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Research for Charities Seminar

As ESOMAR Foundation we organised a special session for NGO’s to attend Congress on Tuesday, Sept 10th – first of all to listen to the Congress Social research session – The Public Superheroes – then participate in a workshop, followed by the Making a Difference presentations and Awards.

So – a great opportunity for Charities to see 7 great case studies on how research is used in the not-for-profit sector, and to discuss their specific research ‘issues’ with us. The ones who accepted our invitation were a mix of local and international representatives from local and international charities and organisations.

The purpose of the workshop was two-fold, firstly to understand the research issues of NGOs’ and secondly to work out how we, as ESOMAR Foundation, could help. And, as always the results were unexpected and fascinating! First of all, we learned that their main issue is communication – though there are some research gaps that we could definitely help them to change the culture quickly.

We learned how difficult it is to change culture quickly – even armed with great research. How it works better to start with examples that people can identify with – rather than trying to stretch them too far. So if you want to change traditional attitudes to girl’s opportunities (education/marriage etc) sometimes it works to start with more general stories about children’s aspirations including boys. A great example was a story about a boy whose father was a wrestler and wanted the boy to follow in his steps – but the boy wanted to be a ballet dancer. Drawing parallels between the skills required for both jobs (agility, strength, balance, etc.) made people think and resonated better than a story about a girl who wanted to be a lawyer.

Or changing the emphasis of Family Planning communications onto men rather than women – the benefits to them – spend more time with your children when they need you, have more resources for each child, it’s better for your wife not to have a baby every year, etc. – works better than communicating to women.

Or if you want to restore a beautiful garden/park – rather than emphasising sentimental memories of time spent there as children – get people to think about how they would feel if it became a multi-story car-park.

So lesson number one – if you want breakthrough – it sometimes works to be shocking – turn something on its head – do the opposite of the expected.

If you are trying to maintain interest over the long term – for example, those affected by the Rwandan genocide are still affected decades later – particularly with mental health issues – perhaps you can tap into current trends in the UK.

We also discussed and shared with delegates –  the work that System 1 has done which shows that Charity Advertised is mostly ineffective – because donors/NGO workers demand messages when what is required is emotion.

From the side of research issues – particularly in developing markets there is a shortage of research capacity – by training individuals as quant and particularly qual interviewers we can benefit NGOs’ and the also give skills to individuals to develop their work and career opportunities. In particular, those who have experienced the problem (homelessness, domestic violence, mental health problems, etc) are frequently the best people to interview/mentor those suffering currently. So we think we will develop a peer-research training system/qualification. It could be of benefit to so many people everywhere. (After all, I believe that everyone should have research skills!)

We had an excellent discussion – everyone learned a lot – and were further inspired by the Making a Difference award-winning presentations.

Author: Phyllis Macfarlane, ESOMAR Foundation Founding Board Member

Communications in Research – Part2: Tell Your Story

On the 9th of July, ESOMAR Foundation hosted the 3rd webinar of the series Advanced Research Knowledge and Insights for Not-For Profit Organizations. The webinar zeroed in on the often-overlooked ingredient of every successful research project: communications. The online event was hosted by Phyllis Macfarlane, ESOMAR Foundation founding board member and featured Kai Jimenez, long-time communications professional now with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). This is the second of the 2-part series of tips and tools on how to upgrade your NGO’s communication and storytelling capabilities.


Tell Your Story

  1. Focus on the insights and human truths beyond the statistics.

Sometimes, we can get so enamored by our research project, or so engrossed in the new data we have at our fingertips, that we make the mistake of assuming that everyone is as enthusiastic as we are about the numbers. Unfortunately, that is simply not true, and it is even less true when the audiences we address are not technical experts in the same field.

This is why the focus in the way you communicate your research findings should be on the insights, not just the statistics. Insights are truths that you find by analyzing the data within the bigger context of other research, your field, or even human nature. These insights are what can be used to drive action or inform decisions, so use the data to prove your point or add information, but zero in on the insights to stay useful and relevant.


