Lean Data Learnings

Constituent Voices

Omidyar Network
Mar 6, 2018 · 9 min read

At Omidyar Network, we start from a fundamental belief: People are inherently good and capable, but they often lack opportunity. We believe if we invest in people, through opportunity, they will create positive returns for themselves, their families, and the world at large.

But too often the voices of those at the far end of our interventions — the people we hope to empower — are not heard by the actors driving capital, policy, and resources for their benefit. Conversations center instead around entrepreneurs, capital markets, cost-benefit, or other top-down considerations.

We believe it’s essential to listen directly to the perspectives of the people we are working to serve. This series will share insights from those who engage with our own portfolio companies and individuals more broadly. The goal is to help ground the activities of investors, philanthropists, and social change actors in the views of the actual people whom we all aim to empower, and to generate dialogue that can uncover changing trends to drive more effective outcomes.

In this second issue, Lean Data Learnings, we present the findings from our global survey of 11,500 customers and constituents of 36 of our investees to understand how the people they serve feel about the products and services we are funding.

Click here for Issue 1: Trust and Privacy

Lean Data Learnings

How often, after completing a purchase online, do you see a survey pop up: “On a scale of 1–10, how likely are you to recommend us to a friend?” The goal of this question is to generate a Net Promoter Score (NPS), which is a measure of customer satisfaction. Developed in the early 2000s, it has become ubiquitous for for-profit companies. However, startups and social sector organizations do not always have the capacity to engage in this kind of dialogue with their users.¹

Over the last year, Omidyar Network has partnered with Acumen Lean Data to drive better outcomes for our portfolio through consumer insights. In the second half of 2017, we completed our first ever “Lean Data Sprint” where we surveyed over 11,500 customers of 36 of our investees across 18 countries for their opinions about the products and services being provided. For many of our investees, this was the first time they had ever systematically surveyed their customers. For Omidyar Network, this was the first time we asked standard questions and obtained comparable answers to: i) how the people we serve feel about the products/services we are funding, ii) how much the product or service has improved their lives (if at all), and iii) from which income bracket these customers come.

While the research validated some of what company management and Omidyar Network’s investment managers already knew, it also brought new insights for both teams. Below we share the most meaningful insights from quantitative data and qualitative feedback.

Quantitative data snapshots

Net Promoter Score (NPS)

Quality of Life Improvement

Income Distribution

Figure 3 shows the income distribution of customers for each company participating in this part of the survey. Naturally, there is a variety of profiles — some companies at the top of the chart are reaching predominantly low-income customers, while others at the bottom of the chart are predominantly serving higher-income customers. Those with a steeper-sloped profile are reaching mixed income brackets, while flatter profiles are more consistently targeting one bracket.

It is important to note that we often find that impact businesses serve a diversified income-level constituency, and some of these profiles reflect just this. In fact, we have been building a research base to verify that multi-income models are effective. A recent report, Reaching Deep in Low-Income Markets, finds that serving populations at somewhat higher-income levels does not seem to prevent organizations from also reaching much lower-income levels. In fact, the prevalence of these cross-income models may indicate that this characteristic is key to financial sustainability. With the income data collected through this survey, we can begin to test these hypotheses over time.


Examples of Qualitative Insights by Sector

We believe listening to constituents is critical in delivering positive outcomes for the beneficiaries we are working to serve.

These insights are just a taste of what was shared: actionable and specific insights from customers to help guide company management and Omidyar Network’s investment teams to best support the companies in better serving those customers over time.

The Value of Real Feedback

The Lean Data Sprint is just one method we’ve employed recently to better understand the impact of our portfolio companies on individuals around the world. This survey of over 11,500 people sits alongside in-depth, single company Lean Data analyses we commissioned last year, as well as other data collected for portfolio management, monitoring and evaluation. We also conduct non-company specific research on constituent views through direct surveys, interviews, and deeper ethnographic-style research. Research such as the above mentioned Reaching Deep in Low-Income Markets also informs our hypotheses about what might achieve positive impact.

Just as consumer testing is a key element in product development, we believe listening to constituents is critical in delivering positive outcomes for the beneficiaries we are all working to serve, and this is one tool we are using to help amplify their voices in our work.


Most of all, we would like to thank Omidyar Network investees who were open to experimenting with a new tool in order to serve their users better.

[1] We use the terms “customer”, “consumer”, “constituent,” “user,” and “beneficiary” interchangeably throughout this issue. All terms refer to the population that our portfolio of for-profit and non-profit organizations serve through their work.

[2] International poverty levels are measured using Purchasing Power Parity (PPP). PPP is an economic theory that compares different countries’ currencies through a market “basket of goods” approach. According to this concept two currencies are at par when a market basket of goods (taking into account the exchange rate) is priced the same in both countries.

[3] The Poverty Probability Index® is an easy-to-use survey tool that uses asset and household indicators — like household size, or what the roof is made of — to estimate the likelihood that a respondent is poor or low-income.

Positive Returns

Working to create a world of positive returns

Omidyar Network

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A philanthropic investment firm harnessing the power of markets to create opportunity for people to improve their lives. #PositiveReturns

Positive Returns

Working to create a world of positive returns

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