From Insights to Impact.

Design research as an innovation imperative

In 2013, the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP), an independent research and policy center dedicated to advancing financial inclusion goals, turned to Quicksand to understand the experience of tribal and rural poor as they tried to access social security benefits that were transferred directly into their newly opened bank accounts.

The choice of design research over more traditional qualitative research methodologies is typical of innovation and re-visioning mandates. Here’s how it helped move the needle on Government to people (G2P) payments in India:

“World Bank approves USD 150mn credit to Indian states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh for inclusive rural growth projects” — The Hindu
The project will specifically support to increase the incomes of 250,000 small and marginal farmers by at least 50 percent by enhancing productivity and improving their access to markets. — World Bank

Storytelling to communicate great insights

Stories are evocative. And while they are anecdotal, they are rich grounds to form powerful hypotheses. The research was designed to uncover stories — of high sea fishermen, peripatetic communities and farmers working their lands in upper reaches of the mountains. Through film, photo essays and intimate testimonials, Quicksand was able to bring to life the struggles of these communities as they tried to make sense of this new system.

The shelf value of research

Hard as it sounds, the value of research is only as good as its shelf presence. Often insights that prompt action are hidden deep within presentation decks that are hard to share, discuss and dissect. On the other hand, complex behaviors need simple explanations. The ethnographic research conducted by Quicksand was converted into two rich media publications that were printed and distributed to key stakeholders. Graphic stories, infographics, blog posts helped make data more accessible.

Interpolating solutions through collaboration

Quicksand’s work was one of three streams of research — the other two being a business model analysis done by Microsave and a large quantitative survey of households conducted by IMRB. Studying people’s behavior is only one part of the equation — the other is to be part of the sense-making process and have the ability to help partners triage and find solutions.

“Out of the World Bank funding announced, USD30 million in each of these states will be used to set up one stop shops at the village level. These will serve as the front-end for a range of service providers to deliver G2P, P2G (People to Government) and basic financial services to the rural poor. Many of the ideas that came out of the research now have funding and government backing. As we all know, the keywords in India are implementation, implementation, implementation!” — Shweta Banerjee

Originally published at quicksand.co.in on April 24, 2015.

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