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The True Added Value of Data Philanthropy

This article is an extract of the “Global Market Research 2018 – An ESOMAR Industry Report”

When talking about market research we usually discuss its commercial applications, such as product testing. Less is known about its contribution to the common good, even though development is a multi-billion sector. We ask several non-profits how data supports them in their powerful, world-improving endeavours – from making invisible street children visible, to tracking the spread of Ebola outbreaks.

Rebecca Lim

Rebecca Lim is Head of Our Better World (OBW), the digital storytelling initiative of the Singapore International Foundation, whose aim is to strengthen mutual understanding between global communities as well as enrich lives and effect positive change. The research that supports this work won an award at this year’s first edition of the ESOMAR Foundation ‘Making a Difference Competition’. Lim stresses the importance of reliable facts. “The data we have from our analytics informs us about what our online audiences are interested in, what they’re clicking on, and it guides us in our storytelling.”

OBW shares stories from non-profits from across Asia in video, photo and text form, to create a bigger awareness of good causes. The goal is to entice people to support them, says Lim. “It’s critical for us to have data, because that gives us insights and helps us get better in how we tell stories and how we get our audiences involved in the different causes.”

When the platform started six years ago, there was no research in digital storytelling for social impact in Asia. Primary research was needed to understand national psyches and uncover drivers of culturally and socially relevant story themes, to better connect with audiences. Only by understanding this, would OBW be able to nurture and grow an online community of action takers.

OBW approached Kantar Millward Brown to form a partnership to undertake this primary research. The study into digital audiences demonstrated how different triggers inspire people to act. “In India, for instance, the aspect of social change is most important. People want to be able to play a role in changing a flawed system. Having that insight, we created a video story about child sexual abuse in the country. This started a conversation online and many people approached the non-profit Cactus Foundation with stories about their abuse experiences, including a 70-year old lady. This also resulted in over 1000 volunteer enquiries to the Cactus Foundation. So that was really powerful.”

“We’re all about real stories, especially in this age of fake news, we feel these are all the more relevant.”

With such sensitive topics, it’s crucially important that Our Better World has access to the most reliable data. In case of a dispute or even a denial of social injustice, the organisation can always substantiate its stories by referring to data sets from credible sources. “We’re all about real stories,” stresses Lim. “Especially in this age of fake news, we feel these are all the more relevant.”

Sema Sgaier

Another winner in the ESOMAR Foundation ‘Making a Difference Competition’ 2018 is the Surgo Foundation, a privately funded action tank which partners with organisations and governments to help unlock some of their biggest challenges. “Our key principle is data,” says the foundation’s Co-Founder & Executive Director, Sema Sgaier. She explains that this is a multi-billion sector. Each year over 170 billion dollars is spent to improve the lives of people who live in poverty. This money is spent by multinationals, governments, donors etc. “It’s a pretty data-heavy sector. The question is how this data is being collected and used.”

As an example of smart data use, Sgaier tells about increasing the coverage of vaccines and immunisation to save children’s lives. “Spreading the vaccines is usually quite successful, but what’s lagging is the usage. We’re failing to treat the users as customers of a product because we don’t understand the detailed ecosystem they live in. So we try to close that gap with data and insights that are not traditional in the sector. With these we can design programs that improve the uptake of these services.”

The people whose lives the Surgo Foundation is trying to improve, are what Sgaier describes as populations who are in the dark to the private sector. “For example, many big brand products don’t reach places in rural India. Big manufacturers don’t reach these people through research. So for us, the challenge is to get the data, both on a large scale and on a detailed, deep level.” In order to get the much-needed facts, the foundation has developed its own multi-disciplined teams. It also partners with NGO’s, governments and large suppliers such as Ipsos, who have data collecting teams on the ground, as well as with start-ups who have developed new methodologies. “It really is a collaborative effort,” says Sgaier.

What distinguishes the Surgo Foundation within the non-profit field is its use of private sector-type insights in the public domain. “As an innovation lab, we’re trying to bring methodologies and approaches to the development sector that are not common, and in many ways are unique there. One example would be psycho-behavioural segmentation. In market research it is bread and butter, but in development it is new. In our sector we tend to look at demographics, at age, not at psycho-behavioural profiles. We’re really trying to shift the sector in its approach to thinking about data and how to collect it.”

Hugo Rukavina

Hugo Rukavina is Systems & Information Manager at StreetInvest, a International Development NGO that wants to improve the opportunities and safety of street children around the world. The organisation aims to better inform and positively influence stakeholders through research, data collection and advocacy. “To do this we need to demonstrate the impact of street work on street-connected children,” says Rukavina. “Research and data are key to supporting street-connected children. Without it, we do not know where they are or how best to support them.”

“The absence of this data makes these children invisible.”

Street-connected children exist in every country of the world, yet the lack of systematically collected and disaggregated data means StreetInvest does not know how many there are. “The lack of a standard methodology for counting them results in data which is contested and which lacks credibility. The absence of this data makes these children invisible, which leads to policies not being developed or measures that are ad hoc, temporary or short-term.”

StreetInvest’s headcounting methodology has been recognised as the sector-preferred approach to counting street-connected children, and has been used by a range of partners, including UNICEF. It seeks to provide a standardised, scalable, rights-respecting approach to collecting quantitative data on the number of street-connected children in a specified geographical location, explains Rukavina. “This data can then be disaggregated in by age, gender, disability and activities. The analysis and dissemination of this data is intended to inform the design of policies and programmes which affect street-connected children.”

The numbers have to be absolutely correct. Inaccurate data does not help street-connected children. Wildly inflated numbers can make policy makers and the public believe it’s an unsolvable problem because there is just too many of them in need of support. “Some NGOs may inflate numbers to attract funding, or they are simply based on poor estimates. Underreporting may have the opposite effect: if there is no hard data to show the existence of street-connected children in an area, the authorities can easily dismiss it as a minor issue that doesn’t require intervention.”

