Methods & ToolsCorporate Innovation Insights

Drones for Good: working with UNICEF to drive business model innovation

By October 29, 2021No Comments

written by Michaela Stephen, Verena Judmayer, David Bierbaumer and Erik Muckenschnabel

Earlier this year, we embarked on an exciting project with UNICEF to develop business model ideas for scaling their African Drone and Data Academy (ADDA) from the Malawian market into new African markets, and beyond.

Under the vision of ‘Drones for Good’ and with a focus on business model innovation, we were inspired to share our goals and learnings from this project. Firstly, because we want to showcase the immense value to be captured in unleashing unused business model potential. And most importantly, we want to shout out loud about the extensive social impact UNICEF creates through their program and invite you to join their mission. So, let’s start by walking you through the African Drone and Data Academy…

What is the African Drone and Data Academy (ADDA)? 

The African Drone and Data Academy (ADDA) is an initiative driven by UNICEF, currently based in Malawi. Their aim is to be a centre of excellence that will equip young people in Malawi and the African region with necessary 21st-century skills, while strengthening the drone ecosystem for more effective humanitarian and development response. The ADDA course, developed by the international project lead Virginia Tech in the USA, combines theoretical and practical methodologies in making, testing and flying drones. The curriculum allows young people to learn how to construct and pilot drones, to integrate them into a supply chain system, and to analyse drone data.

Now you know more about the ADDA, let’s dive into the goal of our project together to better set the scene.

Project Goal

Our overall goal was focused on enhancing the global reach of the ADDA program by developing an innovative business model and scaling up strategy, which we split into 3 key goals:

  1. Field analysis to understand the current market trends, status quo of the ADDA, and to start the ideation process 
  2. Business Model ideation process to develop final recommendations for UNICEF based on our field analysis research and results
  3. Implementation support to select the models with the most potential and go through discovery and validation processes to understand if these would work in a UNICEF context, resulting in a final Go or No-go decision

Our Learnings from the Business Model Innovation Process

Now you know more about the project and goals, let’s look at our key learnings so you know how to lay the foundations when starting your next business model innovation process.

1. Set the team & start with field analysis

Being an external team, we knew we needed to dive head first into the ADDA to fully understand the project itself, the stakeholders and the environment in which ADDA operates. To do so, we organised a kick-off workshop with project stakeholders where we broke the ice, got to know each other and most importantly, got to dive deep into the current ADDA business model and important drone industry trends to be aware of. This then set the scene for our field analysis work which was a crucial element of the project. We interviewed ADDA stakeholders, understood beneficiary journeys, researched market trends and performed a PESTEL analysis of the ADDA.

Top tip: this process took 2 months in itself so make sure to set your timeline and expectations up front with your team.

2. Use innovation methodologies to your advantage

Once we knew the field analysis results, we had the basis to build our first business model ideas. To do so, we utilised various innovation methodologies to our advantage to understand if our ideas could be feasible for UNICEF. Tools we used included: customer interviews, value proposition canvases and the social business model canvas. These tools enabled us to uncover who would pay for the business models, what value we can create for customers and how the overall business model could work to be viable, desirable and feasible.

Top tip: use these tools for each business model idea you create. It really helps to show comparisons between models as your progress, which results in faster decisions.

3. Feedback is your greatest gift

Once we had our final business model ideas drafted, it was time to gather as much feedback as we could from UNICEF stakeholders, as well as from external stakeholders. To do so, we organised various feedback and presentation sessions, recording all the results via our online miro board. This was a great way to understand if the model could be implemented and potential barriers that could perhaps be faced.

Top tip: encourage your teams to stay open-minded during this phase. No idea is ever too crazy, there is always a way to make it work and this mind-set is crucial in the business model innovation process. Otherwise, you could overlook potential game-changing ideas.

4. Discovery and Validation is crucial

As a last step, it’s incredibly important to ‘test’ your business model ideas before you officially launch them. At Pioneers, we have a wealth of experience in this area and various tools we use with our clients to help them discover and validate if ideas will work with real-life customers and processes. And great news! We have 2 blogs on this exact topic already covered. Check them out here and dive into the different tools you can use during the discovery and validation process.

Top tip: always start with the customer.

Now you know what it takes to drive business model innovation, let us know how you get on with your next project or get in touch with Pioneers if you would like to find out more about our approach to social business model innovation.

Do you like our approach on business model innovation and want to know more about Pioneers’ corporate innovation services?

Get in touch with our Senior Innovation Consultant Erik Muckenschnabel to book a short intro call and talk about the Pioneers Business Model Innovation offerings.

Erik Muckenschnabel
Senior Innovation Consultant