Models of Impact Live! Futures Edition

Models of Impact Live! kicked off with a futures theme a few weeks ago. Thank you to everyone that watched via live stream and participated with us on facebook! We had a great time going over our fun methodology for designing business models through the convergence of revenue, impact, and factors of interest. 

In this debut episode, we came up with three different business inventions based on the outcome of each role of the die! One roll, two rolls, and three rolls for each subsequent invention round. In order to make use of our colorful 12 sided die, we preselected 12 revenue models, impact models, as well as 12 factors of interest. When practicing at home, you can choose your own models from the glossary as well as number of factors as long as you use die with enough sides to give each model a chance at being considered! 

For this episode we chose a futures theme in celebration of the release of our new book, Toward a Preemptive Social Enterprise – a book that explores a history and methodology for building futures oriented business ideas. After every invention workshop, our team puts together a Models of Impact Canvas in order to encapsulate the idea as well as a series of different scenarios, an outline of opportunities, risk, as well as a way to test. Here's what we came up with! 

Idea #1 (1-1-1)
Factor of Interest: Virtual Reality
Impact Model: Fair Trade
Revenue: Freemium

Idea #2 (2-2-2)
Factors of Interest: Virtual Reality, Drones
Impact Model: Fair Trade, 1 for 1
Revenue Model: Coupons, Event Tickets

Idea #3 (3-3-3)
Factors of Interest: Mars, Drones, Robots  
Impact Model: Conscious Sourcing, Percentage Inventory, Social Awareness
Revenue Model: Project flat fee, Sponsorship, E-commerce

After exploring each idea, we go into the details about what opportunities there within each model, what the risks are, and ways to test the idea for rapid validation. Perhaps there is local organization of street performers we can partner with to execute idea #3. The risk may be that self-organized groups often lack the leadership to work with, and thus could pose a problem. One way to test would be to hold a meeting and discuss with the group. Easy! 

Stay tuned for our next Models of Impact Live! where we take your ideas and create business models that help the world in meaningful ways and create revenue for sustainability and growth. 

Are you interested in business model design workshop for your organization or venture? Our team of strategists are eager to help facilitate an engaging workshop for you and your team! Learn more about Models of Impact here or click below to contact us! 

Brand's Role in the Purchase Process: Living Stage (1/4)

The idea that needs trigger purchase behavior has been around since the advent of marketing studies. But today brands play a larger role in our lives – whether they become part of our daily entertainment, our educator, or as a vehicle for social change that appeals to our greatest aspirations. These are just a few examples that encapsulate the relationship we currently have with brands. We can further break down the role of  brand into what Wharton Professor, Barbara Khan, outlines as the four stages of the customer journey - Living, Planning, Shopping, and Experience. In this article we will examine the first stage, the living stage. 

The Living Stage (Part 1 of 4)

People go about their daily lives and when a need is triggered, they either look to available solutions, or begin researching into possible options. I’m at home and feel hungry, I can either go to the fridge or look to other options: delivery, dining out etc. What if I’m a new city? I may look up options on a rating app, or ask a friend who lives nearby. Sometimes, however, the trigger comes not from need, but by the marketplace: a new 360 camera is released and it’s features far surpass what’s currently available. The trigger may also come from a brand as they announce the launch of a completely new product in the market, or expand the options within their product category. What’s certain, is that your brand must fall into the consideration set when these needs are triggered. To fall into that set, you have to have visibility and a message that cuts through the clutter. Our team can help. 

Types of triggers:

  • Change of life status (marriage, baby, moving to new city)
  • Market (product announcement, sale)
  • Influencers (fashion, industry, celebrities, friends)
  • Need (your car breaks down, hungry, etc)
  • A brand introduces new possibilities within a product category (ipads, new flavor ice cream, virtual reality)

Things to consider:

  • Being at the right place at the right time
  • Leveraging positive emotional queues
  • Differentiated marketing stimuli
  • Being bold without being wreckless
  • How to test marketing messages  
  • Micro-moments when potential customers turn to their mobile device for solutions.

Questions to ask your team:

  • What are the triggers associated with our product? 
  • What are the intention-filled micro-moments throughout the day that could facilitate behavior toward purchase?
  • Is our creative triggering demand? How can we test it in real market conditions?
  • Is there data missing from our analysis? 

