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Impact Investing Simplified

Human-centered Design of Criterion Institute's Research

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The Criterion Institute, a think tank transforming socioeconomic landscapes through gender-lens and impact investing strategies, approached us to collaborate in humanizing their broad research.

Our goal was to enhance user-friendliness, making the material more accessible for exploration and learning within inclusive finance. With decades of expertise in economic development, Criterion recognized the need for an interface that caters to asset owners navigating the elaborate "Standards of Practice" (SOP).
In response, our team designed a transformative user experience.

Over four weeks of a collaborative design sprint, we endeavored to simplify over 300 SOP entries, crafting an interface that demystifies financial complexities through intuitive design and impactful visualizations. Our work led the Criterion Institute to redesign their landing page and their information architecture, and rephrase their financial language for user-centered terms and practices.

My Role

Strategist
Facilitator
UX Researcher

Methods

Synthesis
Data Visualization
Prototyping

Team

Camila Ordonez
Anaab Ibrahim
Bhumika Keswani
Bernardita Lira

Louisa Buck

Partner

criterion logo.png
criterion logo.png

1. Problem Framework Analysis

Criterion Institute sought our guidance in simplifying 300+ Standards of Practice (SOP) through a user-friendly interface that explores the complexities of finance, showcasing the richness of data through intuitive design and impactful visualizations.

They challenged us to address: How might we help asset owners understand through different ways of visualization, the richness of Criterion Institute's SOP? 

In our approach to addressing the problem framework provided by the Criterion Institute, we ventured into a reframing process. We aimed to dive into the identity and goals of the asset owners—the ultimate users of the SOP—to create an easy-to-use interface and intuitive user experience that facilitates the visualization of the data. 

                                                          This exploration led to a critical question:  























           Snapshot of Criterion Institute's SOP

 

*Our research with the target user was restricted, as our partner only shared examples of asset owners, including entities like the Mastercard Foundation and Coralus, but withheld permission for our team to contact them. These organizations advance economic equality in developing nations and minorities worldwide. Despite the limitation in direct user interaction, our focus revolved around extracting valuable insights from the provided examples.

How could we leverage the SOP to align with and support their objectives?

2. Framing the Context

We mapped out the primary stakeholders actively involved in adhering to Criterion’s Standards of Practice, as well as the transmission of value outlining the pathways in both financial and social impact terms.

 

 

The target user of the project was primarily the 'asset owner.' Realizing how Criterion Institute’s North Star is to educate, and collaborate with key stakeholders to drive responsible, equitable, and sustainable financial decision-making, we depicted the workflow and processes advancing this goal. 

 

In order to accomplish the organization’s mission, they have created key articles, publications, workshops, Standards of Practice and they engage consult partners and clients. We centered our project on resolving the value of the Standards of Practice into helping the Criterion team reach their North Star.   

FUNDERS & DONORS

PARTNERS
& COLLABORATORS

ASSET OWNERS

TARGET USER

BENEFICIARIES

TEAM CRITERION

ASSET MANAGERS

NGOs

Criterion Institute

Resources

Articles

Publications

Workshops

Standards
of Practice (SOP)

Partners

Asset Owners

Asset Managers

NGOs

Educate, and collaborate with key stakeholders to drive responsible, equitable, and sustainable financial decision-making.

3.Navigating Criterion's LandscapeUser-Centered Design

To progress, we looked into who our target user: 'asset owner' is, and found a spectrum of actors, each characterized by unique traits and needs.

The diverse range of stakeholders included:
 

 

       

 

 

 

 

 

 


            

Recognizing the diversity among asset owners in the landscape, we gained an understanding of their distinct needs and challenges. This holistic perspective paved the way for a tailored and effective strategy to address the intricacies of Criterion's objectives.


In pursuit of designing a user-friendly experience and interface for Criterion's asset owners, we identified 3 crucial needs: 


* Given the limited information from the Criterion Institute, our user research operated on conversations with Criterion's client-facing team, and secondary research from two of Criterion's partner organizations: Coralus and the Mastercard Foundation, guiding our approach through the creation of a proto persona.

