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Author: Mirko Cosentino

Outcomes and reflections from training young entrepreneurs and NGOs in Rwanda

Phyllis Macfarlane and Will Goodhand have been involved to the ESOMAR Foundation training in Rwanda that was held in Kigali from July 25 to 29. Here you can find a little description of how the training was implemented and how the ESOMAR Foundation contributed to this. 



This was a 4-day programme to deliver business skills to young survivors of the Rwandan genocide. The Young Entrepreneurship Training Project (YETP), which is orchestrated by SURF, aims to eradicate extreme poverty and secure viable livelihoods and empowerment through entrepreneurship training and greater access to capital; enabling young survivors to establish their own businesses and build skills relevant to quality employment. As ESOMAR Foundation’s contribution, Phyllis and Will trained 24 young entrepreneurs in marketing and market research skills.

The daily schedule was as follows:

Monday/Wednesday July 25/27th

– Business planning: Vision, Mission, Business Goals.

– Business development: Marketing, Market Research, SWOT Analysis.

Thursday July 28th

– Financials: the P&L and Cash flow.

– Management and Business plans: Case Study, Developing a Business Plan.

Friday July 29th

– Using Social Media for your business/Presentation of Business plans: Awards for best Business Plans.

The ESOMAR Foundation’s role:

Thanks to the expertise from Phyllis and Will, the ESOMAR Foundation was able to deliver the Marketing, Market research skills training, and support the delegates throughout the programme with the development of their Business Plans.

Commentary from the ground: 

Rwanda is a very small country (the size of Wales) with a population of 12 million, mainly young people, and not a lot of natural resources. The Economy is basically agriculture (84%). The delegates from YETP were in their early 20’s, just graduating from college – some with businesses already thought about and set up – some with plans or looking for ideas for their business. Their businesses were mainly agricultural, for example the 3 award winners were:

1. Two girls who were breeding pigs, to sell pork and sausages to hotels and restaurants;

2. A guy who planned to grow mushrooms;

3. Two people who planned to grow bananas.

We had to have a translator, since neither English nor French is fluently spoken, and translation is not easy, because the local language does not always have the precise business/marketing terms that we have in English/French. Nevertheless the delegates were keen to learn and interested, and you could see the difference in them by the end of the course – they were more confident.

We need to remember that they are ‘entrepreneurs’ not by choice, but out of necessity. It is the most likely way that they can make a living.



This programme was intended to train members of the UK Department for International Development (DfID)’s ELE scheme (Empowering Vulnerable Young Survivors who have left Secondary School to Create, Secure and Sustain Employment).  DfID is increasingly acting as an NGO, and is targeting 9,000 vulnerable school dropouts, focusing on women, to improve their lives through Entrepreneurship and job-readiness training, increasing female involvement in local decision-making and increasing the number of female entrepreneurs. Phyllis and Will went to Rwamagana, (about an hour and a half’s drive from Kigali) on Thursday July 28th   to teach 12 young people from ELE about marketing and market research.

Commentary from the ground:

These young people were younger and less well educated than the YETB delegates. And with a bit more ‘attitude’ – they were school drop-outs.

Again their businesses were mainly Primary: Beer and Honey, Beans and Maize, Fruits, Avocadoes, Domestic Animal Trading. Or Retail: Cooking Utensils, a Boutique, Shoes, a Pub. Some were just selling their produce in the market.

Half had active businesses, half were at the planning stage.

We told them about the 5 P’s of Marketing (Product, Place, Promotion, Price, Profit), and how to do basic market research. About the importance of understanding their markets and their customers, and giving good customer service.

There was the usual discussion about the exact meaning of terms – the Rwandan word for ‘Product’ can mean the overall ‘Business idea’, which is a bit confusing for them when we talk about which ‘P’ should be their focus.

They seemed at times to be a little ‘phased’ by it all, but then did ask good, intelligent questions – there’s a perception that (low) price is everything (which we try to dispel)  – and what if the price of your product/service is fixed by government – how can you attract more customers?

They all gained (and could articulate) some ideas of something that they would do differently as a consequence of the training, and at the end they give us a great ‘Rwandan clap’ in thanks.



