“Informal economies are society’s sandbox, where early experimentation can take place freely. In the same way that thoughtless acts inspire us to rethink products and services, the way people conduct everyday business outside traditional legal frameworks forces us to rethink entire societies. Free from political and institutional constraints, informal entrepreneurs can respond to needs on the ground and challenge the status quo. Their patterns of innovation are particularly hard to replicate in formal organizations because they also tend to innovate out of necessity.
This is why informal economies are the world’s biggest opportunity for design research, and yet we walk right by them every day.”
Posts in category 'Emerging markets'
Every time we return to or sign up for an Internet service (e.g. Facebook, Google, Gmail, YouTube, etc.), writes Hassan Baig on TechCrunch, we rely on what UX experts call a “mental model” for navigating through the choices.
“A mental model is essentially a person’s intuition of how something works based on past knowledge, similar experiences and common sense. So even when something is new, mental models help to make sense of it, utilizing the human brain’s ability to transcode knowledge and recognize patterns.
For instance, most of our grandparents can hit the ground running with changing the channel or increasing the volume when handed the remote control for the latest television available in the market today, squarely because of a well-developed mental model for TV remote control units.
But our grandparents may not have the same level of success when using Internet services, smartphones or tablets. Under-developed mental models in these domains are their primary obstacles. In fact, according to Pew Research, 41 percent of American senior citizens do not use the Internet at all.
So can teaching them how to use basic Internet services create the right mental models and alleviate the problem? It’s a step in the right direction, but there are other barriers at play.”
Earlier in 2014, two consecutive Mondato Insights examined the role of Human Centered Design (HCD) in enhancing the user experience and closing the gap between registered and active users of Mobile Money.
In the six months since then, reports Mondato, the value of the HCD approach in creating MFS (Mobile Financial Services) products that meet the needs of, and are attractive to, low-income customers has further been highlighted by a number of research projects in Southeast Asia. Once again, many of the assumptions made by MFS providers about the market segments they hope to target have been challenged, showing that significant knowledge gaps persist between providers and potential customers, and these must be addressed by anyone hoping to create attractive value propositions for Base of the Pyramid (BoP) consumers.
“Central to the HCD approach are deep dive interviews that seek to understand BoP customers not merely as individuals, but as the totality of their relationships as members of families, communities and business networks. Interviews take place in a very unstructured fashion, allowing free-flowing discussion that gives subjects the confidence and space to express themselves in their own terms, without the potential for design bias that formal questionnaires carry with them. The goal of the research is to form a number of “personas”, which are representative of market segments, and to identify what are their needs.”
The humanitarian sector must lift barriers to user-led innovation by refugee communities if it is to meet the challenges of an ever-changing world, says a new report, Humanitarian Innovation: The State of the Art, published by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and presented at the Humanitarian Innovation Conference at the University of Oxford, United Kingdom, on Saturday (19 July).
The trajectory of humanitarian assistance is unsustainable — with the cost trebling and the number of people requiring help doubling over the past ten years — and humanitarian tools and services are often ill-suited to modern emergencies, says the report.
“The risk-averse sector needs to embrace innovation, private sector involvement and bottom-up solutions to keep up with modern challenges”.
The current debate focuses on improving the tools and practices of international humanitarian actors and has overlooked the “talents, skills and aspirations of crisis-affected people themselves”, who remain a “largely untapped source of sustainable and creative solutions”.
An alternative to these short-term, project-based solutions by external actors is user-centred design that embraces indigenous innovation and participatory methods, it says.
This, it adds, involves recognising and understanding innovation within communities and putting them at the heart of the humanitarian innovation process.
The report calls for early consultation on the design of solutions to make sure they fit with cultural practices, and for more investment in “innovation spaces and opportunities that mentor, accelerate, and incubate the initiative of affected populations and local organisations”.
It also says that international organisations should ensure users drive the process of defining priority areas for innovation, testing out products and processes to meet those needs, and providing feedback during implementation and scaling.
The report will be published on the OCHA website.
In its new Focus Note, Applying Behavioral Insights in Consumer Protection Policy, CGAP (a unit affiliated with the Worldbank) presents a summary of the growing evidence from consumer and behavioral research for consumer protection policy on four topics—disclosure and transparency; complaints handling and recourse; debt stress; and fair treatment.
