How to Design Effective Digital Transformation Pathways for Social Impact Organisations

Digital technologies have many benefits to offer the development sector, but how do social impact organisations decide how and where to begin their digital transformation journey? And how do they select the digital technologies that are right for them, their contexts, and the populations they support?

Most digital transformation frameworks are designed for commercial organisations and rarely take into consideration the unique circumstances that development and humanitarian agencies face.

To tackle this problem, Here I Am conducted a digital transformation review and built upon current best practices to create a bespoke digital transformation approach that’s designed for development organisations.

This 3-step approach is briefly summarised below:

Step 1: Environmental Digital Maturity Assessment

One critical difference with Here I Am’s Digital Transformation framework is the centralised importance of environmental digital maturity. Development organisations operate in a wide variety of digital maturity environments, which have significant impacts on a product’s digital maturity and the digital potential of each country operation.

Central African Republic, for example, has one of the world’s lowest smartphone penetration and internet penetration levels, at 27% and 14% respectively. In comparison, mobile penetration in Iran stands at 60% and internet penetration at 70%. The environmental digital maturity for these two countries is very different. As a result, digital potential is different.

Digital transformation goals set by development organisations cannot be set based purely on an organisation’s strategic objectives, and whilst scaling technologies into multiple geographies remains an ambition, a one-size-fits-all approach is unlikely.

Step 2: Organisational Digital Maturity Assessment

A Digital Maturity Assessment (DMA) quantifies the organisation’s current digital status and identifies areas that could be improved using digital technologies. The Here I Am Organisational DMA evaluates the digital capability of each country operation across five clearly defined dimensions:

Digital transformation pathway.001

Drawing inspiration from the brilliant Responsible Data Maturity Model created by Here I Am’s Data Ethics Advisor, Linda Raftree, the organisation will then be ranked against the following five levels of maturity - both as a whole and by each of the dimensions.

Digital transformation pathway.002

Step 3: Digital Transformation Pathway Design

Once the organisational digital maturity and the environmental digital maturity are understood, realistic digital transformation pathways can be set for and by each country operation. These pathways include a series of strategies and/or activities designed to increase digital maturity to a feasible level, while taking into consideration the environmental and contextual constraints in each case. Additionally, consideration is given to relevant learning exercises, training, and resources to develop their skills and capacities. Regular check-ins will occur to understand pathway progress and ensure the teams have the relevant support, tools, and resources needed to succeed.

Making It Happen

Remember, people are agents - not recipients of change - and must be firmly positioned at the heart of digital transformation. Leadership, communication, and participation will be pivotal to achieving the shift in mindset required for digital transformation to succeed.

Every step should therefore be co-designed with people across the organisation and conducted through self-assessment in a workshop setting. This approach ensures team members are fully engaged, thoughtful, and accountable in the process and subsequent actions. Self-reflection is a powerful mechanism for learning, so conducting the DMA in this manner will help to achieve the required growth mindset throughout the organisation.

If your organisation is looking to create or refresh your digital transformation strategy, we would love to chat with you and share more details on how our unique approach can support you. To arrange a free discovery call with us, send us an email at

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