Alternate Version: PDF version (10 pages, 107 KB) 2016-0276-guide_testingassumptions-eng.pdf
OBJECTIVE: TO TEST CURRENT POLICY ASSUMPTIONS ACROSS POTENTIAL SCENARIOS.
This exercise tests the commonly held assumptions embedded in policy against previously developed scenarios. (We assume you are using archetypal scenarios for this exercise, although it could be adapted for other forms of scenarios). In just under 4 hours, a group of 20–25 participants (in a combination of breakout groups and/or plenary sessions) can test approximately 15–20 commonly held assumptions and revise those that don’t seem robust.
- 1 plenary facilitator
- 1 facilitator per breakout group
- 20–25 participants
- 1–2 runners (optional)
- 1 notetaker (optional)
In the plenary room:
- Evaluation form, or 3 sticky notes per person for feedback (optional)
Post on the wall:
- Chart for testing assumptions in plenary (#2)
- A visual agenda (optional)
- Rules of engagement (optional)
- 2 headings on sticky notes (optional): What worked? What could be better?
In each breakout room:
- Approximately 10–12 assumptions
- Fine-tip marker for each participant
- Handouts with chart for testing assumptions
- Projector/computer (preferred to flipcharts)
Post on the wall:
- Chart for testing assumptions in breakout (#1)
- A large room with a blank wall (or computer screen or several flipcharts) to post working chart for testing assumptions.
- Seating for all conducive to both hearing other participants and seeing the wall (or computer screen).
|5 MIN||1. General meeting instructions (if needed)|
|3 hours and 30 min||2. Give context for the assumptions testing exercise (1 min)
3. Provide instructions for the exercise (4 mins)
4. Test assumptions (100 mins) - Break (30 mins)
5. Identify vulnerable assumptions across scenarios (75 mins)
6. Summarize points of assumptions testing exercise (1 min)
|10 MIN||8. Reflect on and/or evaluate the exercise|
EST. TOTAL TIME: 3 hours 45 minutes
BEFORE THE MEETING: WHICH ASSUMPTIONS TO USE?
This activity evaluates the credibility of current policy assumptions in light of the plausible futures described in archetypal scenarios (hereafter referred to as scenarios). You will have generated a list of assumptions at the beginning of the study, in module 2. As the study proceeded, participants may have discovered additional assumptions. (The facilitation team may have noted these as the study progressed by reviewing the results of previous exercises, conducting an additional assumptions exercise, or inviting participants to add to an assumptions document or flip chart “parking lot.”)
The facilitation team will need to consider whether it will be practical and beneficial to assess the full set of assumptions against the study scenarios, or whether the list will need to be reduced to the most important assumptions. (This exercise is designed to assess about 10–12 assumptions in two to three hours. Assessing more would require extending the activity time.) To identify the most important assumptions, the same questions from the assumptions exercise in module 2 can help:
- Which assumptions are most central to policy makers, for the system under study? That is, a lot rides on these assumptions for one or both of the following reasons:
- the assumption underpins the policy context of a lot of issues
- if the assumption turned out to be wrong, it would necessitate a significant adjustment
In some contexts it may be appropriate for project participants to vote for the most important assumptions using an online survey or dot-voting in person; alternatively, it may be preferable for the facilitation team to make this judgment on behalf of the group. Without revealing their results to participants, before the meeting the core facilitation team might also quickly ask themselves:
- Which assumptions could plausibly be disrupted by the kinds of change discussed during this study?
After all, it would be fruitless if all the assumptions were deemed credible when assessed against the range of futures discussed in the scenarios. While this is unlikely, reviewing the assumptions with this question assures the facilitator that the exercise to come will deliver some value.
At the other extreme, it isn’t necessary to simply identify the assumptions that seem like “straw men” (easily rejected).* The facilitator should expect a range of outcomes from the exercise. Participants may deem some assumptions to be clearly vulnerable according to all scenarios. Other assumptions may be deemed vulnerable only under certain scenarios and credible under other scenarios. For some assumptions, the group may be uncertain whether they hold up in a given scenario, indicating a need for more information. Finally, some assumptions may be deemed credible in most or all scenarios. A quick test run of the activity on some assumptions will help the facilitator prepare for the meeting.
Prepare the room
- In each breakout room, ensure that each participant has a chair, writing surface and a clear sightline to the wall. Project or post a list of commonly held assumptions on the wall using as a template the Chart for Testing Assumptions in Breakout Groups (Chart #1). Smaller handouts of the chart can also be provided to participants for ease of reference.
- In the plenary room, project or post on the wall the list of commonly held assumptions using as a template the Chart for Testing Assumptions in Plenary Session (Chart #2).
- For a larger group (e.g. 20–25), seating participants facing each other around a large table(s) can help to ensure all are seen and heard.
- Develop and post in the room any other visual aids that will be referred to in the meeting.
* If the assumptions reversal exercise of module 2 was delivered, those results may also inform this selection of assumptions.
|5 min||1. General meeting introductions (if needed)
2. Give context for the assumptions testing exercise
3. Provide activity instructions
4. Test assumptions in breakout groups
5. Identify vulnerable assumptions across scenarios
|1 min||6. Summarize points of assumptions testing exercise
|10 min||7. Reflect on and/or evaluate the exercise
Building a Foresight Workshop: Complementary Activities to Consider
For facilitators with multiple objectives for a foresight workshop, below is a suggestion that would pair well with the assumptions testing exercise.
Before the exercise
- Revisit a few slides from the Scenarios presentation (specifically on the topic of testing assumptions)