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Classifying progress in rural water experiments

This tool provides guidance on a systematic approach to experimenting with innovative solutions to water problems.

What it is?

An innovation typically goes through several phases, before it is fully scaled up. In each of those phases, different questions regarding the effectiveness and efficiency of the innovation need to be answered. 

Why it is important?

It is important to follow such a systematic process, in order to assess whether an innovation is indeed able to address identified problems, and whether it is actually cost-effective. This is necessary in order to avoid spending lots of resources on a pilot that will afterwards have limited scalability.

How does it work?

The phases in the innovation process include

  • Phase 0: Understanding and 'socialising' the problem. Phase 0 is considered a success if it leads to a clear articulation of a problem, which generates awareness among stakeholders and contributes to a deeper understanding of the problem. New ideas may emerge, which may require further experimentation or study.
  • Phase 1: Proof of concept. An innovation passes this phase if the concept has been articulated in a consistent manner and if all theoretical considerations point to the innovation being feasible. Key outputs include detailed technical descriptions, a financial analysis and a business model for the innovation. A prototype of the innovation should demonstrate its feasibility.
  • Phase 2: Limited piloting. An innovation succeeds in this phase if robust evidence is obtained on the outcomes, impacts and costs of the innovation and the requirements to make the innovation work.
  • Phase 3: Full scale roll-out. Innovations that are applied (almost) nation-wide and for multiple years can be considered fully scaled-up. In this phase, the users of the innovation (for example local government) take the lead in supporting its roll-out. Costs and impacts of application of the innovation at scale are known.
  • 'More research' ideas, which can be developed into further research into specific parts of the problem.
  • 'No experiment needed'. Sometimes actions are deemed not to require an experiment, for example because the cost of conducting an experiment would be higher than simply implementing the innovation.

For each of these phases some guiding questions are posed, that are considered of relevance when promoting certain innovations.

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