Navigating Responsible Innovation with NOA: Needs-Based Outcome Assessment


Why Anticipate the Diverse Effects of New Solutions?

In many countries, innovation is politically encouraged as the "engine of progress." However, the novel solutions we design can have a range of consequences, extending beyond one-directional progress. Our new solutions are typically not only novel and valuable for a predefined purpose, but instead, they have diverse impacts on society and nature. Responsible innovation, therefore, involves an examination and anticipation of the effects brought about by our intended new products, services, or other creative ventures. In responsible innovation, the objective is not only to provide benefits to specific individuals or groups (user-centered design), but also to prevent harm. This includes considering the well-being of others beyond the intended users and, indeed, the broader spectrum of life forms on Earth (planet-centered design). We introduce a tool that supports a thoughtful examination of innovation impact, which can be a vital instrument for responsible innovation: NOA - Needs-Based Outcome Assessment.


The NOA Framework

NOA serves to anticipate the impacts of a solution. It can be applied early in the creative process, when a new solution idea has just emerged. These initial assessments of solution risks and benefits can then be used to refine the overall concept. However, the tool can also be applied to evaluate risks and benefits of an already existing product.

The NOA Framework comprises three main components:

  • a comprehensive taxonomy of needs aimed at identifying the risks and benefits of a solution concept,
  • a visual language that facilitates discussions on risks and benefits, offering recommendations for action, and
  • survey formats such as workshops, allowing individuals from diverse backgrounds to systematically contemplate and discuss solution ideas

A brief overview of NOA is offered HERE.


Domains of Impact Assessment

NOA encourages innovators to contemplate the impacts of their solution ideas across seven domains. You can click on the images to the right for an enlarged view.

This framework is shared under a Creative Commons License CC BY-ND (you can download and use this content, provided proper crediting of the author - see reference below; we currently do not authorize derivative works).



Borchart, K.-P., von Thienen, J. P. A., Meinel, C., & Bartsch, D. (2023). NOA: Needs-Based Outcome Assessments. In Berliner Wissenschaftliche Gesellschaft (Ed.), Jahrbuch 2019/2020 (pp. 66-90). Berlin: BWG.

You can download the NOA chapter HERE.