The goal of financial inclusion is to make people adopt a new type of financial behaviours that, we believe, will help them progress. A lot of effort has been put rightfully into building the infrastructure but the market is responding more slowly than envisioned. Partners are struggling to accelerate change and we are already witnessing some consolidation in countries where digital financial services (DFS) have emerged.
How can we accelerate this process? For us, the answer is onboarding end-beneficiaries to make change meaningful to them. The goal is not anymore increasing sales with compelling marketing campaigns but encouraging co-creation.
Six months ago, the partnership between MM4P, Innate Motion and PHB Development brought the human-centered design (HCD) approach to Benin to increase awareness and usage of DFS amongst the moto-taxi drivers, known as Zemidjans.
“If knowledge drives thought, empathy drives action.”
To achieve this objective, a different mindset was required: what if we consider people not as targets but as co-producers? And we did so in three steps.
1. Valuing individuality and aspirations for a new type of relationship
At the beginning, moto-taxi drivers were saddled with unfavourable stereotypes: people with no education wearing a distinctive yellow shirt, and stuck at the bottom of the social heap. The problem we faced was the following: how to encourage participation with such little regard?
We decided to immerse the team in the lives of the moto taxi drivers. Closely interacting with them, we never talked about money but of how their life was like. This helped us empathize with our counterpart, understand their reality, aspirations and hurdles.
The result was astonishing. The team was surprised by how cooperative the drivers were and how much they invested in their work. As a matter of fact, the moto-taxi drivers considered their job as a stepping stone to more worthwhile projects. It would have been maybe easier to raise that money stealing, and some admitted to have considered to go down this road. But their high sense of dignity and social responsibility made them rule out this option.
This praiseworthy choice is often challenged by the lack of consideration for the sacrifice they make and the risks they incur when providing transport to a part of the population in the chaotic traffic. Not being accepted in the lobbies of hotels with their yellow shirts is a sad example of how society undervalues them.
During the course of the immersion, the moto-taxi drivers progressively stopped being judged by the color of their shirt, becoming in the minds of the team of mobile network operators resolute entrepreneurs with strong values but unfairly ridden roughshod over.
Imagine the transformation that occurred when the team started to see them with this new positive connotation and not as mere moto-taxi drivers at the bottom of the social heap. The connection that was created with them reinforced their determination to succeed because they felt understood as individuals. This was a truly inspiring experience for the team, specifically because they started taking a different view on how to address the initial problem.
2. Redefining the role of DFS
Energized by the new mindset, we could re-think the persona associated to moto-taxi drivers and possible touchpoints, as well as redefine the role of DFS. Our objective evolved to help people become who they aspire to be with their hard work and entrepreneurship. Therefore, DFS should not be considered as simple means for transactions but as a stepping stone to reach one’s objectives.
In this country, people aspire to work for the public sector as a guarantee for financial stability, easy life and recognition. Entrepreneurship is not encouraged, and this could prevent society to progress.
By promoting the value entrepreneurship and creating tools to support it, we could jump right in the cultural debate.
What we expect from the moto-taxi drivers, who are constantly in touch with the population, is to become ambassadors of a new behaviour by showing the potential of DFS. With the right mindset, it is possible to develop more appropriate business cases for saving, borrowing and transacting, while improving efficiency in the ecosystem. This conviction inspired the search of new types of potential partnerships.
3. Unleashing the potential of the team through empathy
If knowledge drives thought, empathy drives action. And a human-centered approach is essential to understand the reality of the end-beneficiaries. This is not something you learn comfortably seating at your office desk.
The team would have never established a new relationship with the clients if they had not had the chance to speak to them. In our journey, we created four different opportunities to meet the moto-taxi drivers at their home or during co-creative sessions out of the office environment. This, we believe, has made a real difference because we reached a shared vision with the people we want to serve.
Starting from a push approach, the project evolved towards involving more stakeholders in the DFS ecosystem and co-creation.
Understanding the customers before starting with the design phase is key to make them adopt the resulting services. Throughout our journey in the lives of the Zemidjans in Benin, we managed to draw an accurate persona of moto-taxi drivers that paved the way to multiple opportunities both in terms of products and communication channels.
We are confident that our implementation will prove the transformative potential of the HCD approach.
Originally published on MM4P.