Are you leaving money on the table? Missing opportunities to connect with potential customers or donors? Let's talk. 



Job Opportunity: Design Strategist at verynice (Apply by 9/2)

We are looking for a Design Strategist to join our team in Downtown Los Angeles! Please see the description for the role below, and apply by 11:59pm PST on 9/2/2016 with a resume, cover letter, two references and portfolio to be considered in this round of applications. We ask that you direct all materials and applications to ( with the subject line designating the position you are applying to.

Design Strategist (Full Time)

The Design Strategist at verynice reports directly to the Managing Director in order to develop new strategic methodologies, define the scope of work for new client engagements, and lead a diverse range of client-facing strategic project initiatives.

Key Responsibilities:

  • Strategic leadership for new business development by determining the needs of a client in order to define the project scope for verynice’s proposals.

  • Conducting and leading verynice’s design strategy services including relevant research and project execution across the following service areas: brand strategy, experience design, business strategy/product development, facilitation, and general consulting.

  • Leadership and mentorship for team members, ensuring the success of our projects, and the ultimate alignment with the client’s end goals.

  • Participation in networking events and conferences, acting as a public face for verynice and delivering thought leadership in design, strategy, and social impact.


2-3 years of experience. A Bachelor's Degree in a related/relevant field. Interdisciplinary MBA/MFA desired, but not required.

To be considered for this role, please send your resume, cover letter, portfolio and two references to by 11:59pm PST on 9/2/2016.

Design Principles: Form Follows Function

One of the most fundamental design principles everyone should know, is that beauty in a well designed product is the outcome of achieving success criteria. For some this can mean users adopting a product such as an app, for others this can mean success in users not using a product or ceasing  to behave in a way that may be harmful. Form follows function. Sounds familiar?  

Through the lens of marketing, product management, and strategic decision-making, this means a series of trade offs in the allocation of resources. Consider a team designing a new watch that tells surfers when there’s an oncoming swell. They have a finite set of resources. Their goal is to validate their assumption that the watch is dependable, accurate, and durable in extreme conditions - most of all, that surfers will use it. How do they decide what to spend on?

The correct answer is, whatever achieves the success criteria. While aesthetics and ornamentation play a key role in persuasion and fashion, it should be considered in light of the product’s primary success criteria – giving surfers a waterproof watch that accurately displays data. Now consider a team designing a watch meant to be worn by a model in a fashion magazine shoot. The success criteria changes considerably. A lone diamond at the top of the bezel and a minimalist design will work to turn heads in a culturally relevant way. 


Now here’s the mic drop: Meet your success criteria, and your product will have achieved optimal form. The question should not be, what is more important – rather, what factors are most important in order to meet our success criteria? Design is always intentional, never arbitrary. 

Here are a few examples of success criteria:

  • Legibility

  • Comprehensibility

  • Aversion

  • Artistic integrity

  • Durability

  • Speed and accuracy

  • Differentiation

  • Extreme affordability

How are you honing in on your product’s success criteria? Perhaps you want to identify preemptive success criteria? Looking for design thinkers? We've got you. 

Be a Design Conscious Copy Cat

Funny title to this blog post but the sentiment is there. If you are writing body copy for something that will eventually be published, it's to your benefit to understand how the message can be best communicated once it's in the hands of your graphic designer. Think of a written page as a meal, it should look delicious and inciting even before you taste it. Getting to this point, the marriage of words and design to communicate a message, is what we call typography

Pages from Toward a Preemptive Social Enterprise | Designer: Kate Manos

Pages from Toward a Preemptive Social Enterprise | Designer: Kate Manos

Great published material happens when writers and designers are in sync. That means adhering to an agile, yet realistic timeline of deliverables, and plenty of communication up front to avoid costly revisions and overhead expenses in later phases. The best thing to do is to have a solid brief that outlines all success criteria in addition to having a healthy regard for the reading experience. 

Here are a few questions to consider when writing for something that will be handed off to a designer:

  1. What is the profile of the primary audience? Who are they? What makes them tick? 
  2. What approach should you take to communicate to this audience?
  3. Why will this audience be interested?
  4. Who will have to approve final copy? Will they also approve design?

