6/20/16 – This blog post is written by four students in the Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise MBA program who are conducting field research in East Africa. Brett, Alyse, Alana, and Ali share some of their insights into understanding their customers thus far.
The first couple of weeks have been illuminating in a way that class has prepared us for pretty well. While in Fort Collins, we learned the concepts surrounding human-centered design and relationship-based marketing. We are currently in and around Jinja, Uganda, and we’ve had opportunities to employ or experience these concepts firsthand.
Human-centered design is at the core of all we do, ask, and perceive. We talk with people every day who are hoping that their next big investment yields the fruits they’ve planned in their heads, but oftentimes the products they buy are ill suited to the environment in which they’ll be used. For example, nobody has adapted a solar system perfectly to the needs of a rural east African woman running her own bar. Instead, she makes do and succeeds with what is available, but knows things could be better.
In firm agreement with precepts of sustainability marketing, we see a real desire in people to have a closer, longer term relationship with the companies from whom they buy. They know they have valid ideas and feedback, and in most cases they simply have no outlet in which to express them. Especially in the cases of companies peddling cheaper (low cost, low quality) solutions, we see the nature of the relationships as strictly transactional, leaving the man who runs a movie hall holding the bag when his very expensive battery suddenly goes very dead.
Both of these insights remind us how important it is to keep the people we meet centered firmly in our minds, and to focus most intently on understanding how they truly desire to live and work. Check back here in a couple weeks for an update on our progress.