These new research methods provide deeper understanding of the context of the financial lives of base-of-the-pyramid financial consumers, and how that should influence consumer protection policy. Perhaps just as importantly this new research agenda is leading to more empathy for the experiences and challenges poor customers face every day. Empathy, combined with better evidence and insights, can lead to highly motivated, increasingly effective, consumer protection policies and approaches.
The CGAP experiences researching this publication — and running field experiments ourselves — have led them to five key takeaways on the role of behavioral research in consumer protection policy:
1. The behavioral evidence base in consumer protection is growing quickly.
2. To be effective, regulations need to account for incentives and how they drive behavior.
3. Innovation in base-of-the-pyramid financial markets is changing consumer protection priorities.
4. Context can greatly influence financial behavior.
5. Start small, start cheap, but just get started!
Alexandra Fiorillo, Principal of GRID Impact, writes that if we want to achieve full financial inclusion, we cannot simply offer more financial products and services to more people and hope they need, want, like, and use them. Instead, she writes, we should spend the necessary resources to ensure our products and services work for clients by doing two things:
1. Design products that meet the needs, desires, and preferences of our clients by collaborating with them on the design and delivery of these products.
2. Help our clients follow-through with the intentions and goals they have for their financial lives by focusing on taking action rather than just providing more information.
“A new approach to product and service innovation, behavioral research and design, attempts to do just this. Drawing on insights from behavioral economics and principles from human-centered design, behavioral research and design attempts to uncover deep personal and contextual motivators and influencers to human behavior so we can better design products and services in a client-centered way. The goal of this method is not to focus on stated preferences and opinion or market research, but rather to develop deep empathy for human needs and desires while also making sense of observable behaviors – which may be contrary to people’s stated preferences.”
GRID Impact is a global research, innovation and design firm that specializes in human-centered approaches to policy, program, and product challenges. They use data and evidence to improve social impact in areas such as financial inclusion, global health, agriculture and education.
Are you a trainer? Do you facilitate meetings?
The International Training Centre of the International Labour Organization (ITC-ILO, a specialised, not-for-profit UN agency and an Experientia client) is currently experimenting with crowdfunding to finance a set of 60 cards featuring participatory knowledge sharing methods. The cards are a handy tool to help workshop facilitators and trainers make informed decisions about the appropriate methods, tools and resources to conduct learning activities.
The cards will feature training and facilitation methods that are frequently used by the ITC-ILO. They have been carefully selected and validated in workshops by the ITC-ILO over many years, and the full-length descriptions are currently available on their Compass website.
Since creating the Compass website, ITC-ILO has had many requests from their own trainers to create a portable tool that is easy to travel with, can be used in offline situations, and offers a brief synthesis of the selected methods.
The card set is highly useful for anyone who conducts training activities, prompting the ITC-ILO to use crowdfunding to develop the project. It not only lets demand drive the project, but offers the available knowledge to a much broader audience. Donors to the campaign receive rewards ranging from digital versions of the eventual card set to varying numbers of full printed sets. The donations will help to fund the design and printing of the cards.
The Compass card set is ideal for people who:
- need a quick-reference tool to select the right learning methods for a workshop or training session;
- need a quick refresher on a specific training technique, while actually running workshops and sessions;
- want to explain to stakeholders how workshops can be participatory and what the variety of training methods can achieve;
- want a short and visual explanation of participatory knowledge sharing methods, instead of large manuals or tools that are only available online.
Designing Customer-Centric Branchless Banking Offerings
Claudia McKay, Yanina Seltzer
The Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP)
20 December 2013
pdf, iBook, Kindle
Branchless banking services have taken on a significant challenge: developing new channels through which to provide financial services to customers who have mostly used only cash before. Understanding the customer experience is critical, but focus groups and surveys may not be well-suited to understand customer needs in an environment with so many new and unknown dimensions. Intrigued by the success of design research in other industries, CGAP set out to explore how human-centered design (HCD) could be applied to branchless banking and its unique challenges.