Pro Tip For Copywriters:
Let your ideas flow. Accept that most of them will be half baked at first and when you come to a stopping point, take a look at your core message, audience profile, and business objectives to see if they meet the criteria. What is the overall benefit you are trying to focus on? Make sure that your written words actually work toward your goals. And remember that (I love saying this) you cannot be creative and critical at the same time. Separate those two phases and respect the mindset within each of them. Allow yourself to flare with ideas before thinking critically about what you have. That's how creativity works! 

Designing for the Future | An interview with Jake Dunagan

Strategy, at the core, looks at desired outcomes and the decisions made to achieve them. At verynice, thinking about the future is not just best practice, it's something we hope to educate the world about. Meet Jake Dunagan, for the last two years, Jake has led the effort at verynice and most recently contributed to our new book, 'Toward a Preemptive Social Enterprise.' We sat down to discuss what futures work means and how organizations can build this capacity. 

How would you describe your work?

The core of what I’m trying to do is to help people understand change, envision alternative futures, and then actively build a better world. This is done through a battery of theories, techniques, and processes. Futures thinking favors those that can connect dots at an abstract level, across a wide range of fields, and then drill down to the details of how trends and emerging issues might interact, amplify, or deflect in possible real-world contexts.  It is a challenging, but often thrilling endeavor. One is always at the edge of one’s capacity, and learning how to learn (fast) is key.

One of the best ways to learn is through direct experience. But we can’t directly experience the future because the future only exists as a projection from the present (and conditioned by the past). To try and help overcome that, I’ve been involved in a technique called experiential futures, or design futures. This is a process of deeply investigating a subject, developing a compelling story, and then making that story tangible through graphic media, the built environment, performance, and other artifacts from the future.

My colleague Stuart Candy and I recently published a paper on a particularly momentous project we led in Phoenix, as part of the Emerge conference.

Can futurists predict the future?

Not any that I’m aware of! The world is a complex system, with fluctuating perturbations, unexpected events, and strange behavior. We might be able to make predictions about certain things, like elections, but even then, with usually only two candidates and a mass of polling information, we’re often wrong.

So, for me and many other futurists, prediction is a fool’s game. The better approach is to prepare rigorously for complex, accelerating, non-linear alternatives. Because we can’t predict THE Future doesn’t mean we can’t increase our foresight capacity and improve our chances for making better choices--to steer toward better future while being ready to take sometimes drastically different directions that we had originally planned. This goes for individuals, but I’m mostly interested in group and society-level strategies at this stage.

You recently contributed to ‘Toward a Preemptive Social Enterprise’ What do you hope people take away from this book?

First, that foresight and futures can make any endeavor better. Futures studies is not just about high-tech clichés.

Second is that business itself is an invention, and can be re-thought, re-designed, and re-deployed in new ways. As my mentor, Jim Dator, likes to say, “the world is a social invention, and we are social inventors.”

Third, is that it is not only our option to re-design business and society, it is our responsibility. We are ethically bound to leave a decent world for those future generations to come. Future-oriented, socially-minded business could be a big part of how we overcome some of the systems challenges we face.

What are some big things to consider in the next 5,10, 20 years?

There are always new technologies to consider, and we certainly can see current events casting their shadow on the future. But to take it a step more abstract, I think the biggest thing we are going to face in the next 20 years is the question of how to be an ethical person. Nothing in that question is stable. We are challenging long-held beliefs about human nature, the mind, individuality, etc. We also live in a world of extremely turbulent change, so even if we somehow figure out ourselves, the self will be in a new world almost every day. We’re going to have to get used to irreducible ambiguity, and do the best we can with the knowledge we have.

A long-term, systems-level view that is emotionally connected to living beings is how I orient myself. And, stealing from Jim Dator again, I take my work seriously, but not myself.

Is there anything organizations can do now to prepare?

Get real about there not ever being a return to “normal” times (if we ever had normal times), and then get professional help. My four-step argument about futures is this: 1. All humans think about the future. 2. We are not very good at it. 3. It is not our fault (spoiler, it’s baked into our brains), and 4. There’s something we can do about it.

The “something” we can do about it comes from three generations of scholars and practitioners developing tools and techniques to think about the future more usefully. Seek out futures thinking tools, raise your foresight capacity. I mentioned “professional” help, and that’s what we provide at verynice, but in reality, the best outcomes are when students, companies, organizations or agencies take this initial learning and make it their own, and leave us behind. My goal is to have hundreds of “former” clients doing their own futures work, and becoming architects of better futures. I think we’ll all be better off in that scenario.

