Bringing it all together

Day 6 & 7 of the training and it is all coming together! The Organisation for Community Action (OCA) team have absorbed the training like a sponge! Huge credit must go to the Step Up programme, for which there is so much complementary content.

On one side of the room we have the team practicing the entrepreneur selection interviews. On another side, people are making towels to show the Step Up communities tomorrow. And on yet another, the team are practicing the training for the entrepreneurs. The room is buzzing!

One of my favourite moments from the whole trip so far, was Ken, a senior consultant working with the OCA team, overlocking a towel. Concentration etched across his face trying to make the perfect towel by going all the way around in one go (no simple task!). All of sudden the normal quiet hum of conversation is disturbed by this massive whoop and dance, as Ken  smashes the task. The whole room, burst out cheering.

It is great to see how the OCA team are using the training they received throughout the past week and bringing it all together in these practice sessions. Taking it a step further, the OCA team are applying some of the training and thought processes to their Step-Up programme; always looking to improve. The exact mentality we look for in partners.

We are all eager to test and experience. So, not content on waiting for the Roots EcoSan toilets to be built, we instead decided to build a Roots urinal for the OCA team during the lunch break. The first thing the OCA team did (after trying it of course) was to start thinking how to make one for the girls…


Tomorrow, we travel into the field to excite the community with these businesses and start the entrepreneur selection process. And somehow, Bradley has got a bit lost and has ended up in Kenya…

M&E – Magic & Excitement

Monitoring and Evaluation is a subject of fundamental importance to development organisations, but one that people so often find boring. So how to make it Magical & Exciting?

Our training starts with a dive into bias, one of our favourite topics and probably the most important in M&E (for a delve into bias, check out our blog). We use an activity based on the current work of those being trained for them to look at the different biases at play, from both the assessor and interviewee. It was great to see the International Refugee Trust (IRT) and Organsiation for Community Action (OCA) team considering so many different factors, and to see the interest and realisation of the biases at play grow as they looked at their work from different angles.

Due to the stigma around Petal and Roots, some of the questions in the assessment can be very personal. As such, it is important for the assessor to understand what it is like to be asked difficult questions and build an empathy towards the interviewee. Working in pairs, the team had to ask each other the most personal questions they could think of and answer with 100% honesty. An exercise that starts with a lot of laughs but quickly becomes more serious as they realise how difficult it can be to be asked, and even to ask, really personal questions.

The area that most interested the team was our multi-layered M&E approach that measures the impact on multiple areas of the community; customers, the school, the wider community. And, that uses the entrepreneurs themselves to gather large amounts of information about the outputs, and even some outcomes, they are generating.

To finish the section, we allowed the team to see the behemoth spreadsheets that were the business financial models and the M&E review, which both automatically analyse the information put into them to hopefully say “Yes” this business will work; allowing the OCA team to see how the M&E affects everything else.

We ended an amazing day of laughs and high emotions, with selecting the entrepreneurs. It was captivating to see how OCA intends to integrate our social franchises into their Step Up programme, having the Step Up communities suggest potential entrepreneurs before interviews.

We are getting close to finishing the training! Next week starts with training the entrepreneurs. We are looking forward to pretending to be a very slow learning, hard of hearing, short attention span entrepreneur whilst the OCA team trains us!

The begining of the end of menstrual stigma in Lira

We take having 4 weeks in a month for granted. But, imagine getting to 12 years old and all of a sudden there are only 3 weeks in a month.

In too many communities, menstruation is a taboo subject. There is little to no advice available for girls and no access to affordable sanitary pads; forcing many to use rags or leaves which can cause the contraction of menstrual diseases. The lack of understanding results in girls feeling like they have to stay at home, missing out on as much as 25% of their education or dropping out altogether.

From Enactus’ phenomenal SanEco sanitary towel project, Petal was born. Creating entrepreneurs who make and sell reusable sanitary towels and deliver menstrual health education to everyone in the community.

Using the learnings from 4 years of implementation, we are now in Uganda training 3 organisations how to set up Petal businesses in their communities. The start of the Million, Million, Million plan where Petal businesses with support 1 million women and girls.

So the Petal training begins

The start of the day was a bit of a mad rush, preparing the sewing machines and conducting the morning Introduction to Petal session.
We had a beautiful overlock machine just back from refurbishing… and it doesn’t work. After an hour of fighting with it I jump in a jeep and set off to see the expert, expecting for a quick 10min fix, tightening or fixing some nuts. An hour later and the machine is in parts on the table in front of us… but we get it all working!

I returning to the team in full flow, adapting the Petal business to the local culture. The excitement in the room is tangible, everyone is talking about each little improvement to the business and the impact that it will create.

The second half of the day ended with the menstrual health education. It was shocking to hear some of the stigmas and stories that affect the community: Women on their menstrual cycle not allowed to carry other people’s babies… Sitting in a hole in the ground to contain the blood… and girls at school being bullied when they start menstruating; “The cow has given birth” the boys say.

Despite this, we left feeling inspired by the amazing positivity in the reaction of the men in the team and the drive to not only educate the other men but to recruit men as entrepreneurs to work alongside the women.

The result: One Petal business with 5 mixed sex entrepreneurs who will provide over 2000 women and girls with sanitary towels in its first year.

Tomorrow, we design the final enterprise in Lira. Our Roots social franchise addressing sanitation and fertiliser access.

A dive into the community.

What a sunrise! The sun rises over the savanna to great us for our first full day in Lira.

sunset

The morning started with us meeting the OCA team. The team are like a family and show so much passion and excitement for the Step Up programme they run and for the beginning of the WSV training programme. A properly awesome group of people!