  1. Use the story of one to share the truth of many 

There is a famous though morbid line that goes, “one death is a tragedy, but a million deaths are a statistic.” As cold and depressing as this may sound, it reveals the way people process information. At some point, the numbers become too big for human minds to imagine, so even if the data is about something that we would otherwise feel strongly about, we tend to forget about the people that make up these large numbers and are unable to care deeply about what is being said.

This is why one way to strike a chord in the hearts of audiences is by using the story of one to share the truth of many. By presenting the data on the scale of the individual, audiences are given the space to empathize with the community’s experiences, sympathize with their plight, and ultimately build affinity with your advocacy.

There are several ways to go about this. The most common way would be to pick out interesting and resonant quotes from the interviews, focus group discussions, or any other qualitative data sets available to include in the report. Another way would be to choose a person who took part in the study and ask them to share their personal story, or even to create a fictional person to embody the average or typical person according to your research results. Whichever way you choose, remember to make sure that the story that is highlighted is actually representative of the results. Do not use outliers as it may only lead to confusion and misconceptions. In addition, if you choose to share the stories of real people, ensure that the way you share the story is not exploitative, and that informed consent was obtained to publicly share their own experiences. The goal should always be to amplify the voices of those who would otherwise go unheard.


  1. Use every relevant touch point to engage with your stakeholders

One of the most important assumptions that is always held true in the communications industry states that the most trusted businesses, industries, and brands are those that the public most frequently interact with in meaningful and relevant ways. This belief is backed up by many studies in many countries over time. This is why to build trust among your stakeholders and to get them to advocate for or contribute to your cause, it is important to repeatedly engage them through touch points that are relevant to them to convey stories and messages that are resonant with them.

Today, there are a multitude of ways to reach your audiences through different platforms, but because resources are not infinite, it is important to streamline and prioritize the channels that would yield the best results. To do this, return to your stakeholder map and understand the behavior of your stakeholders to correctly identify the most important touch points for your target audiences. Are you reaching out to millennials who spend 4-5 hours on the internet? Then social media might be the best way to reach them. Are you targeting high net-worth individuals? Then it might be better to make an impression in person through strategically chosen events. Only by knowing and understand your audiences can you choose strategically the best ways to reach them to create the best possib

About the Author:

Kai Jimenez is a researcher, strategist, and all-around storyteller. She recently transitioned into an international development neophyte, working to promote gender equality in Mongolia with the UN Population Fund. Prior to this role, she built her career in the private sector specializing in development and corporate communications, business strategy and innovations, and research and analytics. Her last role was to concurrently head the Corporate Development unit and the Research & Analytics unit of The EON Group, a multi-awarded public relations firm among the world’s top 250. She holds a Master’s Degree in Political Economy and gives talks on branding, storytelling, a and research in local and international forums.


Missed out the presentation? You can still check it here.


Communications in Research – Part1: Work Your Advocacy

Earlier this month, ESOMAR Foundation hosted the latest of the series Research Knowledge for Not-For Profit Organizations. The webinar zeroed in on the often-overlooked ingredient of every successful research project: communications. The online event was hosted by Phyllis Macfarlane (GFK & ESOMAR Foundation) and featured Kai Jimenez, long-time communications professional now with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Below is the summary of the webinar in Kai’s own words.

The Case for Communications

When people think about embarking on a research project, the focus is usually all on the data and just the data. This is understandable, of course, because research projects are launched because organizations need information, but the truth is that every successful research project actually begins and ends with something a bit more human: a good story.

We live in a world where stories – not statistics – are what people remember, and more importantly, are what drive us to action. Good stories and messages are especially important in the development sector as we are constantly trying to get people to advocate for our cause, to be generous with their time and resources, and to change their behavior for the better. And to succeed in these admittedly difficult tasks, we need stories and messages that are reasonable to the mind (logical) but still touch the heart (emotional). Data and statistics are important because your audiences need a reason to believe in you, but it is necessary to go beyond simply stating the numbers and instead frame the information in a way that is relevant, memorable, shareable, and action-inspiring.

