Humanitarian Advancement Through Technology June 1 - 4 th, 2014

Tutorial-5 D1.4


Tutorial: “Failure happens, Fail forward!” an Engineers Without Borders-Canada Venture

PRESENTER: Ashley Good, Founder and CEO of Fail Forward, Head of Failure at Engineers Without Borders Canada


It is rare for new ideas and insights to turn into successful programs on the first try. Even tested approaches don’t always go as planned. Failure happens. The question is: How do we fail intelligently? How do we create space for innovation, build resilience, and harness the productive potential of our failures?

In this session, participants will explore what intelligent failure means in their context, participate in hands-on, interactive activities and engage and learn with peers to discover easy ways to apply intelligent failure practices that align with organizational needs. Participants will walk away with tangible skills, insights and actions that help them, and their organizations, fail better.

After a year in Cairo with the UN Environment Programme and another in Ghana with Engineers Without Borders Canada, Ashley knew it was time for some bold new approaches to solve some of our toughest challenges. She saw amazing people whose creativity and potential for learning was stifled due to risk aversion and fear of failure. And so she returned to Toronto to start Fail Forward in 2011 and remains focused on helping organizations use failure as a catalyst for learning and innovation.
Before launching Fail Forward, Ashley worked in Cairo with the United Nations Environment Programme and as a management consultant in Vancouver, Canada. In both lines of work, Ashley saw a fear of failure inhibit innovation, adaptation, and general growth. In response, she launched both and the consulting firm, Fail Forward, to spark a shift in how civil society perceives and talks about failure, and to help organizations learn, innovate and build resilience.

Ashley has spent the past three years working with a range of organizations from donors and foundations to not-for-profits and private sector companies to use failure as a learning tool and culture driver to support and foster innovation. She is well known for building the Organizational Learning Team at Engineers Without Borders Canada, and continuing to lead the development of their annual Failure Report.

Her work on failure has received coverage in a wide range of media and news outlets, including the  Stanford Social Innovation ReviewThe Guardian, Harvard University’s Hauser Center for NonProfit OrganizationsTED talksBBC World, The New York Times , The Wall Street JournalThe Globe and Mail and, most recently in interview with Arlene Dickinson on CBC.  Ashley was also the 2013 recipient of the prestigious Harvard Business Review and McKinsey Innovating Innovation Award.