Help Shape a Social R&D Prototype Evaluation Guide

Getting More Systematic in Prototype Evaluation: An Opportunity to Contribute

Social Innovation Canada and Mark Cabaj (Here to There Consulting) are developing a guide to assist social innovators evaluate the prototypes that they use to develop and test promising ideas.

Would you like to help shape this resource? Keep reading!

Why a Guide?

Developing and testing prototypes is a foundational process for Social R&D. Prototypes are “rough” expressions of an idea: e.g. a poster board, a working model, a role-playing simulation of a service. The prototyping process can assist social innovators to:

  1. Better design and communicate their innovative idea and
  2. Evoke and gather feedback on that idea from key stakeholders (e.g. beneficiaries, users, funders, partners, etc.).

Prototypes are the “small bets” that social innovators make in order to determine if they want to make “bigger bets” to develop a pilot or even scale an idea.

Despite the increase in Social R&D activities across Canada, there are very few resources to help practitioners evaluate the prototypes that emerge from the work. The ones that do exist have largely been developed for manufacturing or software sectors (the birthplace of prototyping), and do not reflect the different types of ideas that emerge to address social issues (e.g. human services, policy proposals, new forms of social interaction).

The more recent resources that have focused on social issues, such as “lean start-up” for social change and “human-centered design,” are far more relevant to Social R&D and offer some useful tools (e.g. a planning worksheet), but are still somewhat patchy in the range of issues they cover and generally don’t address deeper evaluation issues (e.g. How much evidence is enough to make a decision about whether to proceed with a prototype after testing?).

Social Innovation Canada wants to help fill the gap.

The Invitation

We invite you to participate in a time-limited SI Canada working group to develop a Guide for Social Research & Development Practitioners – and their evaluators – to evaluate the prototypes that emerge out of their Social R&D efforts. 

The Guide will:

  • build on the few existing resources on evaluating prototypes to address complex issues;
  • be informed by the latest examples, techniques and resources of social prototype evaluation in Canada including direct feedback and experiences from social R&D practitioners and social innovators;
  • be written and produced by Mark Cabaj (Here to There Consulting Inc.);
  • be an open source resource, under Creative Commons License, that the public can use and adapt as they see fit; and
  • be a reference point for Social Innovation Canada’s various communities of practice

Out of Scope

  • Guidance on how to facilitate prototyping
  • The evaluation of pilot projects, an experimental process that often – but not always – follows prototyping

Who Should Get Involved?

We are looking for people that have some experience in prototyping ideas that address complex issues in Canada and who would like to be more systematic in how they evaluate their efforts. These may be facilitators of group processes, managers of innovation labs, funders, policy makers, and evaluators.

Participation at a Glance

Working Group members are asked to commit to a minimum of 5 out of a 7 steps in developing, launching and using the Guide.

Orientation | First week of September
Participate in a 30-minute orientation session on the intent of Guide, its approach, and how you can be involved in the Working Group.

Step 1: Review | Early September
Read through an existing evaluation framework (aka Guide 1.0) and respond to a simple online survey of what you like and not like about it, and your ideas of how to improve it.

Step 2: Meet | September 11
Participate in a 90-minute Working Group meeting to (1) review and discuss your feedback on Guide 1.0, and (2) respond to a concrete set of features for the next iteration of the Guide 2.0.

Step 3: Review | Late September
Review Guide 2.1 with your innovation and social R&D colleagues and complete a survey to share your thoughts on the strengths and limitations of Guide 2.1.

Step 4: Meet | October 9
Participate in a 90-minute Working Group meeting to (1) review and discuss your feedback for improvements on Guide 2.1, as well as (2) respond to a concrete set of features for Guide 2.2.

Step 5: Review | Late October
Review Guide 2.2 with your innovation and social R&D colleagues and complete a survey to share your thoughts on the strengths and limitations of the Guide, and how it can be improved to make a final Guide 2.3.

Step 6: Meet | November 13
Participate in a 90-minute Working Group meeting to provide final feedback on the Guide 2.4, and prepare for the launch in December.

Step 7: Launch (Optional) | December 11
Participate in a 60-minute formal launch of the Guide, which will include a panel of working group members who will reflect on if and how they will use it in their work.

Get Involved

Interested in getting involved? Please contact Annelies Tjebbes at She will sign you up as a working group member, provide you with a more detailed schedule of meeting dates, and invite you to participate in the orientation call.

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