Bringing a wide group of stakeholders together, including governments, is one of the positive outcomes of StreetInvest’s headcount, says Rukavina. “It is not just about getting data, the process is also about bringing people and stakeholders together to reach a common understanding of the issues facing street-connected children, and that working with them in a rights-based and child-centred way is the best way to support them.”

Marie Stafford

Marie Stafford is European Director for the Innovation Group, JWT, an in-house futures consultancy that delivers trends, insight and thought leadership to its clients. She’s long been an advocate of businesses sharing their data for the common good. “If we agree that business has a role to play in helping to build a better world, then data philanthropy offers another route to achieving that goal. A lot of important data is held by businesses and organisations can’t get access.”

“Companies have an obligation to help solve social problems and this is an attitude they will bring to the workplace.”

The conversation is growing, she observes. Although she describes data philanthropy as still an emerging field, Stafford does see many signs of it gaining momentum. “Some data suggest that use of the hashtag #dataforgood has gone up by around 68 per cent in the last year. I think participation will definitely grow, but it’s going to take time. Participation is being driven by data scientists themselves, keen to put their skills to positive use outside the day job. Generation Z thinks companies have an obligation to help solve social problems and this is an attitude they will bring to the workplace. Gartner is now predicting that by 2020, employers with a data for good programme will have 20 per cent higher retention rates for data scientists. So it’s going to be a good way to motivate valuable talent.”

“Business has a role to play in helping to build a better world, then data philanthropy offers another route to achieving that goal.”

Stafford adds that consumers also rate ‘good’ companies higher. “Data philanthropy is just one way in which companies can demonstrate those values and pursue a social mission, and they have a big role to play in its future.” In a recent study JWT conducted on sustainability, 89 per cent of people across the UK, USA, China and Australia said they wanted to know more about companies’ efforts in the space. “I think in the contexts where it is appropriate and relevant, brands could involve consumers in the process, by actively eliciting their support for data sharing, even if this goes beyond the current legal requirements. At the end of the day data is generated by people, so it’s their data. It’s only right that they should also be able to take some credit for any positive impact.”

Good examples

Marie Stafford believes companies already hold data that can be put to work for good. She lists examples of data philanthropy:

  • IBM has a programme that connects its scientists with NGOs and academics.
  • DataKind is an organisation with global chapters that can match data scientists and analysts with causes that need help.
  • UPS donated handheld parcel-tracking devices that were used to help distribute supplies to refugees in Mauritanian camps.
  • Vodafone shares anonymised smartphone data with the Ghanaian government on human population movements, in order to track the spread of Ebola outbreaks.
  • Waze shared data on traffic flows to help academics tackle air pollution in Mexico City.
  • US food safety officers have used consumer review data from Yelp to help them prioritise their inspections.
  • Syngenta shared agricultural efficiency data gathered from more than 3,000 farms.
  • Intel and Google have been helping the National Center for Missing and Endangered Children track down trafficked children more rapidly through visual recognition and artificial intelligence.


Ghislain Mukuna

Ghislain Mukuna is Program Manager of the ADMIRE project, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in the Democratic Republic of Congo. All around the world, CRS is using new technologies to understand and visualize data. “This helps us extract practical information that can lead to improved programming, expanded impact, and better insights on different issues,” says Mukuna. He gives an example: CRS’ data from DRC shows that girls miss more school days than boys. “Better menstrual hygiene management could help address this problem, but we found that inadequate infrastructure, lack of equipment and knowledge are obstacles to better menstrual hygiene management, whether at school or at home.”

Mukuna feels there’s a good chance the community can break the taboo around menstruation if the issue becomes part of the discussions in the community. “This remains a hypothesis, because the pilot hasn’t yet taken place, but we would like to test approaches that would improve knowledge about puberty and menstruation by facilitating communication between adolescents and their parents on taboo subjects.” Indeed, studies in the DRC have demonstrated that parents are adolescents’ main sources of information on menstruation.

At CRS they are optimistic that this pilot will lead to a high impact, given the positive response of the community to the results of this research. “Working together, we believe we can change the current menstrual hygiene management situation in communities.” The exchange of information is crucial, adds Mukuna. “We want to share insights like this one with CRS staff, partners and other stakeholders to leverage lessons learned and draw the public’s attention to an issue so we can work together to create a better world.”

Originally published in “Global Market Research 2018 – An ESOMAR Industry Report”




UN SDG Global Festival of Action – 1500 people determined to change the world – what could be better?!!

A review by Phyllis Macfarlane, ESOMAR Foundation Board Member

At the beginning of May I had the unprecedented pleasure of attending the UN SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) Festival of Action, which has been held annually in Bonn, Germany, since the SDG’s were launched in 2015. I just can’t tell you how energizing and inspiring it is to be in the company of 1500 mostly young people (I think I might have been the oldest person there!) who are all doing their best to make the world a better place – either through their jobs or by setting up their own NfP organisations (or both). And it was fun, as well!

The Festival aims to share different perspectives, test and accelerate new ideas, and build an environment where the SDGs become a priority for political engagement, democratic participation and personal behaviour, while deepening the coalition for SDG action. That’s what it says on the website. For me what came across was the emphasis on personal action – that unless we each take action as individuals then things won’t change. One of the overall themes was the ‘butterfly effect’ – the phenomenon that small actions started in one place can have big consequences all around the world, and …

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,

The hand can’t hit what the eye can’t see…

…was the very unexpected quotation we had thrown at us at the beginning of the second day’s plenary session.

