By Mitul Daiyan and Karima Ladhani
Ahmedabad is a bustling city with a strange mix of cars, motorcycles, and auto rickshaws that share space with streets lined with fruit vendors, snack shops, and the occasional glimpses of poverty. Amidst the numerous temples, prominent universities and institutions are sprinkled throughout the city so there’s visual representation of the blend of traditional and progressive values. We wanted to make the most of our time in this colorful city rich with culture and knowledge. This past week, we spent our time cementing ties with the people who believed in the impact that Barakat Bundle could have, conducting a Human Centered Design Workshop with Ahmedabad University, and initiating conversations with government officials and potential NGO partners. Of the numerous things we’ve done during our stay, the most valuable use of our time was the fieldwork we conducted with a diverse pool of mothers who had much to teach us. These interviews gave us far more insight than any research we did inside our offices and classrooms. Before we dive into our final fieldwork session, we thought it would be a good time to take a step back and share our learnings from these potential Barakat Bundle recipients.
A Village Gathering, Home Visit, and Informal Settlements
Through the help of the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), we were taken to a rural village in Jetalpur (in the outskirts of Ahmedabad) to conduct our first focus group during Mamta Divas Day (weekly village health outreach day for pregnant women, mothers, and children). Mothers came for their consultation with the Angadwadi worker and were asked if they wanted to stay behind to be a part of a Barakat Bundle focus group. We managed to get an enthusiastic group of mothers with whom we sat side by side with as we began the conversation.
We held our second focus group with a family who lived not too far from the healthcare facility. This group consisted of three daughter-in-laws, their children, and a mother-in-law who loomed over them in the background.
To get some diversity in the reception of Barakat Bundle, we decided to change the demographic of our audience by shifting from the village to the slums. Because Manav Sadhna already had a working relationship with the community, they helped us by bringing together women from the community who were willing to give us their time. It was a powerful example of the kind of trust that is built with grassroots efforts like the ones that Manav Sadhna takes part in. Along with the a group of Angadwadi workers, we sat with mothers and their babies inside a small but colorful classroom that was built by volunteer architects and engineers to create an open and welcoming space for the community.
Our focus group questions were carefully designed and crafted to ensure that mothers felt that their answers and views were not just necessary but also valued. We asked questions about what their current practices were, their aspirations, hopes and dreams in order to really understand who they were as people. We then dived into questions about the bundle, inquiring about the items in the box that appealed to them, items that they found to be unnecessary. We ended our session by showing them the four prototypes we were testing.
Reflecting On What We Learned
We came to Gujurat with a series of assumptions about what to expect, what mothers wanted, and what communities needed. Here are some key takeaways from our focus groups:
- Everybody loves to swing their babies! The traditional ghodiyu is very popular and we recognized that we would need a prototype that tapped into the familiarity of what they were used to and innovate around that.
- The hierarchy between mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law is very strong! The mother-in-laws keep a careful watch over her daughter-in-laws and even seniority among daughters-in-law affected responses. This taught us that the composition of the family and of the focus group would affect the responses we received.
- Many mothers didn’t understand the value of the toys nor of the books because they couldn’t read. They didn’t recognize the importance of pointing out pictures and talking to their babies with books and toys. We learned that our cognitive development items would have to include an education component to be effective.
- It was very difficult to get negative feedback from the mothers. The slum population in particular was significantly more hesitant than the previous group of women we had surveyed. There were often long silences and while our prepared questions were designed a particular way, the Angadwadi workers continuously interjected by asking leading questions which made for often biased answers. When asked about their opinions on the items and the prototypes, they were more concerned about offending us than giving an answer that reflected what they really wanted or hoped to see. This was an important lesson in culture – perhaps we could train someone to run focus groups without us to minimize a foreign presence and increase accuracy of responses.
- Mothers want sanitary napkins! While some confused these with diapers for their babies, once they realized what they were this was an overwhelmingly popular item.
While some of our assumptions were on point, there were many new learnings that we tried to incorporate in this rapid prototyping phase. These focus groups have proved just how valuable human centered design is in our process to develop bundles that are truly reflective of the needs and wants of the people. At the end of the day, to truly leave a mark here and create lasting social impact, our bundle needs to be designed in such a way that encourages usage and understanding of what we’re hoping to provide. We can’t do that if we’re not having these conversations, if we’re not asking the mothers for their input. As we embark on conducting our final focus group and giving our prototypes away to test them, we’re hoping to take what we’ve learned and make the most of this opportunity by putting to practice our takeaways.