Designing a Manifesto: Getting Gritty with Toward a Preemptive Social Enterprise

To fully understand this post, I suggest you hop over to and download Matthew Manos’s new book, Toward a Preemptive Social Enterprise. Better yet, donate $25 or more, and come Fall, we’ll ship you your own limited-edition, signed, and numbered print copy.


One of the best parts about being  designer is getting to try different styles, whether you want to or not. For me, my go-to vibe is clean, gridded. Classic. Examples: This blog. My website (don’t look at it, it’s not ready for you yet). Lots of white, lots of Gotham, lots of quirky hand-drawn bits to liven it all up a little. Comfortable. Clearly I’ve found my safe-space. But when you’re handed the assignment of visually interpreting a manifesto… clean, safe, and ample white-space just isn’t going to cut it.

Reading Part 01 of Matthew’s manuscript (lovingly titled FULLDRAFT-TowardaPreemptiveSocialEnterprise 2.gdoc), I knew this endeavor couldn’t be conceived in Photoshop, InDesign, or anywhere that wasn’t tangible, haptic, flammable—the real world. I was going to have get my hands dirty.

I like to get into these kinds of projects with the help of adjectives, verbs and nouns. It’s helpful when scouring the internet for “inspiration” (read: stuff I like and want to rip off). “Manifesto.” Cut and paste. Xerox. Photocopy. Glitch, grimy, grungy. Halftone, screenprint.

The feeling I got from these manifestos is that they had to be created and distributed quick. Cheaply.  No time for $249 typefaces for web and desktop. No colors, nothing fancy. Quick, rapid; print 500 and get them into the hands of the people tonight. Cut it up, paste it, copy it, fold and you’re done. Hustle.

Something Matthew and I have in common is we like a good set of rules (ironically). I decided this: only standard issue fonts (Impact. Courier New. Times New Roman. Optima). No colors. Not too many photos. And so, I got to work: the Manifesto was created in InDesign solely with our old “favorite,” Impact. Printed out. Cut up. Rearranged. Scanned back in. Manipulated.

The manifesto goes through a transformation. It starts out with organic, analog manipulation. I printed out. I crumpled, cut, burned, soaked—those poor pages never stood a chance.

As you move through the pages, the images begin to shift and become something else; something digital, modern, almost disturbing. Some pages are a combination of both, but by the end, it’s clear that we’re in a reality of the digital, of the screen.

Of course, the manifesto isn’t the only part of the book, it’s just Part 01 of 03—but don’t let me spoil it for you. Go get your own copy; once we’re out of them, they’re gone forever, guaranteed.

Matthew Manos Discusses New Book On Future of Social Enterprise

As collaborators with hundreds of entrepreneurs at both entry level and scale, it's clear to us that the core goal of business is, as Peter Drucker famously wrote, "to create a customer"– however you define customer. But what if you anticipate the customer's needs? Design thinking guides us in the identification of problems and opportunities, and lean startup thinking helps us dial in the solution. To that end, Toward a Preemptive Social Enterprise creates an exciting space for discussing entrepreneurship within the context of building the future we wish to live in, or solving problems before they happen. I sat down with our Founder, and colleague, Matthew Manos to talk about this exciting new book and why everyone involved in social impact should be reading it.

What is this book about?
Toward a Preemptive Social Enterprise is a manifesto and collection of essays inspiring a new generation of social entrepreneurs and nonprofit leaders to move from a founding principle that is informed by reaction to one that is driven by strategic foresight. "Social entrepreneurship is almost always too late. As practitioners of social enterprise, we hold the assumption that our responsibility is to exclusively act post-crisis in order to gradually chip away at a persistent problem, or to maintain a state of peace. The art of reaction is necessary, but the expectation of post-traumatic innovation as the singular starting point for an entire industry is limiting. What if social enterprise was also responsible for preemption? What if social entrepreneurs were also futurists?"