Both surprising and unexpected because it sounds quite aggressive, and the first day had been very celebratory, showcasing the Awards and all that had been achieved. But on the second day we settled down to the serious business of facing up to how much still needs to be done – hence to the emphasis on individual action – and also to an exploration of measurement (my favourite subject!). So the phrase – the hand can’t hit what the eye can’t see… is actually extremely relevant. You will remember that ESOMAR Foundation supports Paragon Partnerships, and that Paragon’s main objective is to help the UN measure progress with the SDG’s.

I was at the Festival with Hayk Gyuzalyan, expert social researcher, at the invitation of the UN SDG Action Group, and representing Paragon Partnerships. I was invited to be a judge of the UN SDG Action Awards, and Hayk to talk about the questionnaire library that we (mostly he) has developed to measure awareness and perceptions of progress with the SDG’s at country level.

Judging the Awards was an awesome experience – they had over 2000 entries from 142 countries and the quality was unbelievably high. These are very prestigious awards. There were 7 categories:   innovators, mobilizers, connectors, storytellers, communicators, visualizers and includers – clever names, aren’t they? All themes and activities which help spread good deeds and the word across the globe!

I was on the judging panel for Story tellers and Visualisers, and I presented the Award for the Visualiser category.  The winner was my personal favourite: Safecity  – who have created a platform that crowdsources personal stories of sexual harassment and abuse in public spaces, in India. This data gets aggregated as hot spots on a map indicating trends at a very local level. The idea is to make this data useful for individuals, local communities and local administration (like the police!) to identify factors that causes behaviour that leads to violence and work on strategies for solutions. It allows us a new perspective at looking at the problem and trying to solve it. or sexual violence

Hayk spoke at a session on MyWorld which is an online questionnaire/survey about awareness of the SDG’s  – we, as researchers, want a proper nationally representative random sample approach, and can be a bit ‘sniffy’ about unrepresentative  samples – but for the UN SDG Action Group there’s also the concept of the survey as a voice of the people – of those who care. Governments have to take notice of such ‘voices’ these days.

So, two new concepts to think about : firstly research as an expression of popular tension – like a petition – the voice of those who care enough to say something – and secondly the new power of youth expressing through individual actions the desire for global change, justice, peace and equality – in many ways the exact opposite of current political ‘populist’ thinking movements which are about conservatism and localness, preservation of the status quo and suspicion of others/outsiders. Technology is, of course, the new enabler, for everyone, but the leadership and commitment of the young people that I met in Bonn, makes me bet that they’ll win in the long run.

As from all good events, I came away with a different perspective – full of respect for the young people who want to change the world and are not going to be beaten down – but also with a new view of research as a ‘voice ‘for the NfP sector. And, after all, that’s what ESOMAR Foundation and Paragon are all about – we want donors and implementors to do research to listen to the voice of the people they are trying to help. And, by listening better, to make more of a difference.

Phyllis Macfarlane ESOMAR Foundation Treasurer and Board Member

Calling on SDG Advocacy change makers

Paragons Partnerships member, UN SDG Action Campaign is running the 2nd edition of the UN Sustainable Development Goals Awards.

The United Nations SDG Action Campaign is a special initiative of the UN Secretary-General administered by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and mandated to support the UN system-wide and the Member States on advocacy and public engagement in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) implementation. The UN SDG Action Campaign aims to mobilize and inspire individuals and organizations to take action and join the global movement for the SDGs, while connecting people’s actions and perceptions with decision makers in SDG planning and review processes at all levels.

The UN SDG Action Campaign inspires and empowers people with knowledge, platforms and tools to share their opinions and experiences and actively contribute towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

The UN SDG Action Awards recognize the most brilliant individuals, civil society organizations, subnational governments, foundations, networksprivate sector leaders who are working on SDG advocacy to advance the global movement for the Sustainable Development Goals in the most transformative, impactful and innovative way.

To enter a project or initiative please prepare the application by filling in this form.

The window for submissions runs until 30 January 2019 with all shortlisted finalists being notified by March.

Read more on UN SDG Action and its relationship with the ESOMAR Foundation.


Breaking the Silence: Uncovering the Truth about Gender-Based Violence in Mongolia

Violence against women is a global problem that crosses cultural, geographic, religious, social and economic lines. It is one of the most prevalent forms of human rights violations, and it deprives women of their right to live fulfilling social, economic and political lives. Violence against women causes a myriad of physical and mental health issues that span generations, and in some extreme cases, it can result in the loss of life.

Understanding the magnitude and trends of violence against women, as well as its root causes and consequences, is key to effectively addressing the problem at the individual, community and national levels. However, up until recently, very little was known about the actual prevalence and patterns of violence against women, especially domestic violence, in Mongolia. For the longest time, authorities depended only on the number of reported cases of domestic violence to estimate its prevalence in the country. But in most societies, including Mongolia, domestic violence is still surrounded by stigma and many incorrect notions, and so many cases go unreported.

To address this crucial gap in information, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Mongolia, together with the national government and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), initiated the first ever nationwide study on gender-based violence (GBV) in the country. This is an important first step in a comprehensive four-year endeavor to combat GBV in Mongolia by strengthening national capacity for GBV prevention and response. With this study, policies and projects addressing GBV can be planned, developed, implemented, monitored and evaluated based on accurate data.

The nationwide study uncovered a multitude of issues and information on GBV in Mongolia, including the prevalence, forms, causes, risk factors, and effects of GBV. The study combined quantitative data based on the methodology developed by the World Health Organization for their Study on Violence Against Women, together with qualitative data based on methodologies used in other countries. While these borrowed methodologies and survey instruments were revised according to the nuances of Mongolian culture and context, adopting internationally used methodologies allowed for international comparisons and a solid substantiation of the indicators and targets of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Given the ambitious scale of the project, UNFPA deemed it fit for the Mongolian National Statistics Office (NSO) to implement and manage the study. After all, as a government agency, their resources are already available for mobilization throughout the country. UNFPA provided extensive technical support to NSO, bringing in experts both from the UNFPA Mongolia office as well as its Asia-Pacific Regional Office. These experts guided NSO every step of the way – from developing the survey and planning its execution to enumerator training, from data analysis to report writing.

