Innovation – doing things in new, different, better ways –  is often enabled by digital. It’s about finding creative ways to communicate, connect, campaign, provide products and deliver services.

Digital innovation starts with questions like: 

  • How can digital technology, principles or insight help us reach our goal or solve a problem?
  • How can digital improve the experience of our supporters or beneficiaries?

Innovating involves detaching a problem or opportunity from how things are currently done. That unlocks people’s creativity and creates the conditions for new, inventive ideas.

For a digital solution to be innovative, it doesn’t have to be super-technical or complex. It may be about taking a new approach. For example, developing an online triage form to cut down wait times for service users. 

Innovation requires a willingness to take a leap of faith, invest, learn and improve. It also requires an openness to failure. Prototype, launch, learn, amend and try again.

Things to think about

  • Where would you put your organisation on the innovation landscape map?
  • Do you have an internal innovation team or project, or does innovation happen when someone external approaches you with an idea?
  • Have you been a part of an innovation project where people understood from the beginning that it might fail?
  • Has your organisation used digital to find a new way of tackling a problem?

Innovation: five levels of maturity

1. Deprioritised

Innovation is not considered important, or is not happening at all.

2. Ad hoc

Innovation occasionally happens as part of existing projects.

3. Small-scale

There is innovative re-imagining of some aspects of products or services.

4. Coordinated

Joined-up innovation is evolving the organisation.

5. Embedded

A structured innovation programme is creating transformational change.


You Need an Innovation Strategy, by Gary Pissano, was written in 2015, but is still relevant. 

The Board of Innovation has loads of useful – and free – resources. 

Average score

Overall, for the innovation competency, organisations average out at level 2.9.

Scores by year

These graphs show the average scores for this competency over the last few years, expressed as a percentage.

  • 2020 58% 58%
  • 2019 60% 60%
  • 2018 58% 58%
  • 2017 48% 48%
  • 2016 42% 42%