From darkness to light: an educational tool designed for change
The right to know
Impact by design
The digital training in rights and responsibilities have been prototyped in Bangladesh and China. The user tests gave us proof of concept, one of the workers said: “This will lead us from darkness to light.” Managers see an opportunity to meet CSR demands from customers.
User tests told us to launch in China first, and a pilot of the service will soon be available to Chinese factories and European buyers.
Most of us go to work each day feeling fulfilled, satisfied, and confident -or, at the very least, safe in our working environment. But what we take for granted is not even near the reality for factory workers in developing countries. Millions of factory workers are unaware of their basic rights and responsibilities, fearful of the consequences of asking questions or speaking up when they feel unsafe.
We have seen the tragic case of Rana Plaza in Bangladesh, only imagine being forced to return to your workstation despite the visibly expanding cracks in the walls and pillars, then being trapped inside as the illegal structure collapses on top of you. On that day, 1136 people died because they were not aware of their right to demand a safe working environment. Rights cannot protect people if people don’t know what rights they have and how to exercise them. In tragic cases such as this, change can mean the difference between life and death.
As consumers and media demand more focus on Corporate Social Responsibility, the global brands have responded by implementing codes of conduct and training programs to educate factory workers around their rights and responsibilities. But even though efforts are made it is difficult for global buyers to feel confident that education is performed and codes are followed.
Based on their experience in global trade, production, and corporate training, the startup QuizRR came to us with a fairly developed product idea; a digital training tool that educates factory workers through a series of online training videos with related questions. The data collected from the training tool in each factory would be presented on a web portal designed to connect global buyers with responsible supply partners. By making CSR measurable, training would be performed in factories, not only as a demand from but with the incentive of improved business.
By using a design thinking approach, we worked closely with the founders of QuizRR to design a multidimensional service aimed at improving the quality of life for factory workers while also providing factory owners with a turn-key training solution that fosters mutually beneficial relationships between global buyers and responsible suppliers.
Designing a path for meaningful change - Focusing on questions before solutions. But before we could start building, we knew we had to understand more around the users’ needs and how to deliver value through the whole chain of stakeholders. We started with three basic questions:
- Are factory owners willing to implement and/or pay for this type of training tool/service?
- Will factory workers have the opportunity to use the training tool, given the technical infrastructure and workplace environment? And how?
- Will buyers for global brands find the service useful and the reporting credible?
Throughout the process, we worked closely with QuizRR to evaluate their business model and the value delivered to each group of users. To avoid working from “conference room assumptions,” we met with users in their environments to gain contextual understanding of each group’s situation, struggles, and needs. We talked with buyers from top global brands to get a better understanding of the production bidding experience and the buyer/supplier journey. We went inside factories in Bangladesh to conduct a series of contextual interviews with workers and managers to get a first-hand understanding of their needs and environment. We sat down with factory owners and supplier agents to understand the business struggles from their perspective. From these interviews, we defined a set of problem/need statements that helped us understand what sort of value the service should deliver to each group.
Problems and needs
Factory workers are not aware of their basic rights and are afraid to speak up to superiors. They need effective training methods that increase knowledge of their rights and how to exercise them, as well as action and advocacy from buyers.
Factory owners feel frustrated and insecure about securing orders, and experience sometimes unrealistic demands from global buyers. Training that pull workers off production lines is seen as a loss in business. Factory owners need to prove their efforts in securing workers rights and need a way to make their efforts more visible to buyers and key decision makers.
Buyers for global brands are under increasing pressure from customers and media to choose responsible supply partners, but key performance indicators are based strictly on price and lead time. They need a tool to evaluate partners and add a level of measurability to CSR.
Learning, changing, improving as we go
Based on co-creative design studios together with QuizRR we designed and built interactive prototypes of the educational tool and the portal, that we brought along with us when visiting factories in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Through testing our prototype with workers and factory managers, we uncovered deeper insights about cultural, organizational, political and technical challenges that the service need to take into account, insights we could only retrieve by first hand experience. In design of the educational tool, the iterative design process with users was key since many of the factory workers had never seen nor used a touch screen. When seeing our prototype in the hands of users, we realized that digital design elements and interactions that we might take for granted, such as touch buttons and meaning of icons, are not obvious to people who have never used a computer before. In addition, level of literacy varies among workers, which put high demands on design, since workers who can’t read or write should be able to absorb new knowledge.
Above all, our user tests confirmed the need for the service. After using the digital training tool for the first time, one of the workers told us “This will lead us from darkness to light.” Now that’s designing for change.
Based on our insights in Bangladesh, we made another iteration of the prototype and the concept was tested in factories in China. After proving validity of the concept across cultures, we decided to scale up our prototypes. Together with QuizRR and their partners, we now build a pilot of the full service that will be tested and evaluated in thirty factories in China, and with European buyers. From iterative development, and up-scaling, we hope that the service will continue to spread knowledge as well as building trustworthy business relations.