For the quantitative component of the study, a population-based household survey covering all 21 provinces of Mongolia and 9 districts of the capital city of Ulaanbaatar was implemented from May to June 2017. A total of 7,920 women (98% response rate) aged 15 to 64 years old were selected using a multi-stage sampling strategy to take part in face-to-face interviews for the survey. They represent all women aged 15-64 years old in Mongolia.

UNFPA and NSO also took extra measures to ensure that these women spoke candidly so that the study may accurately represent the true GBV situation in the country. The interviewers, who were all women, underwent an intensive three-week training to learn to collect information in a safe and sensitive way. The interviewers also referred to the study as “Women’s Health and Life Experience” to protect the interviewees and to encourage participation especially among households where GBV takes place.

To supplement the quantitative data, UNFPA and NSO added a qualitative component that is unique to Mongolia’s GBV study. A third-party research consulting firm was engaged to conduct a battery of qualitative methods to explain and validate the numerical results and to uncover details about the experiences of Mongolians in a way that the quantitative survey could not. Overall, 87 in-depth interviews, 59 key informant interviews, and 64 focus group discussions were conducted among not only women, but also the LGBTQI community, men, the elderly, and people with disabilities.

Combining the qualitative and quantitative methodologies produced a study with robust results that were analyzed in a more comprehensive and nuanced way. The study revealed the prevalence of the five forms of violence against women – physical, sexual, emotional, and economic violence as well as controlling behaviors – perpetrated by both partners and non-partners. The data was segregated by age group, province, urbanity, educational level, employment status, and partnership status. Additionally, the study also looked into the specific kind of violent acts per type of violence, as well as the underlying toxic beliefs and attitudes toward gender and relationships that contributed to the prevalence of GBV.

With the publication of the nationwide study, a communications campaign was launched to raise awareness about these statistics; the results were published in both English and Mongolian, multimedia content was produced, events were staged, and the raw data was made available to the public for free for their own analysis.

However, the numbers revealed by the study were staggering that conversations were forced among stakeholders. The survey showed that that more than half (57.9%) of Mongolian women experienced one or more forms of violence in their lifetime, and one in every three (31.2%) experience sexual or physical violence in their lifetime. More worrying still is that more often than not, the abuse is committed by their partner. These numbers were much higher than expected, and both government officials and the general public alike were forced to pay attention to what used to be the silent suffering of many. Longtime advocates of gender equality and the fight against GBV finally had the right data that can be used not only to create more relevant and better targeted initiatives, but also to persuade stakeholders, especially the national government, to invest resources in combating GBV.

Guided by the results of the study, UNFPA Mongolia, together with the national government and the SDC, was able to pinpoint ten locations for One Stop Service Centers, i.e., establishments that provide survivors of GBV with accommodations as well as health, psychological, legal, counselling, and protection services. These locations were chosen primarily on the basis of highest GBV prevalence rates compared to the national average, but with consideration given to geographical and population balance.

The high prevalence rates revealed by the study coupled with the tireless advocacy work of UNFPA and civil society actors convinced provincial authorities to invest financial and human resources toward GBV prevention and response in their territories. In 2018, 560 million Mongolian Tugriks (approx. USD 210,000) was invested by provincial governments toward the construction and operations of these One Stop Service Centers. This amount is almost double the amount spent by the Mongolian government in the last five years combined.

Beyond these initiatives, the results also proved useful for UNFPA and its implementing partners for behavior change campaigns. The data segregation allowed UNFPA and the Government of Mongolia to identify the most vulnerable demographics to target, while identification of the root causes of GBV guided the development of relevant and data-driven messages, particularly for campaigns that sought to educate the public about life skills and healthy relationship behaviors that can help them avoid and escape GBV.

With all the initiatives spurred toward combating GBV in Mongolia since the release of the landmark nationwide GBV study, its important role in the advocacy work to raise awareness and garner stakeholder support cannot be ignored. In fact, UNFPA is working closely with NSO and other key government ministries to amend the National Statistics Law to include the regular conduct of a nationwide GBV survey to better guide and monitor the work put into combating GBV in Mongolia in the coming years. Mongolia may still have a long way to go in the path toward eradicating GBV, but with reliable data, innovative solutions, and the untiring advocacy of many, there is surely hope that someday, we may have a violence-free society where the rights of women, children and men are respected and protected.


Concepts of democracy in rural Kenya

The 4th and last webinar of the “What different Qualitative Approaches can be used to achieve various objectives?” series brought some insights into a very delicate and political topic – corruption in voting behavior in Kenya.  Emanuel, Astrid and Barbara shared their current experience around a qualitative research in progress on voter integrity in rural Kenya.

Everything will be okay in the end. And if it’s not okay, it’s not the end. This is the attitude that has been driving our research case for the past 15 months. And having the opportunity now to present it to the international ESOMAR Foundation community was, without doubt, a very bright moment for us. The presented research project „Concepts of democracy in rural Kenya“ – conducted by QMR – Qualitative Mind Research, Munich – is one module of a whole story.

This story started with the Kenyan general elections in August 2017, in which Emmanuel Karisa Baya ran for the seat of a local representative (MCA) to make a change in his hometown in the hinterland of Malindi (North Coast, Kenya) struck by extreme poverty, long droughts and the effects of HIV. Against all expectations and broad support in advance, Emmanuel lost the election. A first review made clear that massive buying and selling of votes and bribery was one central reason for this defeat – a common practice in all counties of Kenya. Quantitative research indicates that 56 % of Kenyan voters have ever received a bribe from a political aspirant/candidate.

