Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Graduate School of Social Work

First Advisor

Daniel Brisson

Second Advisor

Kimberly Bender

Third Advisor

Amanda Moore McBride

Fourth Advisor

Douglas Allen


Field-identified priority specifications of social innovations, FIPSSI, Minimum critical specifications, Scaling, Social innovation, Tiny home, Tiny house


Social innovations are new approaches to addressing unmet need. In an increasingly globalized and interconnected world, social innovations propagate rapidly in response to the dynamic conditions of our modern world. An example of an emergent social innovation, tiny home communities are gaining traction as a more economically, socially, and environmentally favorable response to homelessness and inadequacies in the current shelter and housing system. The use of tiny homes communities (that is, intentional clusters of small-scale structures) as an innovative response to homelessness is relatively new. As such, there is limited empirical evidence on the topic. Lack of research and defined best practices make it difficult to grow, or scale, an innovation. In lieu of empirical evidence, the field possesses rich, firsthand knowledge about critical considerations for village development. One approach for defining a social innovation is to identify the “minimum critical specifications,” which are the fewest conditions necessary to maximize impact or value. Informed by diffusion of innovation theory, critical social theory, and human-centered design, this study engaged experts from the field in identifying the minimum critical specifications of tiny home communities addressing homelessness as a case study for operationalizing and testing a new, more nimble method for defining social innovations in early stages of adoption.

Using a four-part sequential explanatory mixed methods design, this study first examined the extant empirical and gray literature to identify general characteristics of tiny home villages addressing homelessness. A narrative review of 100 sources resulted in 99 unique village characteristics. A panel of experts (n = 32) was then recruited to participate in a two-round modified Delphi process, focused on narrowing the 99 characteristics down to the most essential qualities of tiny home villages addressing homelessness. Findings from two sequential online surveys resulted in 21 minimum critical specifications, which largely describe day-to-day village operations; physical village characteristics; and engagement with the primary, or most immediately impacted, stakeholders. Finally, semi-structure interviews with field experts representing distinctive tiny home villages (n = 5) further explored the accuracy of the 21 minimum critical specifications and the potential utility of the research for the field. Findings from the interviews revealed that there was not a one-size-fits-all approach, given the unique purpose and context of each village, and that villages could not afford to let perfect be the enemy of good when innovating in constrained environments. These insights informed a conceptual shift from identifying the characteristics as “minimum critical specifications” to “priority specifications.” Still, experts confirmed the utility of the research, particularly as a starting point and means of accountability for new entrants to the work. The culmination of the narrative review, modified Delphi process, and semi-structured interviews resulted in the operationalization of a new method for uncovering the Field-Identified Priority Specifications of Social Innovations, or FIPSSI process. A detailed description of the FIPSSI process as well as implications for social work research, practice, and policy are presented in this dissertation.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Jennifer H. Wilson


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

200 pgs


Social work

Included in

Social Work Commons