Are linkages using digital technology with formal financial services for Pacific Islanders who are members of savings groups possible?
This was the topic of deliberations during the two- day ideation workshop that PFIP held on 11th and 12th September 2017 in Honiara, Solomon Islands. PFIP with technical support from GRID Impact, held an ideation workshop to explore digital financial services linkages for savings groups (known locally as savings clubs) in the Solomon Islands.
Savings clubs offer people who lack access to formal financial services a secure place for their savings, improved financial literacy, peer support for small business owners, and access to credit. Despite the success of savings clubs, members still struggle with several challenges. Digital financial services (DFS) may offer a way to meet these challenges and enhance what savings groups offer their members while paving the way to improved access to formal channels. The workshop offered participants an opportunity to imagine innovative services for savings clubs by following human centered design methods and using design thinking to come up with creative concepts.
Human centered design (HCD) is a process that focuses our research and creative process on the very people practitioners are designing for while design thinking helps them use logic, imagination, intuition, and systemic reasoning to explore the possibilities of what could be. On the first day of the workshop, participants learned about the design process, along with the history of savings groups world-wide and in the Solomon Islands, including inspirational digital financial services projects developed for savings club members.
Workshop participants first learned about the initial “discover” phase where design practitioners establish an understanding and build empathy to better focus on creating appropriate and desirable services. Unlike traditional market research that is often focused on outcomes, reliant on surveys, focus groups, and broad research tools, HCD research is focused on identifying problems, relies on immersive experiences with users and depth over breadth. It focuses on a smaller number of users but goes deeper with them to produce rich qualitative data that allows HCD practitioners to discover not just what people do, but why. Workshop participants then learned about “ideation,” a process that involves multidisciplinary teams rapidly generating ideas.
Following their introduction to the design process and savings clubs, workshop participants took part in hands-on design activities and collaborated across organizational boundaries to imagine new services for savings clubs using several different methods. To focus the participants’ work on the needs and aspirations of savings club members, PFIP presented their initial research with savings clubs focusing on identifying the latent needs and expressed goals of members themselves as well as the best practices as enumerated in the PFIP Savings Club Manual developed for Solomon Islands in 2014. The workshop participants formed six teams and developed concepts ranging from creative ways to offer training for digital financial services, to full-featured mobile payment systems, to a service that would help improve liquidity within communities. They then assessed each idea according to several criteria, including the extent to which it would have a positive impact on savings group members’ lives.
PFIP and GRID Impact determined that there is great potential for digital financial services to improve the lives of savings clubs’ members and an abundance of ideas among Solomon Islands mobile network operators, financial services providers, and savings club facilitating agencies, to develop new services. They hope to move forward with building partnerships with these organizations and testing concepts with savings club members.
ABOUT GRID IMPACT
GRID Impact is a global research, innovation and design firm that specializes in human-centered and behavioral science approaches to policy, program and product challenges around the world.