Even at a time when buzz words like “big data” and “analytics” are constantly used and overused, research projects still rely on strong and effective communications, especially at two important points in the process: first, at the beginning, when strong arguments are needed to garner the necessary support to kick off the project; and second, at the end, to maximize the investments made for the research by using the findings to draw more attention to the advocacy.

Here are some tips and tools that have powered the communications industry for years that you could use to level-up your own storytelling capabilities.

Part I: Work Your Advocacy

  1. Take the time to understand, map out, and profile your stakeholders.

Large-scale research projects are often multi-stakeholder activities, especially in the development sector. You will need a lot of help – from institutional backing, community participation to funding and technical support – and the long list of things you need will come from different individuals and organizations with their own unique set of priorities.

This is why the first and most important step of any communications initiative is to comprehensively map out and profile your stakeholders. Understanding your target audiences will guide you in choosing which individuals or organizations to prioritize, in crafting the right stories that are most relevant and resonant to them, and in identifying the most cost-efficient channels to engage with your stakeholders. Below are the key things you need to consider for your stakeholder map, and the guide questions you should be asking yourself for each.

Things to Consider What to Use it For Some Questions to Ask Yourself
Priorities & Values



Identifying common ground with your stakeholders to craft messages that are relevant to their priorities and concerns Which individuals or organizations are already outspoken advocates for your cause? Are there any organizations already working in the area of your advocacy, or companies with CSR programs aligned with your cause? For the specific stakeholders you have in mind, what are their known advocacies? What are their professional and personal interests that could encourage or hinder them from supporting you?


Behavior Identifying the best channels and moments to engage with your stakeholders What are their day-to-day activities? Where do they source their information? Do they still watch TV or do they source their entertainment purely online? Do they still read newspapers or do they get their news from Twitter? Would they be the type to trust an email, or do you need to speak with them in person?


Available Support Estimating the resources you can count on and categorizing your stakeholders based on the kind of support they give What kind of support or resources do they provide? Is it financial, in-kind, pro bono consulting, volunteered time? How long do they provide support? One-off or long-term?
Reputation Avoiding reputational risks by association, and ensuring that your partnership with them positively impacts your own reputation in the eyes of your other stakeholders and the public What’s the reputation of the individual or organization? How do they work with partners: are they known as fair and committed, or are they known for being very superficial supporters? Do they have any scandals surrounding them, or other risk areas you should be considering?
Existing Relationship Establishing trust to improve your chances in persuading your stakeholders Have you worked together before? Has your past experience with them left a positive or negative impression? Do you even have a relationship at all with them? If not, do you have mutual friends or communities that you can tap to reach them?
Key People Identifying and approaching the people who can make the most impact Who are the main decision-makers in the organizations you’re targeting? Whose opinions do those decision-makers respect? Are there any people within the organization who can advocate for your cause internally, or even externally?
Requirements Confirming qualifications, and guiding you in your path to becoming qualified in the mid- to long-term What are the technical, organizational, and documentation requirements for funding requests and partnerships?


  1. Shine the light on the outcomes to which your research will contribute.

When you finally do craft those messages and reach out to your stakeholders, make sure to include more than just a laundry list of your intended project output. While project proposals definitely need a list of concrete deliverables, the truth is that no one is driven to action by the promise of a report or several spreadsheets worth of data. Instead, shine the light of the outcomes that can be achieved because of the research that you will do.

For example, don’t just tell your stakeholders that you want to write a report on why parents in India are not giving their children this specific cheap and accessible medicine for diarrhea. Instead, tell them that you need the data to develop targeted interventions to reduce diarrhea among babies, which in turn would like to a decline in infant mortality. Don’t just promise your funders a presentation that will list down the ways teenage girls in Congo manage their menstruations. They want to know that their money will go into a research project that can point out the best way to give these girls widespread access to safe resources for personal hygiene, which in the long run would mean that they become better educated because they no longer need to skip a week of classes when they’re on their period.