Investment Analysts

Financial
Intermediaries

Asset Managers

Investors

Lenders & Capital Providers

Corporations

NGOs

Governments

Chief Financial Officers

Deal Leads

Guarantors

Corporations

Shareholders

Escrow Agents

Investment Firms

Pinpoint where the Standards of Practice intersected with the current user journey of the asset owners and Criterion's financial advisors. 

Understand the role of the Standards of Practice in the broader mission and vision of the Criterion Institute.

Comprehend the measurement of qualitative and quantitative impact within relationships and financial advising with asset owners.

1.

2.

3.

Andrew, Asset Owner

High purchasing power

Interest in
impact investing

Who

High net worth with substantial assets & investments

Challenges

While adept in finance, want to ensure investments make an impact while yielding financial returns

Staying informed about the evolving landscape of impact investing, identifying emerging trends & opportunities

Time constraints

Needs

Seeks guidance & support to understand finance. ecosystem

Values personalized communication / their specific interests in impact investing

Network of like-minded individuals who share interest in impact investing

Proto Persona

4. Leveraging Artificial Intelligence for a Personalized Search Experience

To enhance the user experience and tailor it to individual needs, we advised Criterion to leverage Generative AI to best streamline the rich data in the SOP. This technology will allow asset owners to benefit from:

 

 

Our goal was to make the journey with Criterion more personalized, interactive, and informed for users in general.

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Who are you?

Profile Creation

In what area do you want to intervene?

Type of Impact

e.g. "Climate Change"

Research
Findings

Personalizing and refining the search through AI -

"a funnel experience"

5. Prototyping

We sought to incorporate key features in our platform redesign to elevate user engagement, streamline information consumption, and foster a collaborative and personalized experience for individuals and teams alike.

Profiler

  • Identifies specific user identity, goals, and intended impact.

  • Ensuring the platform curates content tailored to each user, providing a personalized and meaningful experience.

Filters

  • Allow users to narrow down content based on their own criteria.

  • Improving the efficiency of information discovery, enabling users to focus on the most relevant and impactful insights.

Team Collaboration

  • Enables users to share resources within the platform.

  • The ability to comment on/highlight text encourages meaningful discussions, fostering a collaborative environment for better decision-making.

Save Search

  • Similar to popular platforms like LinkedIn, users can bookmark and revisit their searches, streamlining the information retrieval process and saving valuable time.

Suggested Topics

  • Recognize the diversity in user knowledge levels and preferences by incorporating a feature that suggests impact investing topics.

  • Suits users who may not have a specific impact investing topic in mind, providing them with recommendations and fostering exploration within the platform.

Question-Driven UX

  • Personalizes content based on the questions answered by the user.

  • Ensuring an intuitive and guided experience, aligning the platform with the user's specific needs and objectives.

7. Outcome

Our collaborative efforts with Criterion Institute showcase our understanding of financial inclusivity and commitment to user-centered design, as reflected in our work.

Our deliverables not only transformed the data visualization of the Standards of Practice for the asset owners, but also played a pivotal role in the comprehensive redesign of the institute's website.

 

The outcome reflects a heightened user experience, seamlessly integrating innovative design thinking to empower users navigating the nuanced landscape of impact investing.

My Role

UX Research

Although we had limited access to the target user, my role was to understand the target user. This was done through internal conversations with Criterion's team, case studies from the partners, and behavioral data. 

Data Visualization

Designed an interactive tool effectively communicating the richness of the Standards of Practice database, catering to both precision-oriented users and those driven by exploration and curiosity.

Collaborative Design

Engaged in creative design thinking to translate financial and impact investing concepts into a user-friendly interface, collaborating with Criterion's Strategy team and incorporating diverse perspectives for a well-rounded solution.

About Criterion Institute

Criterion Institute, a nonprofit think tank championing finance as a force for social change, partnered with us to revolutionize the user experience of their research and findings, or "Standards of Practice" (SOP). At the forefront of gender lens investing, Criterion's decades-long collaboration with diverse stakeholders required an interface that seamlessly caters to asset owners seeking clear knowledge through advanced filtering and those driven by curiosity to explore new perspectives on inclusive finance.

Our objective was not to enforce standards but to generate innovative thinking about gender lens investing through a human-centered approach of their through data storytelling. Over the course of four weeks, our design sprint aimed to deliver a mock-up that aligns with Criterion's vision and amplifies impact investing and inclusive financial practices.

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