Weds  July 27th – Association des Etudiants et Eleves Rescapes du Genocide Board Training

Commentary from the ground:

On Wednesday morning, we also did a session of Governance Training to some of the AERG Committee/Council and Senior staff – the issue here was that the governance approach of AERG has not really evolved – the Committee/Council is still an elected body of Students from the University (mainly second/third year), and they believe that they should be very intimately involved in the day-to-day management of the organisation – which was probably, quite correctly, the case at the beginning, when they had no permanent staff. But now the organisation is much larger, and has highly qualified full-time specialist staff, who can be safely left to handle the day-to-day management and decisions, so that the Council can focus on developing strategy etc. But the Council still expects to be consulted on quite minor management decisions.

Once again there were language issues: we referred to a ‘particular’ project – meaning a single, normal, everyday project (ie that Committee/Council need not be involved with), but to them the term means a special/particularly difficult/ project (that the Committee/Council should definitely be involved with). It was interesting and challenging to sort it out!

But by the end we all had a better understanding of the proper relative functions of the Council and the Staff, which should be helpful going forward.

Friday July 29th – SURF Partners Committee

Commentary from the ground:

This Board, which comprises the heads of all the SURF Partner NGO’s, had asked for Training on Meetings Management and Presentation Skills – so we did some standard trainings, which they said they found useful.



From Phyllis Macfarlane

1) Training Entrepreneurs

It is a great belief of mine that everyone in business needs market research skills – and particularly entrepreneurs and start-ups. So many small businesses fail because they don’t systematically collect the information they need  to make good business decisions.They don’t make the effort to understand customer needs properly and fail to acquire new customers, or grow current customer spend.

These are  things that knowledge of market research can help with. So, training entrepreneurs to ‘think’  about understanding and listening to customers, about being systematic in what they do, and counting/quantifying the effect of different actions, should have a huge effect on the way in which they tackle their business development.

What we learnt in Kigali was that many of these young ‘entrepreneurs’ are planning Primary Sector businesses: ie Growing Mushrooms, Making and selling Pork sausages, Farming Chickens and selling eggs. These are very basic businesses and so you have to tailor the training to be appropriate for them. There is little concept of value-add, and not a lot of concept of customer service – these were new ideas for them. But useful one’s, I think.  Nevertheless, by the end of the course you could see the difference in the delegates – they were more confident in themselves

2) Training NGO’s

The concept here is that many aid initiatives are not as effective as they should be because they fail to understand the people they are trying to help – if EF can help NGO’s think about their ‘customers’ in  a market research way – understanding what really makes them tick, then we believe we can also help make their interventions more effective. At ESOMAR Foundation we’re building a ‘body of knowledge’  of all the great social research experience we have as an industry. Sharing that expertise with NGO’s will help, I’m sure. The training in Rwanda was a ‘pilot’ for EF.

What we found was that, in Rwanda, the issues for the NGO’s are much more about Governance structures, running effective meetings, making effective presentations. They’ve had a lot of M&E (Monitoring and Evaluation) training from others – it’s how to run  an NGO that’s the issue for them. So, we were useful, but not in a MR sense. This aspect needs more thought and improvements for future actions.

WORKSHOP – The impact of social research

ESOMAR Foundation strives for Better Results!

New Orleans, 18 September 2016…join us!

Social research (including opinion and political research) accounts for approximately 3.5 billion USD (GMR 2015) to the industry annually. This is not the largest area of research spend but it is, arguably, one of the areas of research which has the largest direct social impact. The ESOMAR Foundation’s Better Results program is an innovative cross-sector program where we explore ways to apply research methodologies and expertise to the non-profit sector’s work so as to help them improve the measurement of their results. The non-profit sector faces a number of challenges in this area including growing demand to measure impact and results, dissatisfaction with the use of findings to improve the delivery of new programs and the lack of adoption of new innovative technologies. The most widely used techniques are in fact quite basic (Log Frame, KPIs and Focus Groups).

Join the ESOMAR Foundation volunteers to explore concrete methods and solutions that will help NGOs better measure and evaluate their work, allowing them to make better informed strategic and operational decisions. Hear from the NGO’s themselves on their challenges and opportunities and how they overcome them.

