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The Innovation Process
Activity 5.2 A

Determine learning objectives

This activity introduces categories of evidence that can be used to understand the depth of research required to meet learning objectives.

Research and learning activities are carried out for a variety of purposes and will be presented to different audiences to inform their decisions. Different learning objectives have different purposes and will require different research methods. The table below introduces categories that are helpful for structuring your thinking.

Objective Function Purpose
Comparative Improvement To measure the performance of your solution against the current methods of addressing the problem on measures such as efficiency, effectiveness, quality and impact. Proving that your solution is better than any of the current alternatives, and that it should therefore be adopted by others, receive further funding and be scaled.
Demonstrable Impact To confirm the degree to which your intervention is leading to positive outcomes for end users and/or target groups and if there are any adverse or unintended negative consequences. Proving that your solution has an impact on the target group. This enables you to ethically carry on implementing the solution and potentially scale it.
Coverage, Reach, Functionality To learn whether your solution is reaching its target group or functioning in the way it is intended, according to your design criteria. Ensuring that the solution is, at least, delivering the basics. This establishes the feasibility of your solution.
Project Performance To assess how well the intervention is being managed, in line with the overall goals and objectives of your project. Monitoring the pilot and establishing its ease of implementation.
Lessons Learned To generate consolidated learning about your experience for wider uptake within the sector (what works, what doesn’t and why). Understanding successes and failures for the purpose of both internal and external learning, and demonstrating responsible practice.

You will first need to determine and prioritise the objectives that will define your research and learning agenda so that you can properly orient this workstream. Discuss in your team what learning objectives you might have and then map them against the categories in the table.

Carrying out this task will give you an initial sense of what you are trying to prove, and to whom you are trying to prove it too. You should also revisit any outputs from the Starting Point Assessment in the Recognition stage which may include useful information on local contexts, past and existing efforts, and locally-relevant user needs.

The standard of evidence required is different for different learning objectives. Some learning objectives require a high level of rigor; for example, demonstrable impact demands externally-verifiable data that demonstrates a cause-and-effect relationship. But other learning objectives require lower levels of rigor; for example, coverage, reach and functionality calls only for descriptive information about project performance indicators.

We call this ‘evidentiary requirements’, ie, the level of evidence required for proof for each category.In short, higher evidence standards (eg, higher quality, reliability, robustness, accuracy, and precision of data) are required to make claims about causal impact, or improvements over existing solutions, whereas lower evidence standards are required for reporting on coverage, functionality, project implementation, and lessons learned.

Making the case for further investment in your innovation and for its wider adoption is clearly more difficult than recording and reporting performance metrics. Once you have determined your learning objectives, you will need  to assess the evidentiary standards you will need reach in order to meet that objective. This will be necessary to inform your choice of research approaches, methods and techniques.