Most financial service providers do not launch branchless banking services based on well-defined insights about low-income clients. Instead, they go to market with a one-size-fits-all mobile wallet that customers sometimes struggle to understand and use. Several customer-centric research and product development methodologies have been used in financial inclusion work for some time with mixed success. Because of its track record in other industries, CGAP has been exploring how HCD may help branchless banking providers understand their customers more deeply and develop offerings better suited to their customers’ needs. The HCD process is centered on learning directly from customers and delivering solutions that work in specific contexts. Through careful listening and observation of customers in their own environment, designers understand the needs of the people they are designing for. Rapid prototyping and real-world tests with customers are then used to quickly validate (or invalidate) early designs and iteratively improve the final solution.
This Brief describes initial experiences using HCD to help five branchless banking providers understand their customers better and design offerings to meet their needs. Partners include large banks in Brazil, Mexico, and Pakistan; mobile network operators (MNOs) in Ghana and Uganda; and several leading design firms. Three lessons from early experiences include the following:
- In each project, the process uncovered critical aspects of the customer experience beyond the product that needed to function correctly for customers to trust and use the product. HCD was a useful tool to understand and improve the entire customer experience.
- Although the HCD process helped develop innovative product concepts arising directly from customer needs, it did not solve implementation challenges, which can be just as difficult if not more so than concept generation.
- The HCD process helped bridge the gap between senior managers and customers. Many senior managers engaged deeply and directly with customers for the first time and are adjusting organizational processes to ensure customers continue to have a greater voice in the organization.
As part of a European Union-funded study on social media (make sure to check also the UCL site and blog on the same project), the Department of Anthropology at University College London is running nine simultaneous 15-month ethnographic studies in seven countries (small towns in Brazil, China (2), India, Italy, Trinidad, Turkey and the UK). Interesting insights from the UK:
“What we’ve learned from working with 16-18 year olds in the UK is that Facebook is not just on the slide, it is basically dead and buried. Mostly they feel embarrassed even to be associated with it. Where once parents worried about their children joining Facebook, the children now say it is their family that insists they stay there to post about their lives. Parents have worked out how to use the site and see it as a way for the family to remain connected. In response, the young are moving on to cooler things.
Instead, four new contenders for the crown have emerged: Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and WhatsApp. This teaches us a number of important lessons about winning the app war.”
Interesting quote from a Wired interview with Melinda Gates and Paul Farmer:
WIRED: What innovation do you think is changing the most lives in the developing world?
MELINDA GATES: Human-centered design. Meeting people where they are and really taking their needs and feedback into account. When you let people participate in the design process, you find that they often have ingenious ideas about what would really help them. And it’s not a onetime thing; it’s an iterative process.
How does that work in practice?
PAUL FARMER: In Haiti I would see people sleeping outside the hospital with their donkey saddle under their neck — they’d been waiting there for days. And no one was asking them, “What are you eating while you’re waiting? What is your family eating while you’re gone?” We have to design a health delivery system by actually talking to people and asking, “What would make this service better for you?” As soon as you start asking, you get a flood of answers.
With 96 percent of the world connected, organizations are using mobile phones to deliver, via texts, water, energy, financial services, health care, even education.
“The number of such initiatives seems likely to increase. “The development community is eager to learn more about how to use mobiles effectively,” said Nick Martin, a founder of Tech Change, a social enterprise based in Washington that educates development practitioners via online courses.
Mr. Martin said his most popular course has been Mobiles for Development. In the last three years, TechChange has taught the course eight times to nearly 400 participants from over 60 countries.”
Only projects that work with existing education systems will improve learning and cut poverty, says Niall Winters of the London Knowledge Lab at the University of London, and he argues for a user-centred approach (rather than a technology-centric one) that is focused on understanding teachers’ practice, co-designing interventions with them and providing them with training
“There is a vibrant Human-Computer Interaction for Development community that promotes user-centred approaches to technology design, use and evaluation. In my own work over the years, including in a current project for training community health workers in Kenya, we extensively use participatory approaches to help design and develop mobile learning interventions.
The idea that techno-centrism or even solely content-based solutions can address important educational challenges by themselves must be dropped. Research shows they can’t.