This highly interactive workshop will offer you:

  • A different perception on research and how it can contribute to poverty reduction, social change and a sustainable development
  • The tools and methods used in social research – in what circumstances they work and don’t work and what we as researchers can do to adapt and improve conventional research methods.
  • What researching in (very) difficult environments can teach all researchers no matter where or what you are researching
  • What are the next steps for improving the performance of the non-profit sector and how can we as an industry contribute to their goals.


Are you interested in participating at the ESOMAR Foundation workshop in New Orleans?

Read the full programme: ESOMAR FOUNDATION WORKSHOP – NEW ORLEANS 18 Septmber 2016.

In case you need more information about the ESOMAR Foundation workshop in New Orleans, please send us an email to: info@esomarfoundation.org.


esomar foundation logo


The ESOMAR Foundation charity prize draw is now open!

The ESOMAR Foundation has launched its charity prize draw!

For the second consecutive year, we are holding a charity prize draw to increase funds for the execution of our activities. In particular, by buying tickets you will help us reach our goal of setting up training, scholarships and help researchers in need in 2017.

It’s only August but we have already received a lot of interesting prizes from our sponsors including holidays in exclusive resorts, tickets for exhibitions, restaurant vouchers, iPad, and much more!

You can support us by buying tickets or sponsoring the charity prize draw providing us with interesting prizes for our supporters.

Visit our dedicated webpage and support the ESOMAR Foundation!

If you have questions don’t hesitate in contacting us at: info@esomarfoundation.org.








People or Profits – Why not both?

How volunteering can improve your business and community, a research by Beth Pearson, co-founder of B2B market research company Circle Research



In the research industry respondents are our raw materials.  We use their thoughts and opinions to manufacture our product – insight.

However, unlike most industries whose raw materials are inanimate objects, ours are human.  That poses some unique challenges.  We can’t simply mine, harvest or produce our raw materials, instead we need to persuade them to participate in the ‘manufacturing’ process.  Numerous ways of doing so have been tried over the years, but I want to focus on one particular incentive – charity donations.

Although charity donations may not always boost response rates as much as a personal donation, this approach brings several advantages.  For example, in B2B research the commercial relationship between survey sponsor and respondent means that personal payment can be seen as inappropriate (and sometimes in breach of bribery laws).

So, although to my knowledge there is no hard data on this, the research industry must be a significant source of income for charities.  Interestingly, this is a symbiotic rather than altruistic relationship as both parties benefit.

Outside of incentives there’s another way in which this symbiotic relationship can be built – by volunteering your time.  That could be by offering an extra pair of hands to help out, or better still, by providing specialist expertise.  After all, charities need research insight just as much as any business does, and your research skills are something that most can’t afford to commission.

I did say this was symbiotic, so how do you benefit?  Well, as well as a nice rosy, satisfied glow inside there are tangible business benefits to volunteering.  I know not just because I’ve set up a volunteering scheme in my business, but because there are hard facts to support it.


Last year we partnered with two charities to explore how they could best encourage businesses to volunteer and ensure that it was a genuine win-win for both parties.  The result is the ‘People or Profits Report’ which is based on a survey of 200 business leaders and a series of interviews with CSR experts.

This study reveals that charities can encourage more businesses to volunteer by:

  • Removing the time and hassle of organizing it (18% and 10% of businesses respectively cited these as the single largest challenges to volunteering)
  • Emphasizing the business benefits.  Two fifths (40%) of businesses volunteering saw a boost in employee morale, two fifths (38%) received positive PR and one fifth (21%) found it created a stronger team
  • Emphasizing the positive experience – 63% of businesses have volunteered in the last year and 95% would recommend it to other businesses.

So what? 