With introductions done, we are loaded into an old UN 4×4 and set off to the field:

The school toilets

Our first stop a secondary school highlighted by OCA for the one of the first Roots toilets. This school with 400 boarding students, only had 4 cubicles each for boys and girls! The toilets filled up so quickly that the school has to empty them once a term, costing 1,000,000 UGX each time (for context, the average community wage is 44,000 UGX per month).

It was amazing to see the excitement as they began to understand the impact of the Roots toilets. It would mean they would have permanent, more hygienic toilets that would no longer have to empty.

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The second school we visited, showed the massive lack of communication between government and schools when they do support the building of toilets. Each cubicle had a massive metal door on the front. This not only proved to be a waste of money but also posed a potential security risk for students, in particular young girls.
This school was even more excited and is taking the Roots toilet designs to their management team this week.

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The Step Up programme

Following our visit to the local schools, we had the opportunity to meet some of the people on this amazing Step Up programme.

Step Up takes a holistic approach to development; working with subsistence farmers to empower them to realise for themselves the issues with current behaviours and supporting them to tackle fundamental issues. From sanitation and gender issues to navigating the legal system and everything in between; in total this 6 year programme has 132 topics!

The sustainability and impact of this programme is something all charities should be learning from! Self-sufficience and resilience should always be the aim of development.
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Blog 2

Bias

Before I start I would like to say that I do not have a background in psychology, what I have done is read about the subject, in particular Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, The Black Swan by Nassim Taleb and The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli which form the basis of my knowledge for this article. Beyond this I have simply opened my eyes to the bias around me. My hope is that this article will help you do the same.

Although this article is aimed primarily for international development organisations the effect of bias and ideas discussed here affect every individual and organisation.

So what is bias: by definition it is “an inclination or outlook to present or hold a particular perspective”. I prefer to describe it as: Every decision or idea you have is based on every decision, idea and interaction you have had. In other words your bias is the entirety of your past. For this reason there can be no un-bias decision as this would require an individual to have no past.
Now some among you may be thinking “what about when the decision has no links to anything in your past”, at this point your mind may think you are un-bias, in reality you are unconsciously using your life’s experiences and knowledge to derive an answer. Which is bias.

If everything is bias then what is the point? The aim of this article is to make you aware of some types of bias that can have a significant influence, put a name to them and hopefully create a higher awareness in your decision making process.

So let us look at some examples starting with the ‘confirmation bias’ for no other reason other than it is known as the mother of all misconception. It is the tendency to unconsciously twist information so that it fits pre-existing theories. This is extremely prevalent in situations when emotions are involved, let us use the example of identifying a community for a charity to work in. If the person identifying the community has visited there, then you may often hear “I have seen how bad it is with my own eyes”. Which if you think about it is not a comparison between that and a different community but simply confirmation bias at work, changing the importance of that community to fit your desire to help that community.
This also links in with ‘personification’ your minds inclination towards emotion and action associated with a person or personified character rather than facts and numbers. Personification is one of the most common bias used in social sector advertising and advertising in general. Think about an advert you have seen from a charity… What is it that springs to your mind? Statistics and figures about that need? Or is it a child’s face staring back at you? Now, stop and really think about what is more important, that is the power of personification.

The Black Swan focusses primarily on the probability of rare events with dire consequence (‘black swans’) and how we fail to predict them before they occur and how afterwards we rate the probability of them happening much higher, ‘hindsight bias’. Now imagine as a social organisation that you are working somewhere and you are investing in that community. Infrastructure, housing, what would it take for that all to be wiped out by a war, tsunami or other natural disaster? Although you may have taken a moment to consider these, did you ever look at the probability of these occurring?
Continuing along the same train of thought there is a strong tendency to not recognise the multiple causes of a problem (in the case where it isn’t a black swan) and more often than not to try to attribute a problem to a single cause ‘the fallacy of the single cause’.

The majority of social sector organisations will say their biggest issue is cash flow, for that matter this is the biggest issue for almost any organisation. Now most people in this world want to help their fellow man and we all know about the amount of excess in the world, so why is it so hard to get donations. Bias. There are so many different things at play here but to name a few.
‘Affect heuristic’ the momentary judgement you make, when you hear something you like or don’t like. We have said that (almost) everyone likes helping people but the same applies that people do not like parting with money and unfortunately that is the first thing that comes to mind. The ‘affect heuristic’ then causes us to think of all the negatives associated with charity, “where’s the money going?”, “why are they bothering me?” and so on. Whilst also stopping you from remembering the people we would be aiding.
‘Paradox of choice’, there are so many different charities out there, doing similar things. So many that you may not be able to decide which one to donate to and therefore do not donate to any, an issue faced a lot in modern life.

Let us now look at it from the other perspective. How to use bias for fundraising. A very strong bias is ‘social proof’, otherwise known as herd instinct. When you see a group of people looking at something or doing something it gives you the social acceptance to do it yourself, and at a deeper level by doing it you satisfy the risk of not missing out.
So if you have managed to get people around you, what is next?; ‘liking bias’ is one of the most powerful tools and one almost every salesperson will tell you is their trick to success. That is ‘making people truly believe that you like them’ and therefore they are far more susceptible to your pitch. This covers everything from the way you talk to them, to how attractive they think you are.
The final bias to look at is ‘reciprocity’; the psychological need for people to return a positive action with a positive action. So how can you utilize this? It is quite simple, give something away for free and the return will far exceed the gift.

I have only had the opportunity to touch on the subject bias, if you want to learn more please read ‘The Art of Thinking Clearly’. For more on sustainability and how we overcome bias at Wessex Social Ventures please get in contact with us.

Adam Boxer
Director
Wessex Social Ventures