Experimentation Works (EW)

Experimentation Works (EW) is a Government-of-Canada initiative to build public servants’ capacity in experimentation skills and practice through a learning-by-doing model that supports and showcases 5 small-scale experiments in the open. EW seeks to generate practical examples of experiments and ensure open access to learning materials, progress updates and results for broad impact. It works by connecting project teams with each other, and with experts in a open-by-default “cohort model."

Innovation Summary

Innovation Overview

The Government of Canada has an ambitious agenda for experimenting with new approaches and measuring what works to support evidence-based decision-making and instilling a culture of rigorous experimentation into government. Despite a range of separate efforts, the government’s vision for rigorous experimentation exceeds both the level-of-readiness across the public service (see challenges below) and the number and type of resources dedicated to support and enable departments and agencies to advance this work. As a result, there has been a risk that the Government of Canada commitment to build capacity and connect experimentation with evidence-based decision-making will not be met. Specific challenges include lack of understanding (e.g. difference between innovation and experimentation), lack of known examples of experimentation, lack of capacity and access to expertise, lack of training, lack of open sharing and reporting, lack of horizontal networks, and lack of supporting resources. Amidst these challenges, there are inspiring examples and lessons to learn from: how the Canadian federal policy innovation community has evolved and matured over the past five years; how leading-edge countries are embracing experimentation, and how our current Canadian public service is embracing a collaborative, open, agile, and action-oriented approach to learning and doing.

This is why the learning-by-doing experimentation model called Experimentation Works (EW) was born. This initiative combined the creation and broad dissemination of a series of modules and other supportive tools and resources with a unique “experimenting in the open” approach. EW builds public servants’ capacity in experimentation skills and practice through a unique learning-by-doing model designed to support and showcase 5 small-scale experiments ran by- and for- public servants. By showcasing and supporting department-led experiments from start to finish, EW seeks to build capacity and practical understanding related to the value and process of experimentation, while generating new examples of federal experiments and ensuring open access to related learning modules, progress updates and results for broad impact.

EW has have four distinct phases, as briefly described below:
(1) SETUP phase is where the validation and formalization of partnerships (i.e. participating departments) and any
relevant contracting/contribution agreements. This is also where we create and curate training modules and resources with experts internal to government. Finally, the experimentation selection process and creation of EW teams happens during this phase.

(2) EXPERIMENT phase is the onboarding and customization of training for EW teams. The execution of department-run experiments (define, design, run and evaluate) with support from the core EW team and the EW experts.

(3) RESULTS phase is all about plain-language results blogging on individual experiments. This happens throughout the experiment phase as well. This phase is also where the high-level reporting on EW process as a whole takes place.

(4) IMPACT phase is where departments conduct a six-month post-mortem (e.g. blog post) on their EW experiment(s) and publicly share what they learned, what changes they may be making based on the results of this experiment (e.g. follow-up experiment, invest in building more internal capacity) and impacts, if any, on decision-making.

What does success look like?

●Showcase and support concrete experiments to illustrate what experimentation is, what it takes to run an experiment, the value of
experimentation, and Canada’s commitment to an experimental and evidence-based government.

● Provide hands-on training to a specific cohort of public servants through a
process that will support taking action, problem-driven and rigorous
experimentation, learning by doing, partnerships, and open government.

● Provide open-access training to all public servants through the development of
learning modules on the experimental process available to everyone.

● Build networks of capacity across the federal government by developing a
cohort of public servants who would gain practical experimentation experience,
taking inspiration from other cohort development models

Innovation Description

Innovation Development

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Year: 2018
Level of government: National/Federal government


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