Paint the big picture. Your advocacy is your organization’s greatest story, so use it to your advantage.

  1. It’s not about you. It’s about what you can do with and for them. 

The hard truth is that often we can get so caught up in telling our story, pitching our cause and talking about our work that we forget that effective communication should be a two-way street. Our stories and messages need to focus on not only on what we can do, but more importantly, what we can do with and for our audiences.

This is why stakeholder mapping and profiling is the key to successful communications. You need to find what they value, what drives them, what they believe and do, so that you could connect your advocacy story to what matters to them. Spell out how their support to your cause can impact their own lives, their jobs, and their organizations. For instance, will your climate change advocacy help make a company’s brand appeal more to eco-warriors? Will your community feeding program help reduce the load of local governments? Find and highlight these points of intersection between what you value and what they value.


Missed out the presentation? You can still check it here.

Watch this space for the second part of the webinar summary.



ESOMAR Foundation Webinar: Communications in Research

Every successful research project begins & ends with a good story.

Most of the time, people think that the research process is all about just the data, data, data. However, every successful research project actually begins and ends with something a little more human: a good story.

This webinar aims to help you find and tell your good story with actionable tips and tools that have powered the communications industry for years. The webinar will focus on two important pain points: gaining support to kick off your research project, and maximizing your research investment by sounding all the bells and whistles to publicize your research findings. The webinar will cover best practices in working your advocacy to garner the much-needed support for your research project among your stakeholders, be it in the form of government or institutional backing, funding, or even community participation and ownership. It also aims to help you close the loop by giving you ideas on how to turn your data into resonant and relevant stories that can hopefully change mindsets and spur behaviors.

This is an opportunity not to be missed for anyone working in or with the Non Profit sector. You will gain reliable and efficient measures which you can implement in order to amplify the voices of those who would otherwise go unheard. 


Kai Jimenez is a researcher, strategist, and all-around storyteller. She recently transitioned into an international development neophyte, working to promote gender equality in Mongolia with the UN Population Fund. Prior to this role, she built her career in the private sector specializing in development and corporate communications, business strategy and innovations, and research and analytics. Her last role was to concurrently head the Corporate Development unit and the Research & Analytics unit of The EON Group, a multi-awarded public relations firm among the world’s top 250. She holds a Master’s Degree in Political Economy and gives talks on branding, storytelling, a and research in local and international forums.


A lifelong market researcher currently working on the GfK Verein’s University Cooperation Programme to improve the quality of education in Market Research in Africa and China. Founding member and treasurer of the ESOMAR Foundation.


Live webinar 9 July 2019, 13:00 CEST



My New English Teaching Internship

Blog-post from Esther Tot, who received the ESOMAR Foundation Scholarship to study at the English based Bachelor Degree program in International Business at the National University of Management (NUM) in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

It has been quite a while since I wrote my blog, due to a lot of circumstances that are going on in my life right now. What I’ve learned from life is that “The older you get, the more you know and learn and even life get tougher each time you get older”. During my vacation break I’ve spent my time on a part-time internship as a part-time English teacher in the evening from 5:30 pm to 7:00 pm at the American Bridge International School (ABI). I have been teaching students aged between 13 to 20 years old, and I can say this is a new and different experience.

I like to push myself far and step out of my comfort zone and try something new and different which I never have done before. As people know me, I am a kind of an introvert person and so stepping into a teaching type of person is a whole new level of experience. I have learned to be more extrovert as teaching has required me to talk to people I have not known before, such as my students and my colleagues.  I have to be quite creative to teach to teenagers, cause I was once a teenager and I understand that we don’t like boring stuff, so I have to make learning fun. This is what I always wished it to be for me as well. School always makes students feel bored, scared, nervous and lazy, and I always wished school was more about making learning fun, boosting students’ enthusiasm and make them want to come to school to learn and study and be able to enjoy it as well. And this is my chance to try and make my students want to enjoy learning English.