Team meeting of “Peace from the Soil” with QMR in preparation of the research fieldwork

The community-based initiative “Peace from the Soil” was founded due to the impulse of taking action against corruption and bribery by developing a civic education program for rural voters. Emmanuel and the whole team felt that a better understanding and insights of voters´ attitudes, worries, and hopes in rural Kenya is needed as a basis for the training program.

QMR – Qualitative Mind Research was requested by Peace from the Soil and its´ founder Emmanuel to conduct a qualitative survey.

The research flanks the whole ongoing process of the democratic development project to deliver insights where needed. During the campaign, election, the setup and foundation of “Peace from the Soil”, our research methods were mainly participating observation and facilitating Focus Groups, which led to first results on bribery during the election and first hypotheses on underlying belief systems of voters in rural Kenyan areas.

Phase 2 of the research shall deliver input for the planned civic education program. From January we will be conducting 20 paired in-depth interviews (IDI‘s) at five different locations in Marafa Ward. Of course, this will be a kind of experiment and the next step in our learning process, because a setting like this is not common in rural Kenya until now. In each IDI setting we will have two respondents that know each other already (=40 respondents) and in addition the interviewer and the interpreter. Recruitment of respondents strives for a broad diversity (Age, educational level, gender, profession groups, residence, political preference). A potential third research module might evaluate the training program later.

Huge interest in our research project and technical equipment in rural Kenya

Stay tuned for first results and insights from the qualitative fieldwork in this challenging setting in one of the ESOMAR Foundation 2019 communication.. because as John Lennon once said….!

With warm regards, Emmanuel, Barbara and Astrid


Paragon Partnerships wins the MRS President’s Medal!

14 December 2018 – Paragon Partnerships, supported by ESOMAR Foundation, won the MRS President’s Medal which is awarded annually to an organisation that has conducted extraordinary research but who might not be recognised through the usual channels.

On choosing the winner, Jan Gooding, President of MRS, said:

“I was immensely impressed by what was achieved on a voluntary basis. It was a huge act of generosity on the part of everyone involved. At a time when the UN can find itself justifying its work and existence, when the problems in the world are so huge, this kind of collaboration to provide evidence of effectiveness is something to be celebrated and applauded.”

Paragon Partnerships was launched in 2016, by Stan Sthanunathan of Unilever, in response to the UN’s 17th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) – the call for private sector partnerships to help the UN achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) by 2030.

The programme calls on the private sector to help the UN achieve its SDG’s by 2030. The UN SDG Action Campaign, along with Paragon Partnerships member Kantar Public, developed and tested a question library of almost 100 SDG questions. This huge project constituted the first step to enable countries to measure their journey to the accomplishment of the SDGs in a consistent way. Data from the library was presented at a UN High-Level Political Forum in July 2018 and is also publically available for any government organisation or NGO to use. Read more on Paragon and its relationship with the ESOMAR Foundation.


More information:

The UN SDG Action Campaign is an inter-agency special initiative of the UN Secretary-General to scale up, broaden, and sustain the global movement to take action for the SDGs. The UN SDG Action Campaign aims to mobilize and inspire individuals and organizations to take action and join the global movement for the SDGs, while connecting people’s actions and perceptions with decision makers in SDG planning and review processes at all levels.

Paragon Partnerships was launched at Impact 2016, the MRS Annual Conference, by Stan Sthanunathan of Unilever in response to the UN’s 17th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG). The programme calls on the private sector to help the UN achieve the SDGs by 2030.

The Market Research Society (MRS) is the UK professional body for research, insight and analytics. MRS recognizes 5,000 individual members and over 500 accredited Company Partners in over 50 countries who are committed to delivering outstanding insight. As the regulator, they promote the highest professional standards throughout the sector via the MRS Code of Conduct.


ESOMAR Foundation’s work with Paragon

One of the most important relationships we have as ESOMAR Foundation is with Paragon, another Market Research Industry initiative, which is trying to make the world a better place. EF is a member of Paragon – you can find the list of members on the Paragon website: http://www.paragonpartnerships.com/


What exactly is Paragon?

Paragon Partnerships was launched in 2016, by Stan Sthanunathan of Unilever, in response to the UN’s 17th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) – the call for private sector partnerships to help the UN achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) by 2030.

It was realised very early that the sustainable development goals cannot be achieved by any single organisation – even the UN! A successful sustainable development agenda requires partnerships between governments, the private sector and civil society. And these inclusive partnerships, built upon principles and values, a shared vision, and shared goals that place people and the planet at the centre, are needed at the global, regional, national and local level.

Hence, Paragon is the initiative of the global market and social research industry sector, aimed at enabling Governments, Academics, the UN and NGOs around the world, which are working to tackle the 17-point plan of the UN Global Goals – end poverty, combat climate change, and fight injustice and inequality around the world – to connect with market, opinion and social research companies, which are committed to helping by providing access to quality data and insights on the issues that the world is facing.

Measuring Progress with the UN SDG’s

One of the really core objectives of Paragon is to help measure progress with the UN goals to not only keep governments and policy makers accountable, but also gauge how much we are getting closer to the targets so that new policy adjustments can be made – so, in 2017, an 11-country study was conducted online for the UN SDG Action Campaign, sponsored by the Paragon Members: Kantar Public and Lightspeed.

As a result, a benchmark was successfully established for these countries to improve on as they continue their journey to meet the SDGs by 2030.

In 2018 the UN SDG Action Campaign requested further support to measure progress with the 2018 priority SDG’s in targeted emerging markets where accurate measurement is only possible using representative random probability methodologies. So, Paragon, the Global Research Business Network (GRBN), and ESOMAR Foundation called for volunteer agencies in the selected countries to sponsor a survey for the UN. The survey was conducted in 3 countries Lebanon, Sri Lanka and Romania. Kantar Operations India analysed the data, and the presentation of the data was delivered by Kantar Public at UN HLPF (High Level Political forum) Meeting on July 13th, 2018.

