Test and Learn

The Term “Test and Learn” is used by many different organisations and can mean a variety of things. The National Lottery Community Fund used it when inviting applications to the Fulfilling Lives: Ageing Better fund and BAB has been using it through Invitations to Tender. But what does it mean?

The basic idea of ‘Test and Learn’ is solving a challenge and finding a solution through trial and error. Your challenge might be a need for more service users or not enough money, but how do you solve it? You may have found a few possible solutions but which will work the best and how can you improve it?

Using a test and learn approach means that you might pick one or two of the most likely models, analyse their progress and improve the idea based on your learning.


We commissioned 16 Test and Learn pilots for the Group Work and Peer Support projects to run for 12 months. During the period, we receiving regular updates from the Delivery Partners, have honest conversations about what is working, and decide together how we can improve elements that aren’t working as well. This period allows us to be better informed before commissioning larger scale projects or before expanding delivery into other areas.  

The Big Lottery Fund consider the whole of Bristol Ageing Better a Test and Learn project, an opportunity to test a range of ideas within a City, analyse and learn from these projects before improving and repeating the process. This fits into one of the aims of BAB which is to create a suite of Best Practice projects that can be replicated across Bristol and interest future funders through evidence developed during the programme.

As more funding opportunities are released through BAB, I encourage you to consider Test and Learn when writing your bid. Think about how you would like to deliver the project but also be prepared (and willing!) to make changes as you review your progress. This isn’t about finding out what went wrong, but it is about finding solutions that make the project better. 

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