Lean Social Development Principles

Scott Colfer talks about Media for Development’s need to be leaner.


Treat ‘em lean, keep ‘em keen

Here at Media for Development, we’ve been learning from the processes used by successful digital companies.


Many digital companies start small and don’t plan more than a month or so in the future: they focus on building something quickly, testing it, learning from it, and then re-building it. This is known as a ‘lean’ process and has been used in the digital world for years, with great results. We think it’s time to bring the lean approach to the charity and non-profit sector!


Esmée Fairbairn agreed with us and has provided funding for Media for Development to bring lessons from digital companies in to the charity and non-profit sector in a project called ‘Lean Social’.


Lean Social Development Principles

Media for Development has distilled four principles that we think will help to make us more ‘lean’.

We have taken lessons learnt from these digital companies, added the learning from our own experiences and those of other fantastic charities and non-profits, and used them to create our ‘Lean Social Development Principles’:


  1. People before technology
  2. Understand the problem you’re solving
  3. Build, test, learn (repeat)
  4. Be prepared to change.


These principles are a work in progress. We’ll explain them over the coming weeks and refine them based on what we learn. We’re keen to share and use them to start dialogue with our partners as part of our Lean Social project. We expect them to change and hope that you will challenge us on them!


What do you think?

Is there anything you’d add?

Or anything you’d change?


Your feedback and insights are genuinely welcome, please get in touch, you can leave comments below, email Scott, or contact us on Twitter. Thanks!


Why does the charity and non-profit sector need to become leaner?

 People are complicated and situations change. Mapping out what will happen a few months in the future is very hard, any longer than a few months is almost impossible . . . and yet that’s what charities and non-profits regularly do in the search for grant funding. This can leave us tied to a delivery model that solves a problem that doesn’t really exist, in a way that people don’t really want. There is so little money available that we all need to become leaner and more efficient in order to help the marginalised communities who mean so much to us.

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