TESTING 123: Pointing Us in the Right Direction

Global Integrity
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In our most recent post , we presented the results of tagging all ideas submitted to TESTING 1 2 3. Organizing submissions by geography, challenge, and approach yielded key trends that have helped to inform a set of pointers for innovators considering to apply in upcoming rounds. Take a look – we hope you find them useful!

Targeting a unique problem is not offering a unique way of addressing it

Almost every submission we received articulated a problem that the innovator behind it wishes to address.  Targeted problems range from subnational transparency issues in local budgets, to poor accountability in national campaign finance, to lack of knowledge sharing within organizations. Many applicants presented unique challenges in sectors and areas that are undoubtedly underreported. While this may well be half the battle to discovering a brand new way of approaching these issues, idea submissions often came short of offering concrete ways of using methods or tools to diagnose or mitigate these challenges,

Considering classic “Aid” criteria for investment?  Stop and reevaluate.

We are not looking for “holistic solutions” or “cures” to challenges, which means that classic criteria for investment, like “sustainability” or “replicability”, are considerations that we are not making. We are looking for proof of concepts – quick testing of hypotheses that will shed light on whether or not the approach employed works in practice. In line with this, we want to know if there is an end goal and that the innovator has thought out the steps to reaching it, as well as understands the assumptions that underlie it.  An end goal that is HUGE, say, “improving governance in Canada” tends to track back to a project intending to be a silver bullet – one that continues to work over a long period of time, can be implemented in varying contexts and has the power to impact impressive numbers of citizens. Presuming to generate these outcomes is a red flag for us.

Jargon, Jargon, Jargon.  We can’t live with it, we can’t live without it.

Use of aid jargon, that which has been generated and propagated over the last 50 years or so – think “empowerment”, “capacity building”, and “livelihoods” – can be indicative of using a lens that we find limiting.  In the same vein, falling into the trap of following newer trends – think “web platforms”, “visualizations”, and “crowdsourcing,” can be tempting but at times, also misguided.

Buzzwords are useful in capturing the attention of the audience of one’s choice. However, our advice to applicants is: if you find yourself using them to explain your core idea, ask yourself why.  We suspect that this will help you determine if you are proposing an idea that you want to, as opposed to what you think others want to hear.  As well, it may help you to assess your own idea as something that is brand new, versus just “newly trendy”.

Think that 6 months is way too little time to execute your project? Assess why.

The assessment may reveal that you are focusing on creating grand impact – holistic solutions to grand scale problems. Or maybe you desire funding for an ongoing longer-term project? Whatever the reason, we want to see ideas that may be pieces to the larger puzzle. Results from your experiment should contribute to a different way of thinking about or doing things. Hence, impact will not be measurable through effects such as large numbers of beneficiaries, but instead on the “a-ha!” moment that your experiment does or doesn’t lead to.

For us, TESTING 1 2 3 is not a “grant giving scheme” where we dish out cash to be able to say we did. It is also not intended to be an advocacy effort to entice everyone to jump on the “cool kids” open government bandwagon.  We want TESTING 1 2 3 to be an opportunity to think beyond what we already know – to pry ourselves away from what’s en vogue, and instead put forth permutations and combinations that we haven’t tried before. Our analysis of submissions helps us to reflect on what we have done and seen thus far – with this, we want to continue refining our work to reach our desired outcomes.  We hope that sharing reflections and pointers above will contribute to getting us there.

–Nicole Anand

— Image Credit: Morguefile.com

Global Integrity
Global Integrity

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