What is preemptive social enterprise?
A preemptive social enterprise is the opposite of a reactive social enterprise, the norm of socially responsible innovation. While traditional for-profit enterprise is rewarded for investing in visions of the future, social entrepreneurs and nonprofit leaders are rewarded for reacting to problems that already exist. While it is crucial that the social sector continues to react to the problems of today, we advocate for the integration of strategic foresight in that practice.
Through this book, we have revealed reaction as a critical shortcoming in the practice of social entrepreneurship - the fact that entrepreneurs often launch a business inspired by a traumatic event. By considering the future as an ally, social entrepreneurs can move beyond band-aid solutions, and can be inspired to think more holistically/systemically about a problem.

How did you arrive at this idea?
The notion of moving toward a more preemptive social enterprise is a concept that I originally developed during my MFA thesis work at the ArtCenter College of Design. While I was a student there, I was developing scenarios around a future in which humanly perceivable problems will be harder and harder to come across (due to the acceleration of technology). The work became interested in this idea of adopting tools that can allow us to be more preemptive in order to stay ahead of the curve. In the years since completing that thesis work, verynice has continued to prove the value of futures thinking in social enterprise through our work with entrepreneurs and academic institutions around the globe.

Why is this an important topic now?
In any election cycle in the U.S., we often highlight our culture's reactionary nature. These quick assumptions/reactions often miss the boat on proposing solutions that are more systemic, and as a result, bigotry and band-aid solutions to deeply systemic problems prevail. As a culture, we need to understand the implications of our solutions by adopting more methods that allow critical thinking to flourish. Futures is one great way to do that.

What was the criteria for choosing the contributors on this book?
The book features over 20 voices - this is strategic in the sense that the future is too big of a topic for one individual to carry the weight of in a single book. I selected contributors who are thought leaders in their respective fields, but specifically requested the participation of futurists. Futurists are tasked every day with imagining the implications of traumatic events, scanning trends, and understanding emerging issues so that we all may be more preemptive, or at least know what we are doing with.

What do you hope comes out of this project?
If even one social entrepreneur picks up this book and says, "Hey, how can I continue the great work that I'm doing, but also set aside time to reflect on the implications of my work in order to ensure I am tackling the right problem?", I will be happy.

Who did you write this book for?
This book was written for the next wave of social entrepreneurs. More and more business schools have dedicated courses and even programs for the practice of social entrepreneurship. The really exciting implication of this institutional support is the fact that we will see the number of social enterprises multiply in the next 4-5 years. The book is written for any social entrepreneur, but especially the new social entrepreneur.

What is the connection between this book and your last book, How to Give Half of Your Work Away for Free?

An excerpt from the book's afterword addressed this question:

" 2012, I decided that the only way we could achieve our mission of alleviating nonprofit expenses would be to inspire a new movement in pro-bono. To accomplish this, we open-sourced our business model and proprietary methodologies by way of publishing a book: How to Give Half of Your Work Away for Free. As a result of this initiative, we have inspired thousands of practitioners to engage in pro-bono work around the world.
After publishing the second edition of our book in 2014, I realized that social entrepreneurs needed even more tools that could allow them to create their own unique business model, driven by impact, just as I managed to do with Give Half. Enter our second major initiative: Models of Impact.
Models of Impact is a toolkit that allows people to create innovative business models for social, environmental, or personal impact. The Models of Impact project is part of a greater initiative to open-source every model of impact. Our vision is to enable legacy by making systemic approaches to long-term change more tangible, actionable, and accessible. With thousands of entrepreneurs and educators now leveraging the Models of Impact toolkit (as of 2016), we estimate that the toolkit has generated over 7,500 new impact-driven business concepts. With the immense volume of ideas being generated, the almighty question of "why?" can't help but present itself to me. Our manifesto, Toward a Preemptive Social Enterprise, is one attempt to answer that question."

Design For Good with Zimmer Children's Museum

verynice recently led a pro-bono design sprint benefitting the Zimmer Children's Museum in Los Angeles. The Zimmer Children’s Museum is a two-story playground of fun and thoughtful exhibits – a perfect environment for the creative and playful energy of an AIGA LA Design for Good workshop. Facilitating this workshop from beginning, middle, to end was both fun and challenging. verynice team members, Alisa Olinova, and Noah Goldberg-Jaffe share their experience. 