Tempted? If so, the study also reveals five tips when setting up a volunteering programme:

  1. Focus on the added value volunteering could bring to your business, rather than what it might ‘cost’. It easy get stuck on what volunteering might cost a business, but with benefits including an increase in employee morale, team building opportunities and positive PR the positives can far outweigh the negatives.
  2. Get dates in the diary as far in advance as possible. This is simple, the more notice employees have, the easier it is to plan workloads and personal lives to include volunteer work.
  3. Have a range of volunteering options. Employees are all different so play to their strengths. Be flexible about when staff can get involved (in or out of office hours) and which sectors they can volunteer in, such as education or construction, teaching or rehabilitation, and so on.  Make sure you cater for everyone.
  4. Work with a broker. In our study time was one of the main factors found to prevent businesses from volunteering. A broker will reduce the time that volunteering takes to manage as they match your skills with community and charity needs.
  5. And finally, take on a challenge! Our study found that business are much more likely to volunteer in sectors with children or community spaces at their heart. But the most ‘beneficial’ areas to volunteer in are the most challenging, such as rehabilitation and mental illness. Considering a less ‘traditional’ approach to volunteering could the most rewarding by far.

Beth Pearson is co-founder of B2B market research company Circle Research (http://www.circle-research.com).  The full ‘People or Profits Report’ can be downloaded here: http://www.circle-research.com/wp-content/uploads/Business-Volunteering-Report.pdf

Bringing the invisible to light: Researching the hard-to-reach homosexual community in India

This complex study both in terms of the design and operationalizing was executed by a team of researchers at IMRB International, India. A team of investigators experienced in conducting social research and well acquainted with the regional languages were trained for collecting the data.


Although the existence of homosexuality is evident in the Indian culture since pre-historic times, as seen in different forms of art like paintings and carvings in temples, homosexuals are in reality depicted more as an anomaly.  Therefore the men who have sex with men (MSM) are highly stigmatized and those who are engaged in this type of sexual behaviour are usually treated with social contempt. Furthermore the  inequality arising from our normative constructions of masculinity, social attitudes towards feminized males and their ‘unusual or unnatural’ sexual practices, instances of sexual abuse, assault and rape, poverty and disempowerment, alongside legal prejudice impacts their identity in particular and life in general.

The need for research

In a country where even the existence of the MSM population is not acknowledged, the issues that they are faced with are least of our concerns. The vulnerabilities among men who have sex with other men are well established across the public health arena, especially with reference to HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections. Low rates of condom usage, multiple sex partners and inconsistent lubricant use makes them more susceptible. Although the efforts of prevention and support in care have been going on for a while now, the Government records point out that the reach of such interventions has not been quite successful. The seclusion and society’s aversion to their acceptance has become one of the most significant impediments against the HIV/AIDS programs in India. A major cause being that till late men-to-men sex was seen as immoral and unnatural, not just by general public but also by the legal system, which has resulted in keeping these communities at bay from all the government initiatives and programs aimed towards HIV prevention and care as most of the MSM population remain hidden and ‘hard-to-reach’.

The objective

The endeavor was to reach this section of hard-to-reach population through this research project primarily to understand their HIV related risk behaviors. The target group was sexually active men who have sex t men who were not taking services from any Targeted Intervention (TI) projects being implemented in the country by NGOs with support from the Department of AIDS control.

Methodology of the research      

The challenge of the study was to identify and test a methodology to approach this inaccessible, dark and hidden section of the society.

Probability sampling methods do not work with hard-to-reach groups since there is no sampling frame to choose from, there are no defined boundaries and most importantly there are strong privacy concerns. The MSM population is hard-to-reach and harder-to-sample. The plausible way to tap the hard-to-reach MSM seemed to be through the peers or their close networks and thus the use of Respondent Driven Sampling (RDS) was arrived at. RDS, in the past, has been studied and carried out to reach hard-to-reach groups, however this was for the first time that a study of this scale: across three states and a sample size of 1650, with a focus on MSM was carried out using RDS.

RDS is a chain-referral system where current respondents recruit their friends/peers for the study to be future respondents. It employs a dual system of structured compensation: a reward for being interviewed and a reward for recruiting peers to be interviewed. Broadly, it combines snowballing sampling with the mathematical model that weighs the sample to compensate for the fact that the sample was collected in a non-random way. However the selection of the initial respondents referred to as our ‘seeds’ provides an opportunity for making it representative across age, education and geographical area. Analytically, respondent driven sampling gives the opportunity and control and to look at the data in a more organized manner as the common characteristics such as network size, educational background, sexual identity etc. can be tracked in a better manner. The data was analysed across sexual identity, age, use of intoxicants, knowledge on HIV/AIDS among various others.

