This phase begins by defining the social challenge, including identifying actors in the ecosystem, determining and prioritizing unmet needs, and examining opportunities and their context. It involves identifying the political, cultural and social framework as well as the framework of tangible and intangible resources on which the success of the solution depends. It is a discovery phase of needs, problems, and targeting, from which social innovators and policy designers will begin to map out specific social challenges that will guide the design process.

Problem definition

Defining the social challenge is probably one of the most important aspect in the SI process. Properly identifying the challenge is a critical step, that should be focused on the impact to achieve, should describe the context and the limits (geographical, technological, time, etc.) and should conceive the challenge in terms broad enough to allow for a variety of solutions.

Problem Definition and priorities

Causes Diagram

Agenda setting and mapping

Social innovators need to identify initiatives, existing or prospective, to give them visibility and to prepare a favourable ground for the development of future policies or proposals. At the same time, social innovators need to identify all the different stakeholders involved in the SI process, understanding what roles they can play at different stages of the innovation and what their level of engagement and relevance might be.

Stakeholder Map

Ethnographic interview

Policy context

Exploration and envision the opportunity space

The main goal is to examine opportunities and their context, mapping the internal and external factors that could assist or hinder social innovators and policymakers in achieving a specific goal.

Observation of the context


SWOT analysis