Guest blogger Lauren Leatherby is a first-year Master in Public Policy student at the Harvard Kennedy School who spent Winter Break…
Have empathy. See new opportunities.
User-centered design starts with the user
Finding fresh solutions to age-old problems demands empathy, not sympathy. It’s about understanding the minutiae of the person, the place and the problem. No detail is too trivial and you never know where a solution might present itself.
It’s the kind of understanding that we get from living alongside Myanmar rural families everyday.
Knowing our customers
Real impact and effectiveness require real proximity to rural families
We obsess over knowing our customers, and we believe, that to know them best, we have to be proximate. All of our 350+ staff are in Myanmar, with most at the village level. They’re out there every day, 365 days a year, asking questions, observing lifestyles and getting to know rural family's needs first hand.
This meticulous user-centered research helps us to provide products and services that are personalized and relevant, and that slot easily into rural lifestyles. Products and services that people - like the betel farmer crippled from hauling 6 tons of water on his back every day - will use, and think, “It’s like it was made for me”. To do this well we have to build trust, and a relationship that goes two ways. So, we treat the poor as customers, not beneficiaries. It means they always have a choice, and that we’re guaranteed to get their honest opinions on what we’re doing, either through sales numbers or when they corner us in a teashop. Their feedback, our detailed impact analysis, and our continued field observations, all circle back into the design process. It’s what keeps us growing, and improving our services.