Diving Into Experimentation

With the fourth of July holidays approaching, summer is here, and we’re diving head first into the  experimentation phase of  Future Forward.

This experimentation phase builds off the stimulating conversations and the plethora of ideas developed during our May 15th Innovation Challenge kick-off, where our Future Forward team and guests drew on the previous three month’s exploration into muscles and mindsets that support high-performance group work. It was a generative and productive kick-off.

Now in order to really make good on the promise of this kickoff, and follow Forward Together’s leadership as A Think Tank that Acts, we’re launching an experiment phase to test our ideas in lean ways.  The goal of the experimentation phase is to rapidly test these and other ideas that may emerge, and to quickly build up our learning about how we may or may not generate resources in a different way. Experiments that fail are a hallmark of success assuming that we learn from these experiments, adapt, and keep testing.



A low-hanging fruit experiment that’s already under way is called “Turning the Tables.” Two weeks ago a team of six came together in Stage 0 and clarified our idea (that through coordination of existing Forward Together funders we can find both more efficient and effective ways to meet the needs of the movement as well as the funding community). A simple and lean way to test the water for this idea was to examine the time that select Future Forward Funders and Eveline Shen have spent with each other since Future Forward, as this has itself been an experiment in coordination. We’re now in Stage 2, and have collected calendar data from  Dec 1, 2013 – May 31, 2015 from 4 participating funders and Eveline Shen. Next we’ll analyze this data and determine what we’ve learned about how, if at all, the existence of this shared funder space has shifted the time Forward Together spends with participating funders. True to the values of rapid experimentation, this is a quick little experiment, analyzing a change that already happened, and we will be moving right along to stage 3 on Friday, July 11th at 11am-12:30pmPST. If you’d like to join, please let us know!


Welcome and Framing


But we’re not limiting ourself to just one experiment. We’ve created open-source tools and templates, and welcome any group or individual to join our growing circle and jump-in to the experimentation with us. For more details about how we’re supporting these experiments, and how to advance an idea, check out the experiment phase website page.

By the end of this two-month experimentation phase, we don’t expect to have scored a 10 off the high dive or found the “right idea”. We are working to learn about the advantages of rapid, collaborative experimentation to tackle complex challenges, to build a rhythm around experimentation with a community of stakeholders interested in innovating, and to advance our understanding of this complex resourcing challenge. In addition, by the end of this “summer of rapid-experimentation” we hope to have a more accurate gauge on what the water temperature is and what resources would be necessary to create breakthrough innovations.

We believe the core challenge at the heart of this work is far too complex for any one of us to understand; the more people thinking and learning with us around these challenges the better chance we have of unlocking new solutions. This is why we’ll be sharing our progress throughout the summer here, and in a special Facebook group for any interested in getting their hands dirty. Don’t hesitate to reach out right here in the comments if you have any questions, or want to experiment and learn with us in the coming months!



Special thanks to Alison Lin for her help in developing this post, and her active leadership and participation from the beginning of this experiment. Her passion for both this movement, and the power of experimentation, have been contagious and a real treat to work alongside.

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