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Motivations Interactive Guide [Updated 8 Feb 2015]

Our idea is an interactive worksheet that tackles the challenge of designing renewable energy projects that effectively motivate whole communities by teaching project leaders to assemble a wider range of motivations for their communities.

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What’s the big idea?

Our project is all about teaching leaders to identify the right motivations to leverage for their renewable energy projects to succeed. Before diving into how our idea does this job, let us explain the psychology behind it.


A motivation is a reason for acting or behaving in a particular way. Our idea frames motivations as transactions between different players whom we label “Givers” and “Receivers”. The currency of the transaction is an “Incentive”. 

Don’t let our fancy language intimidate you. You’re already an expert on motivation. Think about how you might encourage a child to sit still during an important but uncomfortable medical examination. You could offer to reward them for complying with a trip to see sea lions at the zoo afterwards. (And for closure, imagine that it works, and soon the child is laughing at those funny mammals, having forgotten the procedure entirely.) In this example, you’re the Giver. You give the child an Incentive—the promise of seeing the sea lions, and the child is then the Receiver. If you’re successful, Motivation has happened: You gave the child an effective reason to endure the procedure. This is how Motivation works: Sales Executives (Givers) create milestone bonuses (Incentives) for their Salespeople (Receivers) to encourage sales (Motivation); A group of nations (Givers) offers to remove sanctions (Incentive) from an offending nation (Receiver) to encourage it to treat its citizens more humanely (Motivation). We summarize the relationship between the different parts of a Motivation with this formula:

    Motivation = Giver ⨉ Receiver ⨉ Incentive (M = GRI)

But you don’t have to be good at math to use this tool. Remember, you already know how motivation works. We’re just going to apply it in a new context, community-based renewable energy projects.


In communities, there are lots of players: governments, businesses, households, energy companies—even the “community” at large. All are Givers and Receivers of different kinds of Incentives. For example, businesses generating their own power can receive access to the electric grid from energy companies, and businesses can give the community education by offering tours of their energy production system. There are all kinds of ways to motivate renewable energy adoption.


Not only are there many possible Giver-Receiver relationships, but there are also many kinds of Incentives. Our tool highlights the following categories of Incentives.


  1. Practical :: People who want electricity in areas that are off the grid have a reason to invest in renewables. Otherwise, they'll be hauling fuel and burning it in a generator. For example, in this Research post, an off-the-grid island village community gave themselves energy independence by installing renewable energy generators on their island.
  2. Financial :: Stipends are a strong incentive, especially for businesses and families who are asking, Is this financially responsible? How long will it be before I see a return on my investment? (The unpopular side of financial incentives is taxation—dis-incentivizing dependence upon non-renewable energy sources by levying taxes.) For example, in this Research post, a utility company gave a business a stipend to help them pay for their solar array. 
  3. Social :: Whether it's the approval of a parent of the applause of colleagues or public thanks from a community leader, people love recognition. It might not be material, but don't discount it. It's meaningful, and it’s usually free!
  4. Emotional :: We all want to feel good about ourselves. Many people who believe that investing in renewable energy is the right thing to do—for themselves, their family, humanity, and the world. So when they invest in renewable energy, they get a boost to their self-image. For example, in this Research post, a business owner who installed a solar array at his manufacturing plant says, "It's just the right thing do!" 

What can users do with this tool?

User Journey

Before we dive into specific features, let’s begin with user's journey. Our tool was developed to assist users in the design/planning phase of RE projects. This first image shows where that phase occurs in the larger context of a RE project.

The following series of images details the user’s experience with our tool. [Images added 8 Feb 2015.]
  1. User begins RE project’s design phase.

  2. User feels need for more knowledge about motivating stakeholders in their community to adopt RE. 

  3. User visits Online Interactive Grid. User gains new knowledge and idea.

  4. User prints Printable Worksheet. Inspired by the examples in the Guide, they fill in their own ideas. (User is synthesizing their local expertise with the wide range of ideas in the Guide.)