Jordan Robinson, Director for the Development Practice, Kantar Public, presents the 2018 study results at an event during the UN High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in New York.

Subsequently the 4 agencies have been connected with local UN representatives and promoted and recognized by the UN SDG Action Campaign on their website and in social media etc. UN SDG Action Campaign has also made the data publicly available for any government organization and/or NGO to use.

We are currently talking to UNSDG Action Group about the measurement programme for 2019, and helping to train UN volunteers in Interviewing skills. The measurement work is currently short-listed for the UK Market Research Society’s President’s medal – which is great – please do keep your fingers crossed for us.

Measuring World Happiness!!

The other key initiative that we are involved in at this very moment is Understanding World Happiness – a project for the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN): This is about helping to find out the determinants of happiness in people`s lives through market research.

We have been contacted by Prof. Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University for a project to feed into his efforts around the “World Happiness Report”, and “Global Happiness Policy Report”, as published annually, with contributions from SDSN, which is headed by Prof. Sachs, and with input from several scholars, and research institutes and universities around the world.

At the moment they are getting ready for the next publication of these reports(2020), and they would like to have the contributions of Global Market Research Industry, as represented by Paragon.

We thought the best way to approach this would be through, first, making a desk research/rewind of all existing MR material on this topic, and we have already received lots of feedback from the Paragon partners about what already exists in this space.  These will help us in wrapping our heads around what is available and also will help in the shaping of the new study.

And then the second thing is finding a research vehicle to run the research on (it will be US based initially). We think we have identified a good random probability survey which is run by a Paragon Agency partner, but we will probably want to supplement it with some NLP, or qual, etc.  And then we will put together a Paragon team to author the research results and the article/chapter in the next World Happiness Report.

This will be quite a high-profile work that finds its way all around the SDG community globally.  Jeffrey Sachs is one of the people with the most authority in this field.  He is one of the world’s most renowned economists, as well as serving as Special Advisor to current and past UN Secretary Generals and he was the architect of the Millennial Goals. So it is a really exciting opportunity for us.

Prof. Jeffrey Sachs

Those are our 2 key initiatives of the moment – we are also looking at helping NGO’s with understanding social listening and data visualization, because they know that they need to keep up with the latest techniques and methodologies – but need to understand how it can work for them. A bit like the series of webinars we have run as ESOMAR Foundation to help NGO’s understand how qualitative research can help them achieve their objectives more effectively and sustainably.

About the Author:

Phyllis Macfarlane, Member of the Board and Treasurer, ESOMAR Foundation

Making a Difference Competition: Empowering Digital Storytelling for Good

Winner of the Best international NFP case study of our Making a Difference Competition. This project was carried out by Kantar Millward Brown Singapore on behalf of Our Better World / Singapore International Foundation

“This simple and impactful case study is set for making a tremendous difference across all NFPs globally”

Six years ago, Our Better World (OBW) was created as the digital storytelling initiative of the Singapore International Foundation. This was the result of the opportunity that arose from the sweet spot of these three trends:

  • A media landscape filled with negative news or mindless entertainment
  • Ground-up non-profits/social enterprises doing great work but relatively unknown to the public
  • People feeling passive about giving back and not knowing how they can help

Telling stories of people doing good in Asia, to inspire the online audience to take action, became the mission of OBW.

The initial years of OBW saw proof of concept when non-profits/social enterprises attributed part of their growth to the stories OBW told. However, the team believed that greater success could be unlocked through deeper understanding of the online audience.

In Asia, there was no research in digital storytelling for social impact. Unlike in the US, where research is funded by large philanthropic organisations which believe in using media for good, the concept was ahead of its time in Asia.

Primary research was needed to understand national psyches and uncover drivers of culturally and socially relevant story themes, to better connect with audiences across Asia. Only by understanding this, would OBW be able to nurture and grow an online community of action takers. OBW approached Kantar to form a partnership to undertake this primary research.

Given the lack of such research in the region, Kantar designed the qualitative research to be both wide and deep. A dual approach was developed: personal interaction on the ground, combined with the wide reach of digital – deployed in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, India and the Philippines.

Face-to-face interviews gave researchers insight on meaningful, emotionally-charged experiences among participants. Digital forums created spaces for dispersed OBW community members to gather and freely voice, evaluate and develop ideas, and tap into their hearts and minds.

This approach fused exploratory, evaluative and projective perspectives in the analysis, enabling not just an understanding of current realities and their contexts, but also the building of deeper insights for future strategies.

The research analysis decoded what “contributing to social causes” means for people, based on two attitudinal anchors: a personal, deeply emotional and social experience, and an antidote to an unsympathetic world. Furthermore, a spectrum of motivations in social contribution was identified – ranging from a desire to change (e.g. overturn atrocities) to a desire to enhance (e.g. improve lives and communities).

Building on this, the insights helped to construct the defining characteristics of meaningful stories by market and the role digital can play to influence attitudes. In brief, the construct looks like this:

  • India: Social change – the desire to confront a flawed system, where storytelling themes revolve around changing social inequalities; the role of digital being sensitisation
  • Malaysia: Social preservation – the desire to uphold ethics in the midst of social decline, where storytelling themes revolve around values and ethics that inspire a sense of nostalgia; the role of digital being a reminder
  • Philippines and Indonesia: Social cohesion – the desire to improve communities, where storytelling themes revolve around initiatives that positively impact communities; the role of digital being to garner support
  • Singapore: Social welfare – the desire to improve the lives of others, where storytelling themes revolve around individual actions and initiatives that improve the lives of others; the role of digital being amplification

In addition to the construct, a trigger to action was identified – the most effective stories were ones that evoked a combination of complex and intense emotions.

