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The Innovation Process
Activity 5.1 B

Review assumptions

This activity is design to facilitate a deeper analysis of your Theory of Change, with a focus on uncovering any assumptions that have been made during the Theory of Change process.

Assumptions Log

Keeping a log for tracking and testing your assumptions will help you to unearth and expose the assumptions of the team and to assess whether those assumptions are reasonable, and how they can be tested or tracked. It is insufficient to just identify assumptions in your Challenge Brief or Theory of Change, and then put it to one side without further review.

Together with your project team, use the Innovation Assumptions Testing Card to identify the critical assumptions that your group have made. Once your group has identified all the assumptions, you should review your Theory of Change and adjust it if necessary. You should then identify which are the most important assumptions and develop an action plan for those assumptions that are deemed to be of high importance. Finally, you should attempt to address three key questions:

  1. What are the assumptions that you can easily test? For example, whether there is cheap internet connectivity in the local area? Identify what assumptions can be tested before the start of any project in order to drastically improve your chances of success.
  2. What are the assumptions that cannot be easily tested, and therefore need to be tracked? For example, whether you will have continual access to the target group for the duration of your pilot? Identify ways to track these over the length of the project, as changes can have serious implications.
  3. What are the most critical assumptions that go beyond project implementation and should be part of your research? You will need to turn these assumptions into hypotheses that you can test through the research. You can do this by applying the formula: “If (assumption) is true, then ………, because ………….”

Logging your assumptions is not a one-off event. After the initial list of assumptions have been identified, categorised and put into a workplan, the workplan then needs to be implemented.

The key to tracking and testing your assumptions is to establish what happens if one of your assumptions proves to be wrong. If this happens, it will require you to change something in your pilot. Using a tracking and testing monitoring sheet, linked to Periodic Reviews is a great way of doing this.

If your assumptions question the validity of your Theory of Change, you will need to establish whether your theory requires modification. In most cases, this exercise will indicate that only part of your theory is incorrect. This will mean that you can carry on with your pilot but will need to ‘pivot’ (change direction). You will need to update your Theory of Change as well as pivoting your implementation, and potentially research plans.