Alisa (L) and Noah (R) Photo: Kate Manos 

Alisa (L) and Noah (R) Photo: Kate Manos 

Alisa Olinova, Art Director, verynice
The process was like playing with blocks, except we were creating the holes and the shapes to sort. The Zimmer Children’s Museum provided the box and through a series of conversations with their Development and Communications Manager, we figured out what it’s holes were. We called these holes problems, that were shaped into four categories that could be explored by a diverse group of twenty to forty design-minded participants. Then we made sure that our groups of participants had the tools they needed to build their solutions.

Each of the groups presented ideas that would stand the test of time and be tangible for the organization--important building blocks in their transformation. I hope the participants also enjoyed the challenge and I’m excited to see what is to come for YouThink & The Zimmer Children’s Museum.

Noah Goldberg-Jaffe, Strategic Partnerships coordinator, verynice
Leading an AIGA Design for Good Workshop is an amazing opportunity to see brains in action, working together to create solutions for people they have never met and may never meet again. I love being charged with the responsibility of guiding a group of strangers with obvious professional skills to come together and really hash out some tough problems that, in this case, the Zimmer Museum/YouThink were facing.

The specific event was a blast because the ideas that came out of the groups seemed as well thought out as they were useful but also because we got to do our work in a children’s museum. Seeing a group of adult designers sitting in a life raft in a ball pit or at a child-sized table in the imaginary dining room is awesome. Not to mention being able to play with trucks at the same time. I hope that participants will stay involved and follow up by producing some of their ideas.

A Conversation about Models of Impact with Matthew Manos

With all of the excitement and optimism surrounding our latest release of the Global Ambassador Program for Models of Impact, our editorial team decided to interview verynice Founder, Matthew Manos about why he decided to create a certification program. 

verynice has helped so many people find their unique model of impact. Why did you decide to open the doors and create an Ambassador program?

There are a lot of design firms. There are a lot of consultancies. The thing that makes verynice unique has always been our give-half business model, but also our groundbreaking resources in the field of business-design. After open-sourcing our give-half business model in 2013, we realized that we had paved the way for an exciting opportunity: helping others create unique models of impact.

The concept of Models of Impact started out simple. We designed a couple of infographics that mapped out the similarities and differences between ~50 different models in the product and service-oriented business landscape. After the maps were leveraged by over 10,000 people in a relatively short period of time, we knew there was demand for something more. This lead us toward developing curriculum around our own unique approach to business design - the Models of Impact toolkit - now leveraged in over 75 countries. This global movement is what inspired us to make the work of these practitioners more official by creating an ambassador program.

Models of Impact's growth over the last two years has been a story of openness to develop the tools as organically as possible, inspired by our users. We're really excited to see what comes of the program, and where it might lead us next.

M: What has been your experience taking this methodology abroad? Does it translate well in other territories?

On a grassroots basis, thanks to the Internet and verynice's comprehensive network, the methodology has really been international since day 01. The first time I personally had that chance to take the method abroad, however, was in February of this year (2016). I was fortunate enough to be invited by the kind folks at Strelka Institute to travel to Moscow to teach a workshop, give a lecture, and help them integrate the methodology into their online and in-class curriculum.

What I quickly learned during that trick was the fact that "play" is such an incredible universal language – across borders, age, and culture. The method was immediately accepted by our participants in Russia, and continues to flourish, even in the months since I've left. This experience was actually a big motivator to finally pursue a more intentional attempt to take the method to a global level. We are currently planning additional international workshops and events – including a trip to Mexico in 2017, so stay tuned for more on that :)

What do you see ahead as the future of business considering trends in CSR and nonprofits alike?

The biggest trend we are seeing in the evolution of Corporate Social Responsibility is a willingness that corporations and entrepreneurs have to see impact as something that is integral to their business and their brand, not something that is temporal, or campaign-oriented. This is an exciting trend for social enterprise, and the mass adoption of that practice, as a full integration of impact into a business model is precisely the point of social entrepreneurship. That said, this is also a scary trend for traditional nonprofit organizations, in regards to philanthropy, and it is a disruption that large organizations need to start planning for.

Traditional philanthropy in the business sector looks like a corporation writing a series of checks to several organizations across several causes and regions. Now, with social enterprise calling for a more focused form of giving that is integral to the brand promise of a product or service, we are seeing a wave of new businesses that give to only one cause or organization, period. This is a fundamental shift in the relationship between nonprofits and for profits, but I am optimistic enough to think it will still lead to something great.