DIY Learn Module of the Month: Personas

Last year we launched DIY Learn, our first online learning programme in innovation. Created in partnership with the Open University and with support from the Rockefeller Foundation, DIY Learn is a collection of interactive, bite-sized modules developed from the most widely used tools and methods in Nesta’s DIY Toolkit.

The DIY Toolkit was designed to help people working in international development to invent, adopt or adapt ideas that can deliver better results. It features 30 tried-and-tested social innovation tools, and the DIY Learn modules take this support a step further by guiding learners through how to use the ten most popular tools.

We’re featuring each module from DIY Learn here on the Nesta website month by month, and our eighth Module of the Month is the Personas tool.


Personas are short profiles of fictional but realistic individuals. They can be used to help you describe particular beneficiary or user groups, and give you a clearer understanding of your target audience.

Personas are created by drawing together the characteristics of similar people – their behaviours, motivations, etc. – into one ‘archetype’ through which the group can be understood. By creating a fictional character to embody these characteristics, you don’t lose the little details that make someone the person they are. In this way, Personas help ensure that your work stays focused on people, rather than an abstract description of the group.

Developing successful Personas is all about knowing what to put in, and what to leave out. The trick is to recognise the common characteristics that could form the basis of a Persona, and what selection of personal details to include in order to bring this ‘to life’.

The DIY Learn module walks you through the Personas tool and offers guidance so that you can make the most of using it. By taking the module, you will be able to:

  • describe what a Persona is and identify why and when to use it
  • explore how Personas can be applied to create empathy between planners and their target audience
  • use a Persona to create an identity for a target group
  • construct a Persona

Watch the Personas module introductory video below, or go straight to the module.

We estimate this module will take between two and three hours to complete for an independent learner with a good level of English. It is divided into smaller study sessions, each of which follows a standard pattern to make it easier for you to plan your time. As you work through the module there are some in-text activities to help test your understanding of the material, and it finished with a series of self-assessment questions.

Feedback and further resources

We hope that you enjoy the module, and we’re always delighted to hear from our learners. Please send feedback on the module to [email protected]. We are particularly keen to hear what you have done with the skills and tools you have learned.Whilst the module has been designed to be studied independently this is not the only way it can be used. The DIY Learn Trainers Handbook also provides guidance on using all the modules as a basis for group training in a classroom setting.

Take the module>>

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Isobel Roberts

Isobel Roberts

Isobel Roberts

Content and Communications Manager, Innovation Skills

Isobel worked in the Innovation Skills team as Content and Communications Manager, helping to build Nesta's learning and development offering.

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