The impact of the research

This piece of research allowed establishing the indicators with respect to HIV related knowledge, attitudes and practicing among the MSM community. Subsequent to the research a helpline exclusive to the MSM community was launched with an objective to address the issues that they are faced with, counsel them as well as their family members and eventually lead to a sustainable behavior change. Further research has been conducted to track the success and evaluate impact on the panel sample. This methodology has proved to be path breaking to reach the groups with no defined boundaries and can be replicated by various organizations working in the development sector. Groups like drug users, female sex workers, transgender among various others can be reached to in order to understand their behaviors, design specific programmes and evaluate their impact.

How to deal with hard to survey populations

Some populations are hard to survey because they are hard to find, others because they are hard to sample and still others because they are hard to persuade to participate in surveys. Some are simply hard to interview. Examples of hard-to-survey populations include migrants, immigrants, homeless people, persons with intellectual difficulties, the visually impaired, drug users, political extremists, sex workers and people in difficult settings such as war zones or homeless shelters.

By Kevin Gray, president of Cannon Gray, a marketing science and analytics consultancy.

“Help the next person in the hope that they also assist others”

This is the second blog-post from Nicolin Mamuya, the first ESOMAR Foundation scholarship in South Africa.

June 22, 2016

We have already reached the middle of 2016; I guess time seems to fly when you have a lot on your plate. I wrote my mid-year exams this month. How did it go? Well, the first two exams (Business to Business Marketing and Logistics Management) went great and the marks justify. Marketing Research went all right as well. Strategic Management on the other hand was unpredictable. I mean, we all had the previous exam paper which was a precise duplicate of the actual exam paper however; the subject accounted for my lowest mark and had many people in tears. On a positive note, the University awarded me with a R4 230 merit bursary for attaining a 70% average for my second year. I am hoping to use the money to purchase textbooks for my second semester.

I am learning to cope with living alone. It has its pros and cons. For instance, I enjoy the idea of not having a curfew however, for a talkative person like me, coming home to no one can be a nightmare. My mom is slowly recovering. She is learning how to walk and I am really proud of how well she is doing. My family has arranged for me to go see her at the end of this month. I am excited but already dreading the heat in Tanzania. Tanzania is a very hot country and I don’t mean it in a good way. Nonetheless it is a very beautiful and peaceful country to live in.

Let’s move on to what has been happening with Unique Women. We have created a Facebook page as well as a Blog. There are only 6 people in the group, each with different responsibilities. We wanted to keep the circle as small as possible, at least just until we become established. We have printed our own Unique Women shirts and I must say they look really good. On the 16th of June we paid a visit to a local orphanage to donate groceries and also lend a hand with the toddlers. The babies were adorable and they absolutely loved the attention.

Vanessa (my best friend) and I have assumed the position as leaders, which means we set out what the team should do, this of course includes ourselves. We have created a profile for Unique Women stating our mission, vision and values. We plan on also offering tutor and mentor services to primary school children. We also plan on assisting to clean the outside areas of hospitals. Our biggest project so far is raising money to actually pay the school fees of a deserving primary school child. We don’t want to award it to the smartest student but rather the most hardworking. This will be done through fundraising and monthly donations from each member.

As predicted, a group of young females working together is quite problematic with everyone being entitled to their own opinions. Some members are not co-operating which makes other members feel skeptical about the success of the group. Seeing as we are such a small group, the resignation of one member could affect all of us significantly. I spoke to Vanessa about it and she assured me that if it had to come down to the both of us then we would continue to carry out our plan as this is bigger than just a group. It is about helping people in the end.

I just hope everything goes well in the end. When I think of how blessed I am I just want to pay it forward. You know, help the next person in the hope that they also assist others. I remain truly grateful for absolutely everything I have and if we could just have a positive effect on just one person through this initiative then our efforts would not go in vain.

