Scaling of Experiments: A Flourishing Fellowship Example

Lifehack is mandated to develop new and innovative approaches that improve youth wellbeing. We iterate and experiment both on a large scale — with programmes such as Labs 2014 or the Massey Wellbeing Challenge, or on a smaller scale, like what we’re discussing in this post: our application process for the Flourishing Fellowship 2.0.

The experiments that Lifehack run are by no means randomised controlled trials (the gold standard of experimentation and research), however our work is informed by a number of research modalities including: Participatory Action Research (we like it because it enables rapid iteration and participation) and Grounded Theory (we like it because it enables emergence) to differing degrees depending upon the experiment set-up and which member of the team is leading the work.

Experimentation is as much about being able to repeat instances to confirm findings from the initial experiment, as it is about continuing with new avenues each time. Something needs to remain constant amidst all of these moving parts, which is why we consider experimentation at different scales.

We experiment at different scales — one example of a large-scale experiment is the Labs 2014 programme where we investigated the role of project-led social labs in a Aotearoa-specific context. This experiment was both resource and time heavy, to read more you can check out the Labs Impact Report. Another large-scale experiment was the Flourishing Fellowship programme which was a further iteration on the Labs programme from the year before (with a few pivots along the way).

Experiment scales: Macro, midi & micro

An example of a midi-experiment is the Lifehack Community Retreat where we explored how to co-create communities. We did this by hosting a weekend-long residential hui where members of the the Lifehack community came together to discuss where to next with this community. Likewise with the Fellowship example, we are refining our business model for this programme by experimenting with our approach to financial sustainability.

What we’re going to dissect in this post is one of the micro-experiments — the application process for the Flourishing Fellowship 2016.

You can read more about how we use experiments to drive insights here, below is an image which gives an overview of our experiment method.

After a powerful inaugural year in 2015, the Flourishing Fellowship is back in a second iteration. The team are still coming to understand the power of the format, so we chose to re-run that macro experiment (ie. the programme) and hone in on some of the more of the midi and micro components of the programme.

What we had learnt from last year during our Te Ao Māori Design Day was the importance of people having the ability to nominate others. This fit beautifully with our ideal participations being the type of humans who “might already be doing extraordinary things in their communities but are too humble to recognise it”. We wanted to test this assumption to see if this process would yield this type of applicant, which in part this experiment sought to understand.

A provocation from Lifehack te ao Māori Design Roundtable, 2015

The first thing we started with was the background to the experiment, the why of what we are doing, the homage to what has gone before and other important details. We iterated on last year’s nomination process by it allocating a greater portion of the advertising budget and having targeted social media advertising and automating elements of our communication process to reduce admin time.

One of the reasons we actively promoted the opportunity to nominate a Fellow

We then came to the hard part— formulating a hypothesis! The only numbers we were sure of at this stage was that eighteen was the minimum and twenty-five was the maximum number of places available on the programme. Through reviewing the numbers from last year (where we had eleven nominations which translated into one successful applicant) we decided to focus in on converting those who are nominated into successful applications, rather than aiming to increase the overall number of nominations.

We deliberately took this approach as Lifehack operates within a high-trust network and we had a hunch that people who we already knew and trusted would nominate people who they knew and trusted — a proxy-trust relationship if you will.
Lifehack’s tuakana, the Enspiral Network
The experiment hypothesis

The team agreed on a few parameters — how the nomination process fed into the overall application process; marketing and communication resourcing and switching from Google Forms across to Typeform Pro. We also agreed that the Lifehack core team could nominate a maximum of two people each, which resulted in three nominations total.

We ditched Google Forms to make way for the snazzy Typeform product.
One of the ways in which we planned to conduct the experiment

We were able to validate this experiment as we saw a total of 17 nominations translate into five successful applications through this nomination process.

The result of this experiment.

As part of our application process we also asked people how they came to know about the programme — over half were recommended to apply by previous Lifehack programme participants.

Through this, we’ve learnt that by inviting people who are already members of the Lifehack community to nominate people who they think would benefit from the programme does the following things -

  • Grows the community of wellbeing ambassadors in emerging areas.
  • Starts a kōrero with people from regions whom we haven’t been in contact with yet through word of mouth.
  • Supports the individual who’s the nominator to build their own flourishing networks.
  • Trust proxies between people, organisations and collectives is something we’re going to investigate further — what might it be like to broaden our youth wellbeing ripple based on trust?

Lucky for us, we have another amazing cohort of people from around Aotearoa convening around improving the lives of young people. To keep up to date follow the Lifehack blog here.