Experimental spaces

Creating an experimental space for innovation is a means to both encourage innovation and to reduce the associated risks. If an activity is clearly identified as experimental, expectations of its success are managed and, indeed, allows for clearer and easier permission to fail. Such spaces or programs should have clear guidelines and operating frameworks. They are more likely to be effective if given specific projects or problems to investigate.

Experimental spaces can take a number of forms and will vary between contexts. For example, in the IT industry there is the concept of sandboxing. The sandbox is a testing environment in which experimentation can occur without affecting the production environment.

Opportunities exist for agencies to collaborate with each other in such spaces to work on cross-agency problems.

Experimental spaces may be particularly useful for the co-creation of innovations with stakeholders, clients and citizens. They allow for a more open approach to testing new ideas without the innovation being seen as having official endorsement.

Agencies may otherwise wish to look at areas where they are already receiving criticism and in which it is considered to be failing. The risks of innovating in those areas are likely to be less, even if not ‘safe’.