However, besides my teaching internship, I try to spend most of my time focusing on my study. In this junior year, there are a lot of assignments, projects, presentations. It keeps on increasing, and there’s nothing to complain cause that’s how life is. By completing all those assignments and projects it is like self-learning and self-discipline. I can learn a lot through those works. Especially, cooperation with many different kind and type of people and teamwork despite the different perspectives and opinions and overview. We somehow still manage to cooperate together to achieve our goal, which will also apply later when we will graduate and go out to work in a company. Meanwhile, in each semester, we always have new teachers at least one or two per semester and sometimes all new five teachers. I enjoy meeting them and learn more through them because different persons and different mindsets are interesting. In this Year 3 and 2nd semester on Monday we have Financial Management class taught by Mr. Suy SokRaksmey, on Tuesday is Marketing Research class by Mr. Nikhil Mani, Wednesday is Business Law by Professor Robert Longo, Thursday taught by three different teachers: two foreigners and one Cambodian – Mr. Andrew – who teaches PowerPoint right now, Mr. David will teach Introduction to Technology, and Cambodian teacher will teach Excel, and lastly on Friday we have Cross-Cultural Management class by our Korean Professor, Mr. Chuck Chung.

In conclusion, I am looking forward to more adventures and journeys ahead of me for next year which is the very last year of my university. In my Year 4 class I would love to take on a new experience of internship in one of the embassies, companies, or organizations to fulfill one of our course. I am also feeling excited ahead for my graduation hopefully in 2021. I never forget where I come from and how I got here as it is all because of ESOMAR Foundation, National University of Management, and Women In Research Organization that have helped me achieve my educational dreams and give me a better knowledge and life, as well as become a better person. I will always be grateful for all the help, support and love that everyone has given me.

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Webinar: Advertising Effectiveness for Not for Profit organisations

A unique opportunity to hear the very latest understanding on NfP advertising

In this second webinar of our series on Advanced Research techniques, we look at Advertising Effectiveness for Not for Profit organisations. We all know that old adage that half of all advertising spend is wasted, it’s just that we don’t know which half – but over the last decade or so – with the new neuroscience bringing real understanding of how the brain works – we are getting much better at knowing which types of advertising are most effective – in both the long and short term – and new technology has helped us measure the effect in ways that just weren’t possible before.

We are very fortunate to have Will Goodhand to deliver our webinar. Will has the advantage of both being a very experienced Social Researcher, and working at System1 research, who specialise in measuring advertising impact and effectiveness – so he can bring very relevant experience to the issue. He is going to share the very latest understanding on Not-for-Profit advertising, drawing on the S1AR (System1 Ad Ratings) database which contains the measured performance of all UK and US ads immediately they are aired. From this huge database we will learn how charity/not-for-profit advertising is doing overall. How does it compare to other categories? (Not well, apparently). And whether you love or loath such overall comparisons, what about performance within the charity category? Who are the star performers and what can we learn from them? And is there anything that can be taken from the best performing ads in other categories? Will draws on his personal experience working across the categories of charity, FMCG and Tech, with the aim – like all good ads – of stirring emotion and positive action!

This is a truly unique opportunity to learn about the potential for advertising – and overall communications effectiveness – for your not-for-profit organisation.

If you use advertising for fundraising or for awareness-raising, you will learn what you are doing wrong and what you are getting right. What works and what doesn’t.

And if you don’t yet use advertising – you will know the arguments for and against certain types of approaches, and what advertising could potentially do for your organisation.

This really is an unmissable opportunity for anyone working in – or interested in – the Not for Profit sector. We guarantee that you will learn how to communicate better in general, that it will give you something you want to talk about, and it will really make you think!  


