How can we secure our financial future? It’s a question constantly on New Internationalist’s mind in an era of falling media subscription rates. New Internationalist is an independent, non-profit media co-operative that reports on human rights, politics, and social and environmental justice. For 40 years they have provided an alternative perspective on important issues, covering stories overlooked by the mainstream media. The United Nations recognized their ‘outstanding contribution to world peace and development’.
Thoughtworks was brought in to develop their website and digital platform, due for release in July 2017. Working closely with NI teams, we realized there was an opportunity to change the way they prioritize and invest in projects by focusing on outcomes and potential business impact. Using lean portfolio management, value based prioritization and an adaptive approach to product validation, we helped New Internationalist shift toward a culture of experimentation and rapid learning so they can make better, data-based decisions.
Funding in a flash
The organization is almost exclusively funded by subscriptions and donations. Purely ad-supported operations aren’t an option for a media house that so fiercely believes in independence. New Internationalist used this lean portfolio management approach to quickly test and validate a new way to gather funding. The result? The successful introduction of their Community Share Offer.
The Community Share Offer started as a bold idea to let readers co-own shares in New Internationalist via crowdfunding. The idea had been in progress for over a year, but they weren’t sure how readers and potential investors would feel about it. Committed to their new test-and-learn ethos, the Community Share Offer team created surveys for feedback. Within days, they experimented with social media campaigns and tweaking offer plans based on what they saw. Then, they gathered feedback from all readers with a full-page ad in their flagship magazine. Success! In just one month the Community Share Offer was altered based on feedback and successfully launched, raising over £700,000 pounds from 3409 investors
The thing that surprised me was how productive we could be just after the first week of using Lean Portfolio Management. In such a short amount of time we had a small portfolio of experiments and results to help us make business decisions.
Positive problem solving
Inspired by the success of the Community Share Offer, New Internationalist is using a lean portfolio approach to prioritize key business initiatives and help with problem-solving throughout the organization. After collectively agreeing on value and impact, teams start with a hypothesis, and then quickly test as an experiment with real stakeholders to discover whether they should move forward or scrap their initiatives. “It was just a really positive approach to problem-solving; it's a way to deal with problems in such a way that doesn't stop the decision-making,” said Hazel, an editor at New Internationalist.