Since its launch five years ago, SocialFinance.ca has been a beacon of clear, considered editorial in an emerging impact investing sector.
Five years in, using private capital for public good is an increasingly recognized consideration. CSR, green investment, social entrepreneurship, social innovation, community bonds, B Corporation and many other dynamic ways to create impact through business are talked about in business journals and studied in mainstream institutions. SocialFinance.ca’s original mission could arguably be considered accomplished. So they’ve doubled down. The next version of the platform would:
- Reflect the changing ways we’re being influenced by media today (on smaller screens, with bandwidth a consideration)
- Co-create with the many voices and platforms that have joined the effort to make investment for a cause common
- Continue to serve sector newbies while covering the sector for their established audience
- Take baby-steps towards making the platform a user-driven initiative–the place for sector voices to share what they’re learning (support and promote authors)
To start, we spoke very regularly–almost daily, as we tried to establish the big ideas. We researched and shared our favourite editorial reading experiences, reading apps, cutting edge media sites and user-driven writing platforms for inspiration and conventions. We whiteboard sketched our ideas. Bronwyn sketched hers on a pad. We got together in person sometimes but often just angled our cameras at each other’s sketches during Google Hangouts.
Over the course of the project, strategy sessions became less frequent and shorter as the the features and content requirements became clearer, and the architecture committed to. Discussions moved to flows, interaction design, UX details and development requirements.
The bulk of the Development really happened over three intensely focused weeks and 6 less intensely focused weeks. This approach allowed us to develop a pretty clear vision and project guidelines like:
- Amazing reading experience
- Surface great existing content
- Future friendly–A platform that would be easier to manipulate as SF evolves down the road–so they don’t need to wait five years for the next ‘redesign’–the site can now respond better to change
- Performance oriented (light, search engine and developer friendly code)
At the back of our minds, was our less concrete long term plan to make socialfinance.ca a user driven platform, requiring more editorial oversight, curation and community animation than internally generated content. As a minimum viable product, this iteration would work within WP’s core tool-set to emulate some of the features found on more custom, crafted news media platforms.
Critical success factors included:
- Limiting the feature set (less is almost always more, especially when we’re trying to create a good experience for small screens).
- Full team awareness of the project goals and evolving insights (A trust-based partnership goes a long way)
- Patience (as usual)
- A continuous cycle of imagining > trying > learning > doing