I’ve been taking a course called Human-Centered Design (HCD), offered through +Acumen. The course teaches participants how to apply design techniques when addressing global challenges, such as water and sanitation, or skills training for the world’s poorest people. Through group work, my team created a prototype for a food sharing app to reduce food waste in urban communities. I was eager to apply HCD to my work at Rent to Own to develop financial literacy amongst our clients.
At Rent to Own, we work with clients who may not have access to credit and live in rural areas. Through our services, clients make monthly payments for equipment, delivery, and training. At the end of the payment schedule, ownership of the asset transfers to the client. Our services enable clients to increase income sooner than if they had saved the money and made the full payment upfront. We’ve served over 1,500 clients to date and had lots of success. Although, we’re always looking for opportunities to improve our services.
We realized that while most clients manage to make their payments on time, some really struggle if faced with illness or a big change in the business environment (e.g market price drop, drought). A common saying at RTO is that “we succeed when our clients succeed”. So, thought secondary research, we found that farmers who were trained on business planning often had higher incomes than control groups.
For RTO, providing financial literacy training to clients would enable them to budget for their business and household expenses, plan for emergencies, and save for goals, such as building a new house. This seemed like a perfect opportunity to apply HCD! I was also really looking for a way to get the Toronto Professional Chapter involved in the work Rent to Own was doing. So, a few weeks ago, the EWB Toronto Professional Chapter teamed up with Rent to Own to run a human-centered design workshop and prototype ideas that could help clients manage their finances.
I was nervous about the workshop because I would be facilitating the HCD introduction from Lusaka. I was worried about the internet, level of interaction, and my ability to actually engage the audience when I was just a voice on the phone. Somehow, everything came together and worked out (at least, that’s what they’ve told me).
Teams were given an introduction to HCD, then briefed on RTO’s business, and given time to generate ideas for financial literacy training. Overall, I’m glad we ran the workshop because collectively we had far more creativity than if the team at RTO worked alone. Working independently, I’d thought of offering a financial literacy workshop. Boring. The ideas included using ice cream trucks to draw attention in rural communities, designing a board game to include families, using local celebrities, and having community members facilitate the sessions. Over the next few months, we’ll (hopefully) get to test out some of these ideas with our clients and see what works. I’ll keep you posted.