Will Goodhand leads the Communications research team at System1 PLC, determining the emotional performance of advertising for long and short-term profitability. Will’s team works with a number of UK and international charities, while also servicing many leading FMCGs and tech companies. Will is a key member of the S1AR (System1 Ad Ratings) team which tests every UK & US ad as it airs (including Not-for-Profit), creating a comprehensive and accessible source of data on the performance of the industry and individual comms.

Outside work, Will is a volunteer Trustee of SURF, the Rwandan Survivors’ Fund charity and he champions the Iwacu widows’ cooperative who hand-make beautiful jewellery: www.rwandanbeauty.com


CEO of System1 Group PLC; voted most Innovative Research Agency in the world for the last 5 years running. John’s recipe for entrepreneurial success is; creativity, resilience, determination, perseverance, stamina, drive, imagination, resourcefulness, courage, self-belief, commitment, ability to go without sleep and a touch of madness.

Prior to BrainJuicer, John founded innovation agency, Brand Genetics and before that, John was Planning Director at Publicis having joined from Unilever, where he held a number of research and marketing positions. Since September 2017 he holds the President position at ESOMAR Foundation.

Live webinar 16 May 2019, 17:00 CET



Persevering until the end

This is the eighth blog-post from Paola Loy Villagran, the recipient of the ESOMAR Foundation scholarship in Guatemala sponsored by WIRe and Unilever.

My life in recent months has been quite busy. We are about to start the final phase of studies and I am pleased with the work I have done updating myself with topics about Digital Marketing, Finance, teamwork and others for business process improvement.

The Digital Marketing course was basically about the act of promoting and selling products and services online and through any electronic devices. It is a fact that our buying decisions are based on the reviews we read, the solutions feature and the prices that we find and compare between brands. That being the case, an online presence is necessary regardless of what you sell.

We can take many strategies but the most important ones to mention are SEM / SEO which help a brand appear in search results, social media, website intelligence, return on investment and E-mail Marketing among others.

Also, during these first months we had the opportunity to work with a foreign professor from Venezuela,  the class was totally interactive and very creative, since the theme of development was branding and creation of new products, even as part of the final project we had to make a video of ourselves as a personal branding exercise because at the end of the day each one of us plays a role in our work, in our family or in the student world, so whatever we do we must be excellent and committed so we have the best version of ourselves.

I can not stop mentioning my family during this process because they are the ones that encourage me to keep going until I finish my master´s degree. Especially my nephews with whom I had the opportunity of spending time in this Holy Week.

We had a very special moment admiring processions the last week.

My nephews and I, they are wearing traditional gowns in royal purple.

The color purple along with red, black, white and gold, has an important symbolic meaning as the color of royalty and suffering. They symbolize the suffering of Jesus Christ during the crucifixion.

For those, who have not read my words in previous posts, I am a huge fan of the traditions of my country, because although we have many problems politically and economically speaking I think the best attribute we have is our people, our faith and so many talented people who are trying to demonstrate the good things we have.

Proof of them I would like to talk about the incredible “masterpiece” carpet that students elaborated in Antigua Guatemala. Just looking at the colors, textures, and the meaning they sought to capture was impressive, with so many visual elements.

Most seen this week:


The carpet designs reflect traditions, biblical symbolism and scenes from nature.


How you can support in your country

If you are a market researcher, a national market research association, an NGO involved in research or a university interested in a scholarship in your country please contact us at info@esomarfoundation.org

Partners & Sponsors

We are always on the lookout for partners and sponsors. If you are an organisation looking to understand more on how you can support us, please find more information here or contact:  info@esomarfoundation.org 




Blog post from Innocent Rwamba Nyaga who is following the MS in market research at the University of Nairobi, Kenya. Innocent is the recipient of the ESOMAR Foundation / MSRA Scholarship sponsored by WIRe and Unilever.

To this day, I am amazed at how I landed (got awarded) this scholarship. Every time I try to explain the steps I took to interested parties, the unmerited favor that was poured out on me, words fail me. All I am is grateful and forever indebted to ESOMAR Foundation-WIRe. THANK YOU! You have UPGRADED my life to another notch, I might (if God so wishes) be a manager soon and all to a girl under 30 years (28 years to be exact). It is a great achievement but it has been work. I am so happy now for the panicky days, the unsure days, the joyous days, and the days I was so overwhelmed but I have now come out on top.

