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Stories and Numbers: How we’re understanding what really matters to you

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[ Finding meaning in stories and numbers ]
Open collaboration for social good is a critical undertaking in a world with increasingly complex problems, but not always a straightforward one. Because of this we're always seeking to understand more about how you are interacting with the OpenIDEO platform and what you're getting out of it.
Recently we embarked on a joint research project with the IDEO Hybrid Insights team, a group of researchers at IDEO who've developed a unique approach to crossing the boundaries between qualitative and quantitative insights. What this means is that they're able to approach a research topic through understanding people both as individuals as well as through broader patterns of behaviors, attitudes and needs. One way to think of it is that the Hybrid Insights approach combines both stories and numbers to allow for a richer understanding of the OpenIDEO community.
The Hybrid Insights approach starts with conversation. We began by talking with community members who have been involved with OpenIDEO in different ways. We learned about how you discovered OpenIDEO, what it means for you in your lives and careers, and what impact you hope to see from it.
One story we kept hearing was how you are working on OpenIDEO challenges in your communities, with your friends and through social networks. We wanted to understand the ways that you are engaging with OpenIDEO that we aren't able to measure through traditional metrics, since they are happening off-platform.
As we continued our research project through a survey, we made sure to ask about this kind of engagement and learned that it's widespread. Of the survey respondents, 80% have done some kind of off-platform engagement. Some examples were: student projects, grant applications, meetups and OpenSTORMS. Knowing this, we're exploring how we might take some of the great enthusiasm, collaboration and community from the OpenIDEO site through to global, off-platform interactions to drive further impact.
In the survey we also explored OpenIDEO's impact in the world. We asked, "Looking forward, what do you most hope to see from OpenIDEO?" and provided sets of statements that respondents prioritised. Out of ten statements, the responses show a clear preference for the statement "OpenIDEO generates new ideas that spread through the world, outside the OpenIDEO community."
Chart showing how how survey respondents allocated preference. Top five impact statements listed.
At first glance, this statement ranks so much higher that it would be tempting to focus solely on it. But when we used statistical tools to look deeper into the data for patterns in how people prioritised impact, we saw four types of community members emerge around the top four impact statements listed above. Of these types of respondents, the largest group did favor "OpenIDEO generates new ideas that spread through the world," but the other three groups didn’t. We wanted to learn more about these other groups.
This is where things got interesting. We had another quantitative data set at our disposal: actual onsite behaviour for registered users across the last 19 challenges. We combined this data with the survey results data, allowing us to understand how the same people were using the site and also how they talked about their involvement in the survey. And for some of them, we also had one-on-one conversations. This is a powerful combination that gets to the heart of the Hybrid Insights approach; we could understand the attitudes, behaviours, and your needs through statistical pattern finding and personal stories, allowing for both confidence in our findings and empathy with our research participants.
As we looked across the four groups and how each of them used the site and responded to questions about engagement and impact, we could understand how the groups were different and what mattered to them.
We found that the group that preferred "The challenge sponsor brings the winning idea to life" contributes twice as many ideas than average and is more likely than others to give applause to someone else's statement or to write comments. Overall, they were the most invested in the site and had the highest standards for seeing ideas come to life.
The group that preferred "I take what I learn from OpenIDEO to make positive changes in my local community" includes people who are more active in their communities than the others, and more of them are talking about the challenge on social media than the people in the other groups. We’re now curious what value this group gets on our platform for their community actions.
These nuanced profiles serve as a reminder of the diversity of the OpenIDEO community and the importance of understanding what people want to get out of the OpenIDEO experience. They also help the OpenIDEO team understand how to prioritise building new features and how to communicate with the community.
As we continue building our understanding of what to measure and what to build, we’ll keep exploring engagement and impact through surveys, web analytics and conversations with you. We are continuing to have regular chats with people who use OpenIDEO. If you'd like to participate, send a note to and we’ll see if we can schedule a time to learn from your experience.
Nathan Maton, OpenIDEO
Juliette Melton, IDEO Hybrid Insights
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OpenIDEO Experiments


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