SPRING: What did businesses learn?

SPRING: What did businesses learn?

While the impact focus for SPRING was improving adolescent girls’ lives, the programme could not have succeeded without the commitment and collaboration built with their partner businesses. SPRING established relationships with 75 businesses across 9 countries.  In this blog, the Evaluation Team Lead – Gordon Freer – highlights three lessons these businesses learned.

 SPRING was a development programme aimed at improving the lives of girls. But its implementation was different to other development programmes. Instead of “direct delivery” – where the programme implements activities that would have directly benefitted girls – instead the programme opted for partnering with businesses to achieve programme objectives.

They did this for a few reasons, including:

  • Mobilising resources and reaching populations and areas to which the donors had no access;
  • Creating a process where businesses might look beyond their immediate, obvious markets to achieve development goals; and
  • Highlighting the economic potential of the adolescent girl market, anticipating that businesses would continue to reach girls and improve their lives after the programme closed.

Lesson 1: Girls are a potential market

Within their first year of working with the programme, the number of prototypes that businesses developed to focus exclusively on girls nearly doubled. SPRING encouraged businesses to refine, redevelop or refocus products or services they were offering to be more attractive to, more applicable to, or more accessible to adolescent girls.

While businesses were reaching girls, often as part of a larger more inclusive market, SPRING assisted them to reach this demographic more effectively. Even businesses which did not focus explicitly or exclusively on girls one year after SPRING, reported becoming more girl sensitive, and more aware of girls’ specific needs and challenges. Using Human Centred Design was a key element contributing to this.

After the programme ended over half the businesses continue to reach their girl target market.

Lesson 2: Reaching girls as a new market takes time and might not be commercially viable as a stand-alone market segment

While almost half the businesses reported increases in their girl reach in their first year of working with SPRING, the actual reach, in numerical terms, was relatively small.  Only two of these businesses reported reaching more than 5000 girls in the first year.  These businesses slowly increased their girl reach, but often needed to expand their market offering to include other demographics, such as boys, or older girls.

Lesson 3: The recipe for reaching girls at scale had four “ingredients”

The SPRING business models which reached the largest number of girls had four things in common.

Firstly, they tried to more accurately understand their target market by engaging with girls on an ongoing basis.

Then, secondly, as a result of this more accurate picture of their client, they continued to iterate their prototype, subsequently testing a refined model, before gathering more feedback data.

Thirdly, the businesses employed technology as a central component of their prototype.  While some businesses faced challenges in providing technology directly to girls, other businesses used technology as an integral part of their offering, sometimes as a back office component.  This eased their ability to make early and frequent changes, often reflecting the needs of their market gathered through the product iteration process, described above.

Finally, businesses recognised that the girls did not exist in a “bubble” but overlapped with several other demographic groups.  Sometimes members of these other groups acted as gatekeepers to the adolescent girls. Gatekeepers included teachers, older female relatives, faith leaders, and in some cases, male siblings, some of whom might be younger than the girls.  By understanding the overlapping demographic groups and the social environments in which the girls lived, businesses identified gatekeepers and gained their support by demonstrating the value of the product or service. A gatekeeper’s endorsement would open a door to this “hidden” girl market.

For more information detailing the lessons businesses learned, download our Summative Business Performance Evaluation Report.