leave you feeling fulfilled and satisfied? What is it about them that makes them so special? It is usually the fact that a core value is being met – something like challenge, fun, contribution or order. They will be different for each of us.

  • There is an inventory of core values that you can just read through and see which values ring true for you.
  • Just use ticks and crosses to mark off values or, if you prefer, use a rating to help you work out which are more important.
  • Remember that no list can ever be complete. There may be some additional personal values that are unique to you, so don’t be limited by the list. Just add anything else that just feels right. Download the following list and add those that are not listed.