Nicolin Mamuya


The scholarship awarded to Nicolin was sponsored by SSI and in collaboration with SAMRA.



How market research can help NGOs to measure and engage the audience

There were several issues that supported the need for research by Venezuela’s second most important TV channel in terms of rating. With this article StatMark explains how market research can help NGOs to measure and engage the audience.


  • The conventional methods applied for measuring audience levels generated, from the station’s point of view, significant doubts regarding reported national TV audience levels. If one takes into consideration current socio-economic conditions, entailing a very restrictive economy in combination with high crime levels, large parts of the population are forced to restrict outdoor entertainment to a minimum. It was therefore thought that indoor entertainment, TV being one of its key sources, should appear more prominently among media tracking studies. The research indeed proved audience levels to be significantly above previously reported available data, i.e. people stayed home much more and more people were watching TV than previously supposed.
  • Secondly, but by no means less important, is the socio-political context to which Venezuelan society has been subjected over the past 17 years in which the media sector, by its very nature, has systematically become a key target of surveillance, especially when editorial positions expose the state’s failings to properly address societal issues. Across time, this has led to neutralization of media not aligned to the regime’s line of thought, either by unfriendly takeovers (as has been the case for numerous radio stations and key print media), and more significantly, the closing of what was up to 2007, the country’s oldest and most influential private TV station.
  • As of 2013, conditions have become more extreme, social tensions have led to increasingly repressive State actions, with further news curtailment, among other issues now generally known through the world press. Stringent regulation on news broadcasts precluded the media to provide timely and objective information in extreme situations. Under the circumstances, Social Media, among which Twitter held a prominent position, became the most available source of information. Twitter also gathered audience’s dissatisfaction towards conventional media on a whole, as in many cases TV and to a lesser extent all other conventional media, were wrongly perceived as aligned with the government. In response to audience pressure, our client’s started to re-tweet the news gathered by the audience, which somewhat contributed to stem the “bad press” potentially associated to our client’s channel.


Twitter, which figures as one of the most used social media within the local context, had been increasingly incorporated by our client’s Station as a means to gauge programming satisfaction and engagement, as well as to measure program content balance among what, until very recently, was described as an ideologically split audience. Prior to the research we conducted, client analyzed Social Media content in house in a non-systematic fashion.


Obviously, one of the key objectives needed to be addressed on behalf of our client was the station’s real position in terms of “hard” metrics (audience levels, share of audience and advertising investment value in terms of rating points). Nevertheless, what the client felt lacking in traditional media tracking studies was the understanding of the “whys” and “hows” of the audience- media interaction, for example with basic questions such as: reasons for viewing a program, reasons for viewing a specific station, other activities being conducted whilst watching TV, among several other.

The research involved the application systematic telephone interviews from 6 am until 10 pm, seven days a week, across 6 main cities, over a two-month period. By applying automatic speech recognition (ASR) with intelligent dialogue user interface, in lieu of conventional CATI, data collection became extremely efficient, thus achieving over 50 thousand interviews per month. Such sample sizes, in themselves being statistically representative of any population, provided the flexibility to incorporate different sets of open ended questions.

Program – specific social media content was gathered in tandem with the survey’s “soft” analytics. Combined findings supported the measurement of audience engagement, involving Cognitive, Emotional and Attitudinal dimensions regarding Program and Station Image and Satisfaction.


For NGO’s, the application of automatic speech recognition (ASR) with intelligent dialogue user interface, in tandem with issue-specific social media content analysis, provides the user with Big Data information support gathered at significantly lower CPI levels. Based on the immediacy of the information required by the user, samples can be adjusted to time sensitive needs. Nevertheless, samples gathered through these methods will be, by definition, significantly more robust than if gathered through conventional means.

The results gathered from open-ended responses at such a large scale, provide answers that are both qualitative and quantitative in nature. If in prior research projects, open-ended responses required prior coding, with the Cognitive Computing approach applied to our project, identification of similarities and differences, as well as quantitative ranking and interpretation of opinions and feelings, was achieved on a massive scale in a very short timeframe.  Massive qualitative opinion processing done this way, becomes, what we termed in our presentation of “quantilative” nature, merging qualitative with quantitative research into one.