Overall, this framework connected consumer motivations with storytelling, and provided OBW a much-needed formula for defining authenticity and meaning for impactful storytelling, spanning the production of videos to social media copy. The following examples highlight how research helped to meet this objective.

  1. India: Post research, OBW told a story about child sexual abuse, calling for social change and action, which saw 1,020 volunteer enquiries. This was a significant jump in impact compared to a pre-research story about animals, that, whilst heart-warming, lacked strong call for change, and resulted in only 105 volunteer sign-ups.
  2. Singapore: Post research, OBW told a story about a volunteer group helping to provide gowns for babies who pass away prematurely, garnering over 340 volunteer enquiries for the cause. The story focused on how volunteer actions have helped bereaved parents. A previous story which called for volunteers for a hospice, but angled on what the volunteers did, resulted only in 24 additional volunteers for the organisation.

Research has helped empower OBW with confidence and a stronger base for compelling impact storytelling. The impact from applying the insights is increasingly evident.

Beyond OBW, the findings are also applicable for non-profits/social enterprises in Asia. Organisations can use the insights to craft their own strategic communications to cater to different audience motivations, to drive more impact.

OBW wants to play a catalytic role in spearheading research, applying insights for best-in-class digital storytelling for social good in Asia. What has been accomplished so far serves as a strong foundation for new partnerships and support, and OBW is now seeking further research investment to be made in this fast-evolving digital space. Not only would OBW apply fresh insights for better impact outcomes, it would also share them with the relevant sectors, contributing towards the media playing its role as a force for good.

About the Authors:

Making a Difference Competition: Reducing Child Mortality – A provider, a mother and a powder

Winner of the Most innovative NFP case study of our Making a Difference Competition. This project was carried out by Surgo Foundation in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Clinton Health Access Initiative

“Huge potential impact in India and internationally where diarrhea kills large numbers. This is a really excellent, thorough and innovative and effective piece of research”

Diarrhea is the second leading cause of death among children worldwide. It kills mainly by causing dehydration. Fortunately, a simple, cheap, and scalable solution exists – the use of oral rehydration salts (ORS). Yet India sees more than 200,000 diarrheal-related deaths every year. Its most populous state, Uttar Pradesh (UP), accounts for a substantial portion of these.  ORS is available and relatively inexpensive in UP, but surveys showed that only 30% of children with diarrhea in the state were treated with ORS. Why were children not receiving this potentially lifesaving medicine?

In Uttar Pradesh, India, 84% of caregivers of children with diarrhea seek care from rural medical practitioner (RMPs) – informal community providers who often lack medical training. Several organizations trying to tackle this problem hypothesized that improving RMPs’ access to ORS and informing them about best practices for treating diarrhea would significantly improve the uptake and use of the treatment. A statewide program was begun to provide ORS directly to RMPs at prices that would improve their profit margins. This was combined with training RMPs on how to prescribe the treatment properly. However, after three years of investment, levels of ORS use among children had not improved. Surgo Foundation began working on the project with the aim of answering the ‘why’ – why ORS uptake was so low? Did families and providers understand the benefits of ORS treatment? Did RMPs have sufficient access to the drug to prescribe it? What else could be driving the low uptake of this critical drug?

In the first phase of our work, Surgo analyzed and integrated insights from several surveys, including a state-wide, large-scale quantitative survey of caregivers and a “mystery client” survey. This enabled us to map and understand the ORS treatment “cascade” – each step along the child’s path from having diarrhea to visiting an RMP, being correctly diagnosed, receiving ORS, and using the treatment. Our goal was to see where the largest drop-offs occurred on the path to ORS use.

The phase 1 research found that RMPs had ample access to ORS in the open market, which meant that the direct retailing of the product by NGOs was not filling the previously hypothesized gap. Surgo also identified a stark “know-do gap” among RMPs when it came to dispensing ORS to children with diarrhea. Around 80% of the RMPs knew they should use ORS, yet only 20% of children with diarrhea received ORS directly from RMPs. In essence, even though a majority of RMPs knew ORS was the right treatment, they weren’t prescribing it. These findings showed that the theoretical underpinning of the original project was not correct – lack of access to ORS and a knowledge gap among RMPs were NOT the main barriers to ORS use.

In phase 2, we undertook ethnographic research with RMPs and their mentors, and with caregivers, to better understand the “why” of low ORS uptake. We aimed to capture their views, practices, motivations, and treatment decisions. Our research allowed us to develop hypotheses on the mental models, beliefs, and emotions of both RMPs and caregivers. We found that caregivers judged the effectiveness of a treatment by how quickly it provided relief to the child. This led them to prefer antibiotics, which relieve symptoms even though they do not treat the diarrheal condition. Caregivers also held strong beliefs about the efficacy of medicines based on what form they came in: powders were seen as least effective, pills, syrups, and injections as better, and intravenous drips as best of all. In sum, because ORS was a powder, caregivers didn’t perceive it as an effective treatment.

These insights provided Surgo with a basis for our phase 3 research, in which a specially designed decision-making game incorporating behavioral-science concepts was used to identify and test the factors driving RMPs’ treatment decisions. We found that the behavior of RMPs was determined by a trade-off among three considerations: economic insecurity, the desire to make money, and the desire to provide the right treatment. Since people were unable to pay large sums to RMPs, there was fierce competition among RMPs to get as many patients as possible, and to retain their loyalty. This was where economic insecurity and the wish to make money came into conflict with prescribing the best treatment. In an effort to appear “expert” and meet caregiver expectations (and thereby retain their business), many RMPs focused on providing immediate relief for the symptoms of diarrhea. This meant prescribing IV fluids, injectables, and antibiotics – and avoiding ORS, even though this was in fact the correct treatment.

