Purpose: Prototypes are an early draft of what the final result of a product or service might look like, which means that they often go through several iterations based on the feedback generated from stakeholders. This feedback is then the basis for refining the concept and its underlying assumptions. A prototype is a practical and tested mini version of what later could become a pilot project that can be shared and eventually scaled.

Materials: Social Innovation/Prototyping slide deck, flip-chart paper, markers, props for table-top prototyping, enough space for each team

Time: 20 minute teach, plus 90 - 180 minutes to allow groups to mock up their first prototype (you may want to give them more time later to iterate)

Step one: Do teach on Prototyping. Explain to participants that prototyping is a fast, low-cost, low-risk, learning-rich approach to surface and test promising responses to tough challenges. Prototyping precedes, rather than replaces, conventional pilot projects. Unlike pilots, where a promising intervention is ‘fixed’ for a longer period of time and assessed through evaluative techniques, prototyping can be used to quickly and inexpensively develop and test ideas that may warrant eventual pilot testing. In some unusual cases, the results of prototype tests may be sufficiently robust that innovators can skip a full-fledged pilot study altogether.


  • Will help you learn from others and build on your existing knowledge

  • Make ideas tangible

  • Is not done in isolation

  • Should fail

  • If they aren’t failing, they aren’t pushing far enough

  • Connect you to users

  • Can help you (re)define the problem

Step two: Introduce the different types of prototypes. Explain that prototypes can be done with paper, space, role play, a storyboard, digitally, or tabletop. Invite participants to explore these different formats to discover which might work best for them. If they are having difficulty choosing a format, prompt them to try one and see if it works.

Step three: Ensure that teams have chosen a format and are beginning to build their prototype. Give them a good hour to work through the logistics of the idea they generated and to transfer it to a tangible prototype. Have them revisit the questions from point seven of step six from the Ideation guide to deepen the detail and nuance of their prototype. This hour could also be used doing a bit of preliminary research on what has been done in the past, or collecting elementary feedback (if users are close by).

Step four: Invite teams to present and receive feedback on their prototype. Two teams pair up, one team presents their prototype to the other for 5 mins, and then the other team provides feedback in the form of questions for 5 mins. Inform the presenting team that they cannot defend their prototype or answer questions - they are simply to write down the feedback questions they are receiving from their peers, in order to be able to address it in the next iteration of their prototype.

Step five: Have teams integrate the feedback they received from their peers into the next version of their prototype. Underscore the importance of iteration, and the fact that they will need to create iteration after iteration of their prototype before it moves to a pilot. Even at the end of the workshop, what they will have created will be a 0.8 prototype.

Step six: Before the end of the session, make sure to give teams 30-40 minutes to create a demo version of their prototype. Explain that they will need to put it in front of their users the next day, and use it to explain their concept or idea. Therefore, it needs to be as clear and clean as possible. Encourage them to label components and actors on their prototype.

Step seven: In their teams, have participants reflect on the following questions:

  • What was challenging about your prototyping experience?

  • What new possibilities might prototyping create for you?

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