Trials ‘on the street’
As the point is to gain actual experience about the isssue or opportunity being trialled, it’s very important that Beta Projects are trialled as soon as possible in ‘the real world’. This avoids staff and citizens purely discussing theories and assumptions and helps move the discussion onwards onto actual experiences and feedback.
Where they’re trialled will naturally enough depend on the type of issue or opportunity being looked at. For example if a better type of street light was being trialled, the trial would take place on a real street somewhere in Dublin City. However if a trial was about whether we should use LED lighting within our offices, then the trial would take place within Dublin City Council offices.
So it’s important that trials are trialled within the ‘real world’, but of course that necessitates an approach to managing risk that accompanies such an approach.
To manage risk/unknowns we use two simple rules:
(Note: “Risk” here means “amount unknown” as opposed to other frequently-used interpretations such as “risking people’s lives” or such.)
1. Are we trialling a new concept?
- Are we trialling a new policy, permission, or procedure? (We call these Beta Projects macro.)
- Or are we trialling whether we should implement an existing policy, permission, procedure at a particular location? (We call these Beta Projects micro.)
2. How large is the chance of potential negative impact as a result of the trial?
- Health and safety
- Impact on lives or livelihoods
- Potential damage to the trial
- Various other potential negative impacts
- The first type (Beta Projects macro) have more ‘unknowns’ and so are riskier.
- There is therefore also the greatest need to maximize the potential for learning by City Council staff in particular.
- Also because it’s usually a citywide concept that such trials involve, chances are there will be a very large number of places in which you could carry out your physical trial.
Combining these three aspects, it suggests that it makes a lot of sense to locate Beta Projects macro as close as possible to the City Council staff involved in the trial to allow them to much more easily keep an eye on it, and also increase their chance of seeing unexpected outcomes (whether positive or negative) that real world trials often create.
(Beta Projects macro will be often trialled close to Dublin City Council’s Civic Offices.)
As Beta Projects micro as less unknown, and are also about implementing existing policy as specific solutions for specific places, they’re trialled at the relevant location.
For all trials, there is a further opportunity to manage risk by choosing whether trials are located at very quiet (lower risk but also lower rates of feedback), or at very busy (higher risk but higher rates of feedback) locations.
A street corner signs Beta Project – where should something like that be trialled?
Such a project would be looking at new policy, procedure or permissions, and so would be a Beta Project macro. Therefore carry out the trial somewhere close to the City Council staff involved so that they can regularly watch how it works and how people use it.
However the chances of a street sign Beta Project having negative impact on people or the area around is slim. Therefore pick a busy location so that the chances of public interaction and feedback would be maximized.
Therefore somewhere like one of the street corners in Temple Bar could be a good location. (Dublin City Council’s Civic Office can be seen in the background – about 2 minutes walk from this spot.)