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There are a variety of different ways that this can be done. It could be done in advance of a workshop by the content leads/hosts to help focus prioritization work in a certain direction.

It could be done during the workshop itself, if the participants’ co-creating different prioritization criteria is a helpful input to the process. The key part of this technique is to get clear on who will make the evaluation criteria, what factors they will use to make them, and then what evaluation criteria you will use to guide you through the process. It is important to do this very carefully, as it can either continue to support creative, generative thinking and work even as ideas are being evaluated, or it can clamp down on the creative process too early if the criteria are too constraining.

How It Works

1. Develop some possible criteria to sort the ideas for solutions that have been generated. Here are some examples of types of criteria to consider, and keep in mind that different criteria will be more or less important in different contexts. If you are developing these in advance, or co-creating them in a workshop, the process is the same.

  • Systems change criteria - potential to create ripple effects and catalyze systems change

  • Innovation criteria — potential to be a game-changer

  • Stretch criteria - potential to challenge and stretch current thinking and practice

  • Lab criteria - requires a social innovation, experimentation, and learning- oriented lab process to progress this idea, i.e. it wouldn’t be explored otherwise

  • User criteria — potential to fit with the needs and wants of users on the ground, in the real world.

  • Efficacy criteria — potential for progress toward solving the problem.

  • Implementation criteria — potential to initiate, scale.

  • Economic criteria — potential benefit exceeds potential cost.

  • Agency criteria - potential for actors involved to do something of impact

  • Timeliness criteria - potential for significant progress on this idea at this time

  • Enabling conditions criteria - potential for the necessary supports, resources, permissive space, time, and other enabling conditions to be in place


2. Once you’ve developed your long list of potential criteria, choose 2-5 that are the most important for the prioritization work that needs to happen at this moment, to help work sorting the ideas that have been generated.

3. Communicate and explain these to one another, whether they have been generated in advance or co-created in the workshop. It’s important that everyone interprets them in the same way as you move into applying them. 

4. Check back on them after you’ve started applying them to make sure they are providing a useful frame for your work. If not, take a pause and adjust as needed.

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