Help Shape a Social R&D Prototype Evaluation Guide

Getting More Systematic in Prototype Evaluation: An Opportunity to Contribute

SI Canada and Mark Cabaj (Here to There Consulting) are developing an evaluation prototype guide to help social innovators 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 are either 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, but still somewhat patchy in the range of issues they cover and generally don’t address deeper evaluation issues.

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 over 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
  • be a reference point for SI 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 and 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.

  • Step 1: Read through an existing evaluation framework (aka Guide 1.0) and respond to a simple on-line survey of what you like and not like about it, and your ideas of how to improve it.
  • Step 2: Participate in a 60-90-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 Guide 2.1 with your innovation and social R&D colleagues. Complete a survey to share your thoughts on the strengths and limitations of Guide 2.1.
  • Step 4: Participate in a 60-90-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 Guide 2.2 with your innovation and social R&D colleagues. 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 (Optional): 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.
  • Step 7 (Optional): Participate in SI Canada’s ongoing communities of practice, which will draw upon the Guide and other tools, and possibly lead to more resource development.


Get in Touch

Interested in getting involved? Please contact Annelies Tjebbes