This inventory is about how you can use experiments to solve public and social problems. It aims to provide a framework for thinking about the choices available to a government, funder or delivery organisation that wants to experiment more effectively. We aim to simplify jargon and do some myth-busting on common misperceptions.
There are other guides on specific areas of experimentation – such as on randomised controlled trials – including many specialist technical textbooks. This is not a technical manual or guide about how to run experiments. Rather, this inventory is useful for anybody wanting a jargon-free overview of the types and uses of experiments. It is unique in its breadth – covering the whole landscape of social and policy experimentation, including prototyping, rapid cycle testing, quasi-experimental designs, and a range of different types of randomised trials. Experimentation can be a confusing landscape – and there are competing definitions about what constitutes an experiment among researchers, innovators and evaluation practitioners. We take a pragmatic approach, including different designs that are useful for public problem-solving, under our experimental umbrella. We cover ways of experimenting that are both qualitative and quantitative, and highlight what we can learn from different approaches.
This inventory draws on lessons from a broad range of experimenters – professionals in charities, change-makers in frontline services, researchers in academic institutes, and decision-makers in government – who are pioneering the use of experiments to create better solutions to the challenges of the twenty-first century.