This year 2019, has been a busy year and it has started so well I cannot explain how excited and how expectant for the future I am. I am among some that might be receiving a promotion in a couple of weeks and I am so ready for the interview, I will ace it!! I should say that (if I haven’t mentioned before) my colleague and I (note we are only the two of us) are the pioneers of the marketing department in the National Museums of Kenya. There has never before been a marketing department so we have so much on our plates (very happy about this) to put systems in place that will inform the future bearers of this office on best practices. We are setting up anew and it’s exciting as it is a huge responsibility on our laps. It is true, to whom much is given, much is required!!

As for my studies, I finally decided on my thesis topic; how does social media influence consumer buying behavior? I am pleased to say that unlike many students ahead of me, I will be conducting a qualitative research study instead of a quantitative one. Sometimes I get in my head and put so much pressure on myself saying that such an undertaking isn’t an easy one, I wonder how I will make it happen with all the responsibilities I have to see through. But then I remember during my 1st year 2nd semester when I had 6 units, Monday to Saturday classes, a full time job and I made it happen. Then I’m encouraged that even this (school project), I shall see through to it and I will give it very my best! So, I’m not sure of much these days but I’m taking it one day at a time. My supervisor Prof Munyoki, has been my rock during times when systems in the University worked against me. He is a kind and humble man, I look forward to working with him to make my thesis a reality and a success!!

I would also like to state that my relationship with Jesus has been my strength, why I’m so happy, so expectant for the future. My faith in Jesus has been my armor, my hope, my joy. Simply put, MY EVERYTHING!!

I will keep you updated and hopefully someone out here will be encouraged to keep moving. That it might seem like you’re juggling a lot but a time will come when you look back and can’t imagine how you made it through the storm!!

Happy April everyone!!


Segmentation – a powerful tool for the social sector

ESOMAR Foundation has launched a new series of webinars on Research Knowledge for Not-for-Profit organisations focusing on Advanced Research and Insights. 

In the first webinar of the series, Sema Sgaier of Surgo Foundation demonstrated the effective use of segmentation, as an aspect of research and explained the fantastic value it can bring to the global development sector.

Sema’s words

It was a great opportunity to help launch this series of webinars by discussing the powerful tool of segmentation; a method central to our work at Surgo Foundation. In the webinar, I covered both why the non-profit sector should use segmentation to target their interventions, as well as the different types of segmentation available and the key steps to completing a good segmentation. Although a segmentation approach is not always the needed solution, in the right situations it can provide immense value as an efficient and effective means of reaching your target customers.

What’s segmentation and why should you use it in your programs?

Everybody is different. People act and behave the way they do for a variety of reasons. It should, therefore, come as no surprise that a one size fits all approach to shifting behavior often fails to address human heterogeneity, yet for too long this has been the approach of many interventions. Segmentation is a great tool for addressing human heterogeneity as it defines populations into distinct subgroups which share defining characteristics in relation to the behavior of interest. Interventions can then be designed in response to the needs of these specific subgroups. The defining characteristics of a segment may relate to demographics (e.g. age and socioeconomic status), attitudes (e.g. perceptions of hospital safety), behaviors (e.g. number of antenatal checkups attended) or a combination of the three. We believe the combination option, which we call psycho-behavioral segmentation, is often the most valuable, though admittedly complex, approach to creating segments.

