Give big picture of global problems (not needed)Include graphic we already have or stats depicting problems associated with poverty from first paragraph of Page 1 (not needed)Our focus is on technology-based ventures at the Base of the socio-economic pyramidCouple of images from our ventures
Base-of-Pyramid ventures must be designed with the intimate involvement of all stakeholders to ensure that the designs meet their needs and use preferences and contribute to a self-determined improvement of livelihoods and agency. Ideas, products and services imposed from the outside that lack community buy-in are likely to fail. Even if they succeed economically, they are less likely to succeed socially and might not improve the community’s holistic wellbeing (Mehta, Semali, et al. 2010). Partnering with the appropriate local organizations is particularly important for student ventures because a lack of understanding of the foreign culture’s inner workings can result in negative consequences for the community.Transition – how do we ensure that we are doing the right thing???
What is PR…and why it is important?Participatory research is a pragmatic approach to understanding the context and how the technology venture might create sustainable value for the communities involved. This type of research engages stakeholders in a collaborative and open environment where all participants are considered equal and active partners in local problems, resources and solutions (Cornwall and Jewkes 1995). The findings of these research initiatives can lead to better designs and systemic solutions while the research process can help build trust and ownership amongst the stakeholders and facilitate the implementation of the solution.
Participatory research, when conducted in an organic and truly inclusive manner, can catalyze a community by educating them about the venture (intervention) and how they might benefit from it. The venture might offer micro-enterprise opportunities to some stakeholders and lead to improved livelihoods, while directly addressing a problem faced by another stakeholder group. While the education opportunities brought about by the research process can be transformative by themselves, they can also accelerate the formation of a reliable customer base for the venture and increase its likelihood of economic success. This customer base is likely to be loyal to the venture since they have contributed to it and have a sense of pride and ownership in it. For example, consider an LED lantern venture in a rural community. A participatory research endeavor to understand the socio-economics of the community might be initiated to help formulate the business and implementation strategies and establish the product’s supply chain. Local youth might coordinate the study and seek inputs from all the community members. While eliciting their thoughts, the youth might explain the problems with kerosene lamps and how the LED lanterns can provide more light while improving health and saving money. This approach would bring the community together and educate them about LED lanterns while also developing the customer base for recharging the lanterns on a regular basis.
The success of a social venture hinges on a business plan based on valid assumptions, accurate information and access to the knowledge of local partners (London and Hart 2004). Participatory research, through its organic and qualitative approach, can help validate assumptions and gather relevant information to craft a venture’s business and implementation strategies. Stakeholder’s participation in the research endeavor can lead to expectations and ownership, which although desirable, have the potential to negatively impact the success of the venture and limit its scalability. Simultaneously, the information inaccuracies that owe their genesis to the expectations built by the venture can compromise the validity and integrity of the research endeavor. This paper explores the tensions and conflicts that arise on integrated research and entrepreneurship ventures in developing country contexts
The previous talk is Melanie’s…which will focus on opportunities/benefits of researchWe reviewed so many ventures..and identified5 Systemic Issues to accurate information access4 eship hurting research3 research hurting business strategyAccess to informationB/RR/B
>>>> BLAIR STARTS HEREAfter months of discussion and research, we came to a simple conclusion about research: Reliable and meaningful research depends on the collection of accurate information. There are a myriad of conflicts on integrated research and entrepreneurship ventures and we bucketed them into 5 systemic issues that can be a source of these conflicts:We begin with Translation Challenges: Research studies should be conducted in the language of the participants or the data can be inaccurateTranslation challenges are further aggravated when there are a variety of languages and dialects in a regionFurthermore,translators are often employed to convey researchers’ questions correctly but this doesn’t make accuracy an absolute ForExample: While working on the Mashavu telemedicine system in Kenya, local youth, community healthcare workers and community members who spoke English,Kiswahili and Kikuyu, assisted with translations during research and during venture pilot testingSometimes the patient would respond to a question with a long answer, sometimes speaking for over a minute, and the translators would translate the response as ‘The patient said he liked it.’ Something was obviously left out or a concept doesn’t translate and there we see the limitations of language
Next we have Budgetary Restrictions: So we know that researcherswould like to have an unrestricted budget to conduct comprehensive studies.TheWorld Health Organization (WHO) has massive budgets—2010- 2011 FY, their research budget for the Africawas US$9 million, logistics budget US$6.8 million. We find that there is often incentive to work with an organization such as the WHO because they are able to provide generous compensation ButIn the world of start up entrepreneurial ventures, budgetary restrictions limit the scope and feasibility of research initiatives. Restrictions make us unable to afford reliable translators, impact partnerships and cut down on travel Example: For example, when establishing the initial Mashavu telemedicine kiosks, it was agreed that the kiosks would be located in remote locations to reach the populations most in need.Due to the costs associated with travel and safety issues, the team had to compromise and focus on more accessible areas leading to a smaller sample of participants
Then we have Appropriate Data Collection Methods: Researchers seek to collect data from an unbiased sample of participants but it is difficult to get a comprehensive sampleWe find that certain populations are often more likely to find their way into such research studies and community members may find their willingness to participate compromised by time limitations, priorities and other concerns As far as methods themselves go, surveys are a popular means of collecting data but they have limitationsFor instance, the quality and validity of answers may vary depending on the time of dayor person conducting the surveyExample:Alternate data collection methodologies that engage community members, like focus groups conducted after skits and folk song, are often more inclusive and lead to richer data.For instance, the Mashavu team has employed various techniques to attract participants to the project, like performing skits portraying how telemedicine operates and how it could benefit local community members. Skits are useful to disseminate knowledge about a venture or overarching issue (i.e. health), which ensures that more of the community becomes invested and more willing to participate
Another systemic issues is Conflict of Interest: Factors such as the race, ethnicity, or gender of the interviewer affect the participant’s responses, especially in cultures where these roles may be more strictly structured than in western cultures. If an individual has a dual role in a project, as a research facilitator or entrepreneur or customer, they may omit details or not answer honestly because they have a vested interest in the success of the venture. Example:For example, in Kenya, a woman being interviewed in regard to a venture was evasive when answering survey questions. Due to her interest in the success of the venture, she gavemisleading answers to promote her participation in the venture, because she could directly benefit from it.