With this deep and nuanced understanding of what was driving ORS uptake, we developed a radically revised theory of how to increase the use of ORS to treat diarrhea in children. Instead of focusing exclusively on RMPs, programs should create demand for ORS by reframing caregivers’ perception of the treatment. This would help RMPs to bridge their “know-do” gap and prescribe ORS with confidence. We recommended a portfolio of new interventions, including:

  • Targeted media campaigns to shift the paradigm of ORS so that it was not seen as a treatment, but rather as immediate care
  • Mass marketing of ORS to create demand among caregivers of infants and children
  • Phasing out direct retailing of ORS to RMPs (this led to significant cost-savings)
  • Interventions to increase RMPs’ sense of economic security

Collectively, these strategies led to an increase in ORS uptake in UP from 30% to 50% in under two years. Our approach to getting a deep and nuance understanding of the ‘why’ before jumping into solutions has significant implications for diarrheal treatment and child mortality programs globally.

This program was implemented in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which funded the ORS delivery program in UP, and the Clinton Health Access Initiative, which implemented it. The study was designed, led, and analyzed by Surgo Foundation. We thank Ipsos and Final Mile for their contributions to the research.

About the Author:


Making a Difference Competition: Menstrual Hygiene Management Study in DRC

Winner of the Best local/domestic NFP case study of our Making a Difference Competition. This project was carried out by Forcier Consulting on behalf of Catholic Relief Services D.R. Congo.


“This very important piece of research is something that could make a real difference to half the population.”

Every month girls face an additional barrier to education: their period. For Forcier, studying the relationship between menstruation and education means more than just attempting to understand absenteeism. Our goal was to provide strong field-based evidence to NGOs, the DRC government and all actors in the health and sanitation field. We believe that good research must go far beyond simple statistics, which is why we always chose to adopt a holistic approach to data collection and analysis, which in this case includes extensive research surrounding community attitudes, beliefs, and hard to see implications. In 2017, Catholic Relief Services selected Forcier to accomplish one of the largest studies on knowledge, attitudes, environment, and practices regarding menstruation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The overall objective was to determine whether menstrual management practices have an impact on school absenteeism for girls, and to evaluate how the Congolese government’s “Healthy Schools and Villages” program, supported by UNICEF, can contribute in improving menstrual hygiene management. Data was collected by local Forcier enumerators in the provinces of Kinshasa and Haut-Katanga, as well as in camps for internally displaced persons in North-Kivu, thereby allowing for an analysis in urban, rural, and emergency contexts.  In the province of Kinshasa and Haut-Katanga, both respondents living in areas impacted by the “Healthy Villages and Schools” program and respondents not living in these areas were interviewed, and, in all three provinces, both girls in school and out of school were interviewed. The results of this study will help NGOs, the Congolese government and UNICEF adapt their interventions so as to better respond to the menstrual hygiene needs of girls and women in the country.

Forcier put forth a holistically designed mixed-methods approach for this research. In order to garner a broad understanding of the different barriers menstrual hygiene can represent for women, it was essential to collect information from the various groups of people who can influence how girls and women manage their menses. Forcier conducted 2601 quantitative surveys with 10 to 17 year old girls and their female guardians and 1022 quantitative surveys conducted with 10 to 17 year old boys. Forcier in addition, uses qualitative interviews to obtain contextual details and experiences of people with opinions that can shed light on hard to see implications. Qualitative interviews were conducted through the use of focus group discussions. 60 Focus Group discussions were conducted with girls, fathers of girls, teachers, community leaders and health practitioners. To ask questions to 10 to 15 year old girls in camps for displaced persons, an especially vulnerable population, child psychiatrists used dice game to make them more comfortable discussing these issues and to overcome taboos about menses. Analysis was conducted by triangulating the quantitative and qualitative data collected, as well as information garnered through a thorough literature review.  The research was designed to allow for findings to be presented for the individual provinces in which data was collected as well as the country as a whole.

The research, made up of 3623 quantitative interviews and 60 Focus Groups, identified the main obstacles preventing girls in the DRC from meeting their menstrual hygiene needs.  Girls are unable to adequately manage their menstrual hygiene because of a lack of sufficient knowledge and understanding of menstruation in the country. Whether village leaders, educators, parents, or the girls themselves, many members of Congolese society are not properly informed on the causes of the menstrual cycle nor, critically, how to teach girls to manage their menses in a safe, private, and healthy manner.  This is largely the result of a substantial taboo that surrounds menstruation, in part consequence of a conservative social order that associates the menstrual cycle with girls’ sexuality, and which impedes open discussion with girls both before, during, and after menstruation first begins.  Additionally, poor infrastructure, especially in villages and schools – in particular, a lack of clean, girls-only and private bathrooms – prevents girls from adequately taking care of themselves when they have their menses. A lack of available and affordable tampons or sanitary napkins further complicates girls’ ability to ensure their menstrual hygiene, and adds to their fear of being seen in public at these times. As a result, girls often stay at home when they have their menses – sometimes days at a time – forgoing their usual activities, including sports, church, and, most crucially, school, for fear of being “discovered” and “shamed” by members of their community.

The findings of this study are vital because they will allow Catholic Relief Services and other organizations working on hygiene, education and gender issues to better tackle the specific challenges that girls face in living in a healthy way and in receiving an education.  Indeed, this research on menstrual hygiene management is one of the first of its kind, on a too often overlooked aspect of development that is crucial to understand for the sake of empowering women. In particular, this research will help the Congolese government, along with UNICEF, reinforce the “Healthy Villages and Schools” program that seeks to improve sanitary and hygienic conditions in thousands of villages and schools across the country, including in camps for internally displaced persons, by highlighting the need to raise awareness on menstrual hygiene, improve infrastructure and make available sanitary napkins. This will, in turn, allow girls to live more comfortable, healthy lives and live up to their true potential.

About the Author: