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The Innovation Process
Activity 6.3 C

Track and test assumptions

This activity encourages you to revisit you assumptions log, in order to add new assumptions, and to decide how to best prioritise, track and test these assumptions.

Innovation Assumptions Testing Card

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 a Theory of Change. The TOCAM Lite Analysis tool is designed to create a deeper analysis of the Theory of Change, particularly the assumptions that have been made in creating it.

Together with your project team, use the Innovation Assumptions Testing Card element of the TOCAM tool to identify critical assumptions that your team have made. Once your team 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 to do 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 project 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.