  5. User incorporates their motivation ideas into their project design.

  6. User executes RE project.

  7. User shares their learnings with the editors of the Motivation Guide by email (Versions 1.0 - 1.3) or by direct input online (Version 1.4 and up).

  8. User evaluates the Motivations they implemented by voting on the website (Version 1.4 and up).

As the User Journey implies, our tool has two parts: an online interactive grid and a printable worksheet.


The Online Interactive Grid

The online guide is where the user will learn about Motivations. In Part 3 of the user experience outlined above, the user interacts with the online guide. This section will walk through the functionality step by step.

(Note: All of these features will be implemented in Version 1.0, except where indicated. For details about versions, see the Product Requirements Document linked from the functionality section below.)

Step 1 :: The empty Interactive Grid awaits user input.

Step 2 :: The user sets the Region and chooses a Receiver type from the drop-down menu. This step enables the user, who is likely a renewable energy project leader for a given community, to find the most relevant content for their community and project. (Note: This filtering feature would be implemented in version 1.2.)

Step 3 :: The Grid displays a range of Incentives for Givers and Receivers color-coded by Incentive Type—Emotional, Practical, Financial or Social. To find out more, the user chooses a particular combination of Giver and Receiver by selecting a Giver column, a Receiver row, and clicking/touching the cell at their intersection. In our example, the user is interested in how their utility companies can help incentivize local businesses.

Step 4 :: The available Incentives populate in the sidebar on the right. In our example, the user is interested in the Financial Incentives, so they select the Income Incentive.

Step 5 ::
The Incentive box opens up to display a list of links for further reading. In Version 1.0, these will all be external web links. In Version 1.1, we will begin adding user-generated content. (As users generate new content, we will have more ideas for the user in Step 3.)


Printable Worksheet

This worksheet corresponds to Parts 4 and 5 of the user experience outlined above. The user prints the worksheet. Then they fill in their own ideas inspired by what they've discovered in the Online Interactive Grid, applying it to their own context. In the very earliest version, users access the worksheet here.

What functionality does this tool have?

This tool has several features that fall into (4) main functional categories. Each category relates to knowledge, i.e., ideas and anecdotes on motivating different stakeholders.The categories are sharing, using, gathering, and curating knowledge. Gathering and curation were not covered above, because we plan to implement these functions later. Our Product Requirements Document—a fancy name for the development plan we came up with together—details the full proposed feature set in the human-centric terms of “user stories”. Please open it now, noting that it contains 2 sheets.


We’re presenting the user with a lot of knowledge, and we plan to gather much more knowledge as we iterate our design. In order to make this knowledge accessible, we designed the online interactive grid.



Not only will we share knowledge with the user, but we will also give them a tool to capture their own ideas inspired by the knowledge they’ve gained. We have designed a printable worksheet for the user to capture inspiring ideas they gain from the Motivations Interactive Guide. We left a lot of room for the user to generate their own ideas inspired by what they’ve learned. These worksheets will be valuable tools for individual project leaders as well as workshops with their project stakeholders.


Users will be invited to share their success stories and cautionary tales with the editors of the Motivations Interactive Guide. (At first, through email. Later, through a web interface. See the PRD for proposed development sequence.) This input means the content will grow in detail and in quantity. Our editors currently document Motivations (which each have one Giver, Receiver, and Incentive) in our Content spreadsheet. We’ll introduce a more robust content management system in Version 1.1.



Not only do we want to grow the content in detail and quantity, but we also want to optimize its value. Knowledge gathered from users will be curated by an editor (Versions 1.1 - 1.3). In a later version, voting input from the community will surface the best motivations (Version 1.4 and on).


What’s the vision for this tool?

Our Team’s Commitment

We’re committed and capable of developing this tool through Version 1.2, and we’re open to going farther.

Resources and Partnerships

  • Resources :: Our team has the design and development talent needed to take this idea forward.
  • Partnerships :: We need to forge partnerships with community-based renewable energy project leaders and with communities interested in adopting renewable energy.