The path to success is clear: the risks of increasing the marginalisation of teachers — and by extension students — can only be ameliorated by understanding teachers’ practice, co-designing interventions with them and providing them with training.
Projects which work with existing educational systems, not against them, should have priority funding. Only then can mobile learning be seen to work for teachers, for their students and for the alleviation of poverty among those at the margins of society.”
The Nature of the BEast: What Behavioral Economics Is Not
Matthew Darling, Saugato Datta, and Sendhil Mullainathan
People are complex; they defy easy summary. Like Walt Whitman, we all contain multitudes. As a discipline, economics has been successful in part because it has ignored this complexity. Instead it has focused on explaining the institutions in which decisions are made — with institutions ranging from capitalism to communism, from perfect competition to monopolies, and from rock-paper-scissors to the prisoner’s dilemma.
Behavioral economics differs from standard economics in that it uses a more realistic (and more complicated) model for people; it differs from psychology in that it maintains the focus on institutions and the contexts in which decisions are made. Behavioral economists study how the context of decisions interacts with our expanding understanding of human psychology. By combining the insights from these two very different perspectives, behavioral economists have been able to reveal new depths in ourselves.
The short 4 page essay can be downloaded for free from the website of the Center for Global Development, an independent, nonprofit policy research organization “dedicated to reducing global poverty and inequality and to making globalization work for the poor”.
The mobile site is an internal communications tool to showcase best practice mobile learning use within ITC-ILO, and it has been designed to be optimally viewed from a smartphone or tablet.
The ITC-ILO is the training arm of the UN’s International Labour Organization. Based in Turin, Italy, ITC-ILO runs training, learning and capacity development services for governments, employers’ organizations, workers’ organisations and other national and international partners in support of Decent Work and sustainable development.
With the dominant shift to mobile learning, ITC-ILO is keen to demonstrate how it uses mobile tools within its programs and frameworks, and to promote future use of mobile tools to extend ITC-ILO’s activities into a variety of settings, through a broader range of interactions with people, exploiting different types of content.
mobile.itcilo.org focuses on the three key advantages of mobile learning: improved ability to engage participants, with dynamic content, and lasting contact; more opportunities to share knowledge, from one to many, and from many to many; and the ability to connect and interact with information in new ways, generating meaningful insights and providing access to expertise and resources.
Experientia designed the site, and helped to develop the content and promotional materials. The site is optimised for iOS and Android, offering an excellent user experience from smartphone and tablet, as well as from desktop PC. It’s online at mobile.itcilo.org.
The success of a mobile app – its high adoption rate and actual use – largely depends on the degree of involvement of the end user during the development stage.
Mark Kamau, Kenyan web solution expert at the iHub UX Lab in Nairobi, believes a user-centric approach to mobile app development is critical to building a sustainable ICT-based solution.
“The failure rate of mobile apps is high and many development man-hours are wasted when user experiences are not taken into account right from the start of the development process. That is why people like Kamau and initiatives such as the UX Lab seek to convince developers to include the users in the earliest possible stage of the design process to better understand their needs and wants, and how, when and where they would use the new mobile app.”
The industry have made big gains getting to understand the need and the benefits to women through the work of the GSMA mWomen Programme with support from Visa. Research reports covering these aspects have been released conducted in five key countries Indonesia, Kenya, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea and Tanzania. It is worthwhile to have a look at some of the clips posted where women talk these studies (Video for Indonesia, Kenya, Pakistan and PNG). USAid also performed a study looking at the access that women have to mobile technology in Afghanistan. (Read here).
With Mobile technology women are empowered to entry into the financial mainstream much more easier. They now get access to life-enhancing services such as savings, payments, health-care, education, and entrepreneurship. However, the research shows that the gender gap in mobile phone ownership and usage still reduce the access that women have in many countries to these benefits. In order to achieve the full potential of the role mobile technology can play in women’s empowerment globally, it is critical that service providers understand what women need and design products that effectively reach this audience.
There are three key characteristics to women’s financial management that is of relevance in looking at mobile money: the difference in roles between men and women for managing money, the demands living in rural areas – compared to cities and the general lack of control women often have over their own finances. It is clear that the new capabilities made available through mobile money do and will have an positive impact in the lives of women in emerging markets.
Note also the excellent work by CGAP on the same topic.
CGAP (a World Bank affiliated but independent policy and research center dedicated to advancing financial access for the world’s poor) has partnered with Janalakshmi Financial Services, one of India’s largest urban microfinance institutions to implement customer centricity in providing financial services to the urban poor. As a first step, the team commissioned Innovation Labs (consulting division of IMRB International, India) to build innovation capability within Janalakshmi and use new approaches to understand customers.
A Facebook journal follows the project over the next several months as it goes through the different phases of understanding customers, designing effective delivery and making the economics work. Here are the three initial posts:
Entry 1 – Creating a Customer-Centric Culture
The project with Janalakshmi Financial Services kicked off in Bangalore on July 1, 2013 with a workshop ‘Customer Centric Innovation’ conducted by Innovation Labs team for over 20 stakeholders at Janalakshmi from various functions including product marketing, strategy, IT and service centers.
Entry 2 – The Inside-Out View: How does a provider think about its clients?
A deep dive into Janalakshmi’s perspective on the customer and how this understanding affects their financial services offering.
Entry 3 – Ground Reality: Finance Management Skills of the Financially Underserved
The project team visited six households in Bangalore to gain a nuanced understanding of the lives of current and prospective customers. The purpose was to see how the customer-view of financial services matches up with that of Janalakshmi’s.
The Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) is an independent policy and research center, affiliated with the World Bank, dedicated to advancing financial access for the world’s poor.
Their next five-year strategic direction lays out five priority themes, desired outcomes, and activities against each priority. The first one is “Understanding demand to effectively deliver for the poor”.
“To ensure that access to financial services improves the lives of poor, low-income and underserved people, financial inclusion must be client-centric. Client-centricity is about providing financial solutions based on a deep understanding of poor people’s needs, preferences, and behaviors. This will require a shift from a transactional approach (i.e., narrow focus on selling a product to a customer) to a relationship approach (i.e., broad focus on understanding the dynamic needs and behaviors of customers over their lifecycle).”
The strategic direction document provides quite some detail on how they intend to implement this user-centered approach.
CGAP is supported by over 30 development agencies and private foundations who share a common mission to alleviate poverty. The Group provides market intelligence, promotes standards, develops innovative solutions and offers advisory services to governments, microfinance providers, donors, and investors.
Social networks of mobile money in Kenya
Sibel Kusimba, Harpieth Chaggar, Elizabeth Gross, & Gabriel Kunyu
Institute for Money, Technology and Financial Inclusion
University of California, Irvine
With mobile money technologies, people use mobile phones to send money to friends and relatives, connect to bank accounts, and make payments. This research examines the role of mobile money in Kenyans’ social and economic networks. Research reported was conducted in Bungoma and Trans-Nzoia Counties in Kenya, and among Kenyans living in Chicago, Illinois in the summer of 2012.
Although mobile money services are often described as a form of “banking,” most users in Western Kenya use mobile money as a social and economic tool through which they create relationships by sending money and airtime gifts. A wide range of mobile money uses includes social gifting, assisting friends and relatives, organizing savings groups, and contributing to ceremonies and rituals.
Even though mobile money was designed for person-to-person transfers, its practices are best understood as created by collectivities and groups. In savings groups, groups of siblings and other relatives, and communities who contribute to ceremonies, users “save with others” through the entrustment of value to kin and friends and create new groups and communities based around the “floating world” of mobile technology. Individuals balance their social and economic capital in order to create marginal gains and mediate the conflicts created between social obligations and personal economic betterment. Ties to and through mothers are prominent in social networks of mobile money flows. Matrilineal kinship ties are a means of sharing or circulating money among those marginalized from access to other resources and forms of value.
“Barbers, for example, are seen as well-informed about local news because they converse with a wide range of people daily. Despite the mobility constraints in many parts of the region, all men — rich and poor, educated and uneducated — still go to the barbershop. Sultan, a barber in Khyber, thinks of himself as “a computer where people feed and receive information.”
Similarly, diaspora populations are increasingly important providers of information to FATA’s residents. Living outside of the region, migrants often learn about local events before their families and call home when they do.”