Finally, Intellectual Property & Trust can impact access to accurate information: Participants can be hesitant in sharing their ideas for fear that they will be “stolen” by the researchers or other community members. We found that community members can be especially particular about their indigenous knowledge Furthermore, people may worry that their views might be considered backward or “not right”, and will simply tell researchers what they think they want to hear. Example:. While conducting research for a study on innovation in Kenya, researchers ran into conflicts where people did not want to share their ideas for fear that their ideas would be pirated by the researchers.
Now that we have considered 5 systemic issues that cause inaccuracies and tensions, let’s take a look at some of the problematic results of these systemic issues for both the entrepreneurial and research aspects of integrated venturesHow the Entrepreneurial Aspect can Compromise ResearchThe primary challenges for BOP ventures arecultural, social, ethical, and business planning aspects such as:Designing appropriate systems; Ensuring equity between the stakeholders; Identifying & engaging marginalized stakeholders; managing power dynamics; incentivizing champions; public relations; and business planning with non-cash equityResearching to find the optimum distribution of time, money and sweat equity to be shared by the communities and partnering organizations is pivotal in achieving long-term successThe following set of challenges stem from the presence of the entrepreneurial aspect of the venture and how it can impact the participatory research aspect:The first entrepreneurial challenge is : Bias with foreigners in the communities: There can be a bias when westerners are involved in research initiatives or social ventures in developing communities. Local populations may be highly skeptical of foreigners and Often researchers rely on incentives to obtain accurate informationbut that creates a protocol in the community that canlead to unreasonable expectationsMoreover this problem is further compounded by the instances where the foreign entities actually give away valuable things for free—because this only raises community expectationsFor example:TheGulu Agricultural Development Company (GADC),partner of Acumen Fund, was faced with a conflict while working with cotton farmers inUganda. In an info session, women asked if they would be provided with hoes to help with the farm work. A hoe in this region costs only two dollars and is affordable by the women that earn about $340 dollars per season. The women received free hoes in the previous year and were expecting the same once again. This was an unreasonable request that impacted the venture and the women’s participation in it. GADC decided to provide more hoes, especially to those in need, as a way to cement the necessary relationship of trust. In this case, maintaining the trusting relationship trumped community self-reliance
Rumors and Misinformation are other challenges: Rumors that the government or a non-profit will be providing a product or service free-of-cost to a community can severely impact a ventureIt is common for local authority figures and national political officials to make dubious promises that are impossible, particularly at election time. Examples: A few years back, the President of Gambia, announced that he could cure anyone of HIV/AIDS in three days. This statement was overwhelmingly contrary to the opinions of every authority on science, medicine and public health worldwide. Such claims and rumors have the potential to skew the local public's expectations Further, a venture focusing on improving public health in a developing country context where the President has declared that he can cure HIV/AIDS will have immediate problems engaging customers, particularly if the local community members do not see the benefits in paying for the use of the venture's health services when they have been promised a free cure
Short term vs. long-term expectations: Expectations can arise due to the nature of questions asked by researchers about the entrepreneurial venture If questions about the challenges are not framed in a clear manner, the participants may think that the researcher has the solutionThe research rarely does have a solution and even if the specific venture is pursued further in the community, it may take months or years to materialize. Community members may participate in the research process with preconceived ideas of outcomes. When it becomes apparent that these are not project priorities, their eagerness to participate wanesExample: In 2011, our team and a non-profit co-hosted an event with a university in Uganda. Penn State students and faculty were prepared to share ideas and discuss their ventures, The Ugandan students and facultythought that they would be talking to groups with access to capital & pitched their ventures like they would to investors. Short and long-term expectations were different for both groups, both walked away from the event dissatisfied and without results.
