Learning before doing: Testing concepts during design process

October 26th, 2020 | Story


Messages are best designed in partnership with the people who will use them, but how do we incorporate co-design into tight timelines and projects that span continents? A team of researchers from JSI, the Manoff Group, and OSSREA who work on the USAID-funded Feed the Future Ethiopia Studying Animal Source Food Markets in Rural Areas (SAFIRA) found a way.

After a preliminary round of formative research, the team determined that the SAFIRA project would promote eggs as a complementary food for babies in Ethiopia’s Tigray Region. Next, the team was faced with the question of how to promote eggs in a way that would resonate with parents and caregivers, who are also market actors whose demand can influence suppliers. The team drafted initial concepts based on what Tigryian parents liked about eggs, then hired a local artist to draw sketches depicting parents feeding their children eggs in various settings.

What did we learn?

Below are two of the sketches that the team tested with parents and a summary of their reactions.

Of the six sketches tested, most parents preferred the one above. As one mother stated, “I like the idea [portrayed in the illustration] as eggs are important to children and we have to express our love by giving them care and by feeding them.” A father said, “The idea is clear, if we love our children we will provide egg; as a result they grow fast and will have a bright mind.

An unexpected finding from the discussion was that eggs depicted in a health facility (such as the image above, in which a health worker is explaining the benefits of eggs to a mother and her child) were not viewed as positively. From preliminary research, the team learned that health workers were trusted sources of information, especially for infant and young child feeding practices. However, showing eggs at the health facility did not reinforce their importance to parents. Another unexpected finding from the discussion was the degree to which the details of the depictions of the eggs were noticed by parents. For example, one parent mentioned that in an image, “the eggs look peeled,” and was concerned about hygiene and the risk of contamination.

The research team expected that each concept was equally likely to be preferred by parents. However, after discussing them with parents, it was clear that some would be better at conveying the message that eggs are good for children. Learning this before project implementation is exactly why we test our concepts with the people for whom they are intended.

Next steps

The concept testing method was employed in SAFIRA’s second round of formative research conducted in September 2019. From the findings collected in the first and second rounds, questions remain about how eggs are procured by households outside of a formal market structure and the third round of research is planned for late 2020/early 2021.

Feed the Future Ethiopia Studying Animal Source Foods in Rural Areas (SAFIRA) is a three-year cooperative agreement funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) under Agreement No. 7200AA18CA00045, beginning September 30, 2018. SAFIRA is implemented by JSI, Inc. (JSI) with partners The Manoff Group, IFPRI, and OSSREA. The contents of this blog are the responsibility of SAFIRA and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States government.

Written by: Sarah Delaney, Researcher

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