As can be ascertained from the challenging context in which our research was conducted, the importance of Social Media content analysis cannot be underestimated, it being the up-to-date, disrupting and disruptive means of communications within a media controlled environment. Nevertheless, there still being a significant population sector which access conventional media with various degrees of engagement, but who not necessarily are intensive Social Media users. This segment also needs to be addressed. Thus, Social Media users’ opinions, whilst representative in themselves, need to be supplemented with other sources of information to confirm whether their opinions are or not in line with those of the overall population.


This research showing the added value of market research for our society was conducted by  StatMark, a multidisciplinary team of research consultants, experts on market and opinion Research within Latin America.

How Mobile Phones Gathered Vital Food Security Data in the Democratic Republic of Congo

DataIn 2013, the World Food Programme was faced with a challenge when conflict broke out in the North Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of Congo. They needed updated food security indicator data, but could not collect it via traditional methods. This led them to develop a new way to collect food security data: through mobile survey company GeoPoll, which had the ability to send SMS messages directly to the phones of citizens in North Kivu.


For years, governments and aid organizations have collected data to educate themselves about the needs and preferences of their beneficiaries; information on education, safety, and food security better informs stakeholders on these important matters. But in emerging markets such as those in Sub-Saharan Africa, it can be difficult to collect timely data, especially during a time of crises. Lack of reliable infrastructure combined with security risks can hinder data collection efforts, which means organizations like USAID and the World Food Programme (WFP) need to come up with new ways to access data.

Over the past decade, mobile phone penetration has grown in Sub-Saharan Africa: despite the lack of landline and internet infrastructure, mobile networks have grown. This increased connectivity has led humanitarian organizations to use the mobile phone as a way to communicate with beneficiaries and on-the-ground workers. Mobile connectivity has also opened up an opportunity for collecting data remotely from large populations in hard-to-reach areas, which is what led the WFP’s mVAM unit to work with mobile survey company GeoPoll to develop a methodology that could collect food security data remotely.


The WFP had done previous work analyzing food security in North Kivu through face-to-face interviews 2011 and 2012, but in early 2013 conflict in the region dramatically altered the food security situation. WFP chose to partner with GeoPoll to send out mobile surveys because GeoPoll has a large database of mobile subscribers in the DRC, and is able to send messages that are free for respondents. The two organizations worked together to adapt two food security modules for the mobile phone, and sent surveys by SMS in July, August, and September of 2013.

Results showed that demographically, mobile surveys and face-to-face surveys were in line, with a distribution of 69.6% male and 30.4% female for mobile, and 65.2% male to 34.8% female in face-to-face surveys. Mobile results from the Food Consumption Score (FSC) module were consistent over all three months, with an average of 76.5% of respondents having an “acceptable” FCS score, and 8.1% having a “severe” score. However, while there may have been outside factors impacting data, mobile surveys had difficulty in accurately assessing the “borderline” category in between “acceptable” and “severe” scores. The Reduced Coping Strategies Index (rCSI) included only 5 questions, and for this index, results from mobile surveys were not significantly different from face-to-face results, indicating that the mobile surveys were able to accurately calculate rCSI scores.

The impact

These surveys were intended to determine if mobile surveys could be a reliable method for future projects. While there were some differences in the data, mobile surveys accurately demonstrated food security trends and identified the populations most vulnerable to severe food insecurity. There were also significant cost and time differences: costs were $5 per survey for mobile surveys, and $22 per survey for face-to-face. Mobile surveys took 2 weeks for collection of 1,000-2,000 responses, whereas face-to-face surveys took 6 weeks for 2,700 responses, and the mobile survey timeframe has been further reduced in subsequent projects.

Innovative solutions are often most needed in trying situations, but once a method has been tested it can be used over and over again.  Since this project, GeoPoll and the WFP have utilized mobile surveys to gather data throughout Africa, including in West Africa during and after the Ebola outbreak. The possibilities that methods like this open up are endless, and this project demonstrates the usefulness of mobile as a tool in aid, government, and commercial research, either as a stand-alone method or combined with other types of data collection.  When surveys need to span expansive regions or reach large numbers of respondnets, the ease of use, timeliness and cost-effectiveness of mobile surveys is difficult to beat.  Even in smaller projects there is clear potential for mobile surveys: text messages or voice recordings allow for those who are not always home to answer questions whenever they want, and respondents can answer sensitive questions privately. The boom in mobile connectivity in the past years shows no sign of letting up, and this technology allows researchers to transcend traditional barriers of access to collect data more quickly from a larger group of respondents. Although it can be risky to experiment with unknown methods, innovation is desperately needed in many research fields, and as time goes on mobile surveys will continue to demonstrate their immense reach and power.




This research showing the added value of market research for our society was conducted by GeoPoll, a leading mobile surveying platform in Africa and Asia with a database of over 200 million users.

The ESOMAR Foundation and the Paragon Partnership

Phyllis MacFarlane – Treasurer of the ESOMAR Foundation, speaks about her experience between the ESOMAR Foundation and the Paragon Partnership.

Are you familiar with the United Nation’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) ?  (The first is to end poverty, and the second is to end hunger – it’s always been something of a relief to me that it is someone’s job to end world hunger!). But I digress – my question is: do you think that the market research industry can do anything to help the UN achieve these goals?

Well, many people in the Industry believe that we can. And so they have set up Paragon  – with the determination to use data and insight to improve people’s lives.

Here’s what it says on the website. The Paragon Partnerships has been created to infuse insights that will help to tackle the 17-point plan of the UN Global Goals – end poverty, combat climate change, and fight injustice and inequality around the world. Paragon brings  Research Companies and their Clients together in partnership to generate and provide access to quality insights on the issues that the world is facing, helping Governments, Academics and NGO’s around the world to accomplish their goals.

Wow!!! – isn’t that something?! – and, what’s more, this is music to our ears at the ESOMAR Foundation – remember our philanthropy programme: ‘Better Results’?  – it’s aim is to bring the worlds of market research and philanthropy together to  bring the skills and expertise of market researchers to help NGO’s better identify ‘customer’ need and measure the impact and effectiveness of their programmes.

A perfect match with Paragon

So, we as ESOMAR Foundation, are very excited and proud to be ESOMAR’s representative on the Paragon Committee.

On May 17th, I attended the first  meeting, which was hosted by Unilever in their London Offices and attended in person or by phone by a host of agencies, clients and NGO’s.

As you might expect of a first meeting on a very big project, the discussion was varied and wide ranging . The bulk of the meeting was spent discussing an opportunity to partake in an official UN meeting on the 18th July, where the multi-agency partnerships working on the progress of the UN goals will be showcasing their work. Paragon has been invited to take part in this meeting in order to demonstrate what our initiative is all about and what the market research industry can bring to the table.

There are already projects looking at marketing, monitoring and planning around the global goals, but, as researchers,  we could bring the ‘why’ behind the perceptions of how people feel about the goals. The Paragon website states ‘We can change the world. We are determined to use data and insight to improve people’s lives’. Basically the MR Industry can add insight to understand the progress and impact of the SGD’s on ordinary people, and advise on perceived obstacles and barriers to help improve the effectiveness of implementation initiatives. We can do this using our expertise, plus additional data collected by the Industry, plus the wealth of open data generally available through Governments, NGO’s and other sources. (ie MR plus BIG Data).

The thought of the meeting was that we could split our approach into two parts, the short term (by 18th July) and the long term (on-going).

At the UN meeting in July we should focus on saying who we are, why we were formed and show the sort of insight we can bring, via a good example in a specific country. Then in the long term we plan to host an open-source platform of data and insights available to people working on the global goals.

At the moment we are working on identifying that key example which will demonstrate what we can do – our UN contacts are helping us. And we’re organising smaller teams to define specifics like data collection, how to make the data openly available etc etc.  There’s a way to go, and many people involved, but it’s so great that others in the global MR industry really agree with us that market research really can help the philanthropy sector do their work more effectively – and where better to start than with the UN ‘s new global goals! I’ll keep you all posted on all progress.

Phyllis MacFarlane