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Prototyping and Pilots

Once a promising idea has been proposed, it then needs to be tested in practice. Ideas develop through trial and error, and constant refinement. It’s very rare for an idea to emerge fully formed. There are many methods in use for testing ideas out and refining them, ranging from the formal methods of randomised control trials to pilots and experiments. Social entrepreneurs often dive into practice and hope to learn quickly without using formal evaluations or tests, and one of the common themes of contemporary social innovation is that it often works best by moving quickly into practice, rather than spending too long developing detailed plans and strategies. This section also looks at various funding tools for emerging ideas and prototypes.

Prototypes, pilots and trials

As an idea progresses from proof of concept testing through multiple stages of rapid prototyping, there are a raft of challenges: the feasibility of making the product, delivering the service, how one would deal with particular issues or pinch-points, what the economics look like and how it could be cheapened. The driving principles at this stage are speed, keeping costs low, tangibility and feedback loops from users and specialists.