Steps for a segmentation

A good segmentation is both a science and an art. Although the webinar provided guidelines for conducting a segmentation, it is important to remember that it is essential to involve many stakeholders including decision-makers, researchers, sector experts, and intervention designers throughout the entire process from designing the segmentation to implementing interventions. This ensures that the segmentation created meets your program needs and is both high quality and actionable. With this in mind, the six key steps to a segmentation are:

  1. Define the goal: Who do you want to segment? What’s the target behavior to understand and change?
  2. Framework for primary research: What variables do you need to collect and include in the segmentation solution? Using a behavioral framework helps structure these decisions
  3. Qualitative research: Small scale qualitative research can provide you with additional needed information to better design your quantitative study
  4. Quantitative research: The most critical step for your segmentation is collecting data on a large sample based on the variables you identified as important in steps 2 and 3
  5. Analysis: Develop your segments by choosing the right variables. There are many different algorithms you can use (e.g. unsupervised cluster analysis).
  6. Prioritize and target: Depending on program goals, pick the segments you want to target with interventions, these may be the largest groups or those who will be easiest to convert.

There is no perfect way to conduct a segmentation. You must choose the design and techniques that give you segments that are meaningful for your program, amenable to intervention, large enough to be targeted, stable over time, and easy to identify. The process will require expertise, trial and error, and engaging a range of stakeholders.

Linking Theory to Practice

I ended the webinar by discussing two case-studies that demonstrate the value of using customer segmentation to tackle two key development challenges: increasing the uptake of voluntary medical male circumcision for HIV prevention and increasing contraceptive use in Niger. As the sector continues to adopt segmentation, I hope to see more case-studies like these emerge that we can all learn from.

To learn more about the value of customer segmentation and some interesting case-studies, check out our article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review.

About the author

Dr. Sema Sgaier is the Co-founder and Executive Director of Surgo Foundation, a privately funded action tank whose mission is combining a customer-obsessed agenda with thinking in systems to solve complex global development problems. She works at the intersection of behavior, data, and technology. Previously at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, she led large-scale health programs in India and Africa. She is faculty at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. She was selected as a Rising Talent by the Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society and has a Ph.D. in neuroscience.


Missed out the presentation? You can still check it here.

Esomar Foundation will be continuing the series with a new webinar on 9th of May – watch this space for more details.

Advanced Research and Insights webinar: SEGMENTATION

The ESOMAR Foundation, in partnership with Toluna, is pleased to announce the launch of a new series of webinars.  The webinar series is designed to offer insights and showcase advanced research techniques used to improve not-for-profit organisations work.

Market research in the private sector grows increasingly sophisticated as researchers and insight professionals develop more advanced analysis techniques and use new data sources and technologies to understand customer behaviour and target communications to individuals. In this 2019 series of Webinars, ESOMAR Foundation aims to inform Not-for-Profit organisations about these advanced research techniques in order to help them use research more effectively in their programmes.

The first in the 2019 series considers Segmentation – probably one of the most powerful techniques used to target customers – and how we can use it for social good. Marketers nowadays invest a significant amount of time and money to deepen their understanding of their customers, including their behaviors, beliefs, emotions, unconscious biases, and social norms.  Commercial companies have made psycho-behavioral segmentation core to their approach because it works – it improves their bottom line! However, psycho-behavioral segmentation remains woefully underused in the global development sector. Most global development programmes still segment people by demographics when trying to change their behavior. There are tremendous opportunities to learn from the private sector and segment people based on the reasons behind their actions so that they can talk to them in ways that they will listen.

In this webinar, Sema Sgaier of Surgo Foundation will cover the value of segmentation in the global development sector, demonstrate its effective use through case studies, and discuss the challenges, lessons, and opportunities for Not-for-profits to make better use of segmentation in their research budget.

Co-founder and Executive Director of Surgo Foundation, a privately funded action tank whose mission is combining a customer-obsessed agenda with thinking in systems to solve complex global development problems. She works at the intersection of behavior, data, and technology. Previously at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, she led large-scale health programs in India and Africa. She is faculty at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. She was selected as a Rising Talent by the Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society and has a PhD in neuroscience.


A lifelong market researcher currently working on the GfK Verein’s University Cooperation Programme to improve the quality of education in Market Research in Africa and China.

We look forward to hearing from you next week, 26 March 2019, 17:00 CET for an enlightening discussion!