There has been a lot of “buzz” in the past five years around how human-centered design (HCD) and customer centricity can make digital finance more inclusive. The entrance of large mobile network operators and technology savvy funders into financial inclusion brought with it new specialized consulting firms with deep expertise in product design, data analytics and marketing. At UNCDF we have been watching and learning from these efforts as well as looking at a variety of successful campaigns in developing countries focused on influencing behavior. We tend to be a bit cautious about “the next big thing.” Our preferred method is to watch and learn first, with hope and skepticism and then focus on a different type of innovation—how this “next big thing” can work in our markets.
Two years ago we brought over 120 partners and colleagues from countries around the world to Uganda, rented a small fleet of buses, and took them to rural Uganda. With a half day of training, they were instructed how to conduct interviews with customers and agents, create “personas” and map their experiences in digital finance. It was a logistical nightmare, ended at midnight for some, involved a lot of terribly drawn stick figures (mine in particular), and turned out to be the highlight of the event. I remember happily listening to a young Laotian banker share her notes with a Liberian mobile money manager somewhere on the outskirts of Jinja and thinking that this was our first lesson learned. The power of HCD was getting the partner to directly engage with customer—and be able to talk about it with someone who cared.
In the past few years we’ve focused on how to use some of these tools with our partners drawing on a range of firms including 17 Triggers, In8motion, MicroSave, PHB Development and IDEO to name a few. An advantage we have is that our team sits in country and can be not only part of the engagement with these firms, but also be with our partners before, during and after the field work.
In a series of blogs from UNCDF in field, we wanted to share some of experiences so far using different methods, partners and projects from Samoa to Senegal. The series will look at applying human centered design approaches to problems around products, agents and digitizing payments streams. We’ll compare different methods from more “traditional” customer research to “alternative” approaches and in each we’ll highlight at least one of our lessons learned. We humbly hope that you find something of value for your own work.