Testing your project plans

Here are some methods that you can use to test your project plans or ideas. Some of them are easy and cheap to do, others require more time, effort and costs.

What you need to do: 

Choose the method(s) that best suit your schedule and skills:

  • Self as the target group: Can you apply the intervention to yourself? Your family, your workplace? Try ‘taking your own medicine’ and record your reactions/any problems as carefully as possible.
  • ‘Friendly users’: Do you know some people who belong to the target group? Describe your plans to them in as much detail as possible and ask for their comments. Ask them not to be polite!
  • Expert users: Do you know any associations representing your target group? Describe your plans to them in as much detail as possible and ask for their comments. Ask them not to be polite!
  • Focus group discussions: Invite a group of people (whom you preferably do not know personally) from the target group to discuss your plans. Present your intervention design. Ask them to comment from their own perspective, but also from the perspective of other people that they know who belong to the target group. See Tools for small-scale research for how to organise a focus group discussion.
  • Workshops and meetings: Invite your target group to comment on your ideas and find ways to improve them.  Make sure you present your ideas in detail, and set an agenda for the workshop so comments are well-focused. Ideally, you could have a group of users committed to giving feedback at multiple stages when developing your plans.
  • Small-scale pilot: Can you start your project on a small scale, and try various solutions with a smaller group of people? If so, remember to evaluate honestly every part of the intervention, and make sure you can respond to needs for changing your project.

Remember to make notes of the comments and ideas you get! Remember to tell people how you will use their feedback!

When does it work?: 
  • Testing your ideas is good for identifying weak points in your plans. It is not a guarantee that everything will work as planned.
  • Testing your ideas, however, can also build up confidence and help you interact with your target group on the 'real' project.
What do you need to look out for: 

Remember that you are not getting feedback from your entire target group! Your test might highlight weak points, but won't ensure your project will work as planned.

► If you can't engage your 'real' target group but e.g. friendly users, be aware of the differences.

► Even with a test group from your 'real' target group, remember this is only one viewpoint.

► People may not be able to imagine the 'real' situation - even if an idea is acceptable on paper, it might create problems in real life.

► A pilot is the best test of 'real-life' projects. However, small-scale pilots will not show all the complexities related to implementation on a larger scale.