Future Functionality

Ultimately, it’s up to the community of users, but we’ve got some big ideas and an ambitious feature set and roadmap outlined in our PRD. We see the following opportunities (which we’ve also listed in the PRD):

  • a points system for contributing like on OpenIDEO, or points for upvotes like on Stack Exchange sites
  • could be used as part of the system that tracks the progress of the project and the delivery of the rewards themselves
  • could even become its own social network: a LinkedIn for humanitarian and voluntary work
  • could link people together that could help each other by profiling its users, what they need and what they can give (like


How do we evaluate our idea?

Comparative Analysis

We conducted inexhaustive research on other existing efforts in the space and came across a detailed guide written about renewable energy incentives in Germany. The audience of this guide appears to be investors, policy analysts, and/or businesses in the energy industry, not community-based project leaders. As a result, the content is not optimized for our audience, nor is it presented in an accessible way. Our guide might be able to make use of some of the research in this guide.

User Feedback

Our initial user feedback yielded two primary takeaways:

  • This tool has real potential, and is a unique solution because it offers a different kind of value proposition: understand how to motivate others.
  • The original prototype was confusing. Users didn’t understand how to use it. (To address this issue, we added instructions to the printable worksheet and re-designed the interactive portion.)

Since getting this user feedback, we’ve re-designed the interface and doubled down on clarifying the knowledge it is intended to communicate.

Success and Potential Challenges

Success can be measured in many ways, and we want to make sure that we look at not only the success of our users, but also at the success of the tool.

The primary success is when:

  • ...a community uses the guide and manages to implement incentives that motivate the community to adopt renewable energy.
  • ...a renewable energy project leader is inspired by the guide to implement incentives they may not have otherwise thought of when designing a community-based project.

Renewable adoption also depends on people knowing about renewable energy, and therefore there is a need to communicate about it. A secondary goal is therefore when:

  • ...the Motivations Interactive Guide makes people talk about renewable energy.

To make this a tool that is usable in the long-term, the tool needs to evolve with the needs and maturity of the community. In that sense we also say that we are successful when:

  • ...the guide itself become a viable product and therefore can continue to live on and evolve
  • ...the content of the guide increases in quantity and quality through curated user input.

Potential challenges are

  • ...getting communities to use the guide.
  • ...proving that the renewable energy adoption rate for communities will improve when using the guide as decision support for incentives.
  • ...designing a guide that can cater to diverse communities (including translation).
  • ...making the guide viable in the long-term.

Note: In the PDF attached above, we’ve shared the old version of our idea to highlight our iterative process. 


What community does this idea benefit and who are the main players?

This idea will benefit all kinds of communities. One thing that stays the same across the diverse communities that will adopt renewables is human psychology. Since knowledge about psychology is the core of our idea, we believe that our idea addresses a need in every community. We’ll know more once we’ve tested it in a broad array of communities. The main players are the people tasked with their community's renewable energy project. They will benefit from using this tool during the planning/design phase of their project. [Updated 7 Feb 2015]

How does your idea specifically help your community rapidly transition to renewables?

It equips change agents and community leaders with a deeper understanding of how motivation works, teaching them to assemble a wider range of motivations for their communities to adopt renewables. [Updated 4 Feb 2015]

What early, lightweight experiment can you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

Ask friends and RE enthusiasts to imagine planning a community-based RE project with the help of our tool. [Updated 4 Feb 2015]

What skills, input or guidance are you keen to connect with from the OpenIDEO community to help you build out or refine your idea further?

We want to partner with RE project leaders to get their feedback on our idea. [Updated 7 Feb 2015]

Please indicate which type of energy is most relevant to this post:

  • My post doesn't mention a specific type of energy

This idea emerged from:

  • A Group Brainstorm


Join the conversation:

Photo of Nathan Lucy

Dear evaluators, just now I edited this post by cutting out all the old stuff and pasting in the PDF linked above. No content has been altered since the end of the Refinement phase. The post is just a bit more readable know.

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