Final challenges stemming from the entrepreneurial aspect are grouped into Levels of Collaboration: Stakeholders have varying levels of involvement and conflicts can arise when one collaborator has contributed more than another In order to clarify stakes and returns, a hierarchy of collaborators can be determined, but that can be just as controversial Points of conflict can also arise when collaborators are also customers For instance, If they provide their opinions as a collaborator, but that input isn’t incorporated into the end result, they may feel slighted and avoid becoming a customerExample: An example of collaboration challenges and tensions arose on the Mashavu telemedicine system. (CHWs) that worked on Mashavu during the first month of its pilot-testing phase were also asked to participate in a research study Mashavu simultaneously asked only some of the CHWs to stay on and be full-time employees with the venture during the second phase of the pilot test. Tensions arose when CHWs who were not asked to stay as employees also decided not to participate inthe research
Now we can look at How the Research can Impact the ventureSuccessful ventures must be contextually appropriate and participatory research makes this possible by using a bottom-up approachParticipatory research can help validate assumptions and gather relevant information to develop effective business and implementation strategies. Stakeholders learn more about the venture and contribute to the design of the product/service while building trust and social capital within the community. At the same time, participation can lead to expectations and ownership, among other issues that can limit and potentially harm a venture First,Expectations:Consistency and coherency of the message is most important during the participatory initiatives Working with community groups requires a considerable amount of diplomacy to ensure that none of the stakeholders are offended and they feel like they are important players in the project If multiple stakeholder teams are working in parallel,it is essential to ensure that they are sending one coherent message to everyoneHowever, as we’ve discussed, bias, language issues and conflicts of interest can lead to misplaced expectations and have damaging effects on the business. Example: For instance, during the research phase, community members may provide their knowledge and opinions on the business model for the venture. If the final business model is not what was suggested by community members, they may feel slighted and avoid using the product or service.
Scale-up Limitations: Research is the means by which one can collect information about the needs and resources necessary for scaling up a venture. And there are two ways to scale-up a venture: scale-up operations or replicate the model. For example, a venture can make a treadle pump in one location and then ship it across the region or country to scale-up operations, or the venture can replicate the business operations in various regions of operation. For example:Husk Power Systems is a social venture that transforms rice husks into electrical power in northern India. Farms in one area can provide limited quantities of rice husks and hence the technology must be replicated in several locationsWhile all the locations will have rice husks, there will be different cultural and socio-economic circumstances that impact the operations of the venture. In this case, perfect replication is not ideal and the business model may change a little bit from system A to system B.Standardizing operations also presents issues: For example, Mashavu’s telemedicine system can hire diploma nurses or degree nurses. A degree nurse commands twice the wages but can provide much better feedback Diploma nurses can operate only in some parts of the country while the degree nurses can operate everywhere. The regions where diploma nurses can operate are less developed areas where people can pay less money for services compared to the other areas. So you might wonder: Should Mashavu standardize the type of nurses it hires or customize the nature of services for each location?
Product Trials are another issue: With participatory research, community members are often provided with incentives or free product trials to adopt the product.The shift from a free trial to a paid service is fraught with tension when the shift is made at different times or different locations. Customers previously getting the service for free may not return once they have to pay for it. For example: During pilot testing, the Mashavu services were offered free of charge in order to gauge community interest and attract consumers. Now that the need for its services has been validated, the system needs to move towards economic sustainability. In some areas, customers are accustomed to receiving Mashavu’s services for free and their interest in the returning might wane if they are charged In this case, we made it clear that the customers will have to pay a small fee after the initial trial period was over. Our team determined the fee after consulting with stakeholders in several partnering communities.And this leads into our final example of how research can impact a venture-- the Pricing Strategy: Research participants are often unable to give an honest answer to the question “what would you pay for this service?” because they are not in the actual situation Hypothetical situations do not provide accurate information about what a person would pay for a serviceTherefore any survey-based research onpricing strategy can be misleading. Furthermore,In certain culturestensions arise if the final price is different than what was suggested by leading community members during the research phase For Example: During the business plan validation phase of the Mashavu venture,team members engaged with local community members and asked them how much they would be willing pay to use Mashavu’s services. The success of the business model depended upon the accuracy of participant’s responses Although the responses gave a general idea they were not absolute and Mashavu’s pricing strategy could be misled by that inaccurate information
When Participatory Research and Business Strategy Collide: Lessons from Base-of-Pyramid Ventures Andrea Grzybowski, Blair Mathias, Khanjan Mehta Humanitarian Engineering & Social Entrepreneurship (HESE) Program The Pennsylvania State University
Road Map• Participatory Research & (Social) Entrepreneurship• Collisions, Tensions & Conflicts •Systemic Issues with Accessing Accurate Information •How Entrepreneurship Can Compromise Research •How Research Can Impact Venture Strategy
Global ContextAffordable Greenhouses Solar Food Dehydrator Mashavu Wishvast
Applied Science, Designs, Methodologies, Curricular Models Lessons Learned & Resources30 Published ; 9 In Review; 30+ In Progress