Experiment

Experiment with Projects

Once ideas have been refined, a suitable experiment is devised to test their viability.

A short term project is then run for at least four months to implement the experiment.



Experiment Design

The experiments are designed to be as minimal as necessary to prove that the idea could be worth pursuing. This ensures we don’t expend time and money on large ventures that may not work out.

To help devise an effective experiment, a 10 point questionnaire is used to draw out the important things that need to be considered. The purpose of the questionnaire is to:

  • Focus attention
  • Encourage discussion amongst project team
  • Encourage creative ideas

The answers to the questionnaire are stored for future reference. However, the answers are less important than the creative process of designing an experiment. This process make take a number of sessions or just one, but it should be completed before the project commences.

As a minimum, the questionnaire is completed by the Workstream Champion, and the person/people who will conduct the project, but more contributors are usually helpful in coming up with new ideas.

For larger projects, the inputs to the questionnaire will be gained from workshops, facilitated by the Team Coach.



Questionnaire Description


1. What is the asset you want to make use of?

The asset could be a place or object, which has the potential to be used more effectively, but it could also be an individual or group with skills or knowledge to contribute.


2. How will people in Cheltenham West benefit?

Our scope is the communities that surround our base in Cheltenham West. That is, the communities of Alstone, Arle, Fiddlers Green, Hesters Way, Rowanfield, Springbank, St Mark’s and St Peter’s.


3. How will the financial cost be covered?

The project and any longer term venture should be financially sustainable. This will usually mean that it must contain some way of creating income (although some projects will be run for ‘free’ by volunteers). In the short term, income could be through funding.


4. What is the most dangerous assumption you are making about the success of the venture?

The assumption that the project will succeed is often based on misplaced optimism and it is essential to explicitly identify what assumptions are being made. The most ‘dangerous’ assumption is the one that if it proves false, the whole venture is doomed to failure. For example, a common assumption is that if you launch a product people will definitely buy it.


5. Which group of people is most likely to prove your assumption?

Many groups of people may eventually engage with your asset, but who is the ideal user, the ‘first adopters’ who are most likely to enthuse about it? The more specific the group is, the easier it will be to test out your venture with them. For example, ‘women’ is a group, but ‘women over 60 who like craft’ is more useful.


6. What are the characteristics of this group?

List as many relevant characteristics of the group as you can. This is mostly guesswork of course, but that is ok, as the experiment will reveal how accurate your analysis is.

Consider things like: habits, needs, wants, opportunities, where they go, what they do, outlook, attitudes, etc

7. In what ways is this group already receiving the benefit from Q2 (if at all)?

What other things are available that provide some aspects of the benefits you intend to provide?


8. What is the easiest experiment you can run to prove that your (Q4) assumption is correct in relation to this group?

If this group of early adopters don’t prove your assumption, eg buy your product, then it is highly unlikely anyone else will. Other experiments can be run later, but what can be easily set up and run within 4mths to test out your most dangerous assumption?

Consider the first experiment you think of and then try to make it smaller. Check at the end that it still actually will provide a good test that the assumption is valid/invalid.


9. What metric will be used to assess whether the experiment passes or fails?

No more than 3 primary metrics should be used. The metric should be clear and measurable. Imagine you are at the Pivot or Persevere meeting in 4mths time and the metric results are presented – would you know what success looks like? Typical metrics would be how many people engaged with your project and/or paid for it.


10. What is the name of your experiment?

Name the experiment something appropriate that sums up what it is trying to achieve, in no more than 5 words.

This will help identify it in future, but will also help ensure that everyone completing the questionnaire understands the experiment.



Example Completed Questionnaire


1. What is the asset you want to make use of?

A small group of enthusiastic of local people who want to build community

2. How will people in Cheltenham West benefit?

The group will run social activities in Cheltenham West that will reduce social isolation and provide opportunities for community members to develop their talents

3. How will the financial cost be covered?

External funding will provide a wage for a project coordinator. The activities will be run by volunteers and each event will be self-funding.

4. What is the most dangerous assumption you are making about the success of the venture?

That there are enough people in Cheltenham West who are willing to run such a group.

5. Which group of people is most likely to prove your assumption?

Local people who are already fairly engaged in the community.

6. What are the characteristics of this group?

Mostly older, fewer commitments with eg family. Part of local groups/churches. Enthusiastic about community building. Like to be social. Hidden talents.

7. In what ways is this group already receiving the benefit from Q2 (if at all)?

Existing community organisations, eg HWRC, Living Room, Hesters Way Baptist. Not necessarily as much encouragement to run new activities.

8. What is the easiest experiment you can run to prove that your (Q4) assumption is correct in relation to this group?

Develop a programme of training and coaching for local volunteers, to enable them to use their talents to run projects that benefit their community.

9. What metric will be used to assess whether the experiment passes or fails?

No of weekly meetings organised by Team – Target = 1pw

New volunteers added – Target = 2 per period

10. What is the name of your experiment?

Community Activities Team Support


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