Digital surveying shows social changes from perspective of Oikocredit partners’ clients
Oikocredit and five financial services partner organisations have undertaken a systematic, digital survey of the partners’ clients to assess significant changes in their lives over the past twelve months.
In 2021, as part of the ‘Outreach to Impact’ project, Oikocredit worked with five financial service provider (FSP) partners from Asia, Africa and Latin America to conduct a digital survey of their clients.
The goals were to discover how clients perceive changes in their lives over the previous 12 months, what impact the Covid-19 pandemic had on their lives, and begin more systematic impact monitoring at the client level.
The survey relies on clients’ self-perceptions which are subjective, yet the responses provide valuable insight into clients’ lives.
Analysis of the responses will help the partners understand where to provide support or which products and services to adjust to better support their clients.
The responses of over 2,500 clients indicate that many have seen their income and savings reduce over the past year, mainly because of Covid-19, but they continue to show resilience in their lives.
A significant percentage indicated that extreme weather had negatively affected their income.
The survey also showed that more clients have access to internet and smartphones than expected and that a strategic focus on savings improves resilience.
Survey approach and demographics
Five partners were chosen to participate in the first survey - two partner FSPs in Kenya and one each in Peru, the Philippines and Uganda.
The aim was to work with socially-focused partners who are less familiar with using digital channels to reach their clients or to systematically collect and analyse data.
Altogether 2,546 clients responded to the survey: 1,256 clients in Peru, 543 in the Philippines, 302 in Uganda, and 273 and 172 clients respectively of the two Kenyan partners.
More than three-quarters (77%) of respondents were women.
Impacts of Covid-19
The survey was done during the second year of the Covid-19 global pandemic, which affected many of the partners and their clients, in some cases very seriously.
Not surprisingly, 67% of survey respondents reported negative changes in their lives due to coronavirus, and almost two-thirds said their income had decreased.
Other negative changes reported by clients that can probably be attributed to the pandemic and to government restrictions on movement included a decrease in social interactions and additional activities and, crucially, having fewer children in school.
Despite the pandemic, many clients who said they have a business reported expanding their business with a new product or service during the previous 12 months, while others had invested in new equipment or taken on a new employee.
Younger clients were more likely to have expanded their business or grown their income than older clients.
And taking on a new employee seems to have been more productive in maintaining or raising income than adding a new product or service.
Many clients also reported improvements within the family such as more harmonious family relations and increased participation in family decisions, as well as greater ability to cope with negative events such as Covid-19.
More than half the clients of the Philippines partner said that they had become better able to provide for (and cope with) their family’s health needs and emergencies, although this was not the case with other partners.
Income disrupted by extreme weather
Among 2,491 responses to the survey question on climate impact, 1,156 respondents (46%) said their income had been disrupted by an extreme weather event (such as rainfall or drought) in the last 12 months.
This was particularly true for two of the participating FSPs, with a high proportion of respondents in the Philippines (88%) and Uganda (51%) saying that an extreme weather event had disrupted their income.
Benefits of the survey and future plans
By undertaking the client survey, both Oikocredit and its partners have learned a good deal about collecting social data in a digitally efficient way.
Oikocredit’s partners now know more about using digital channels to communicate with clients, gather responses which can inform their own organisational plans and improve their services to their clients.
A key component of the survey project was to mentor partners in analysing responses and applying the learnings to their organisation for the benefit of their clients.
For example, through the survey responses partners were able to identify particular needs of clients and match these clients with existing products or programmes.
To support partners, Oikocredit produced ‘data dashboards’ that enable partners to answer their own questions in a user-friendly way by referring to the client self-perception data.
These dashboards have received positive feedback and will in future be standard for all survey project partners.
Oikocredit has also organised peer webinars to enable participating partners to share their experience of the survey and data use, helping partners consider alternative approaches.
In designing the survey for next year, Oikocredit will also take account of the need to understand in more detail how clients have spent their savings and seek to clarify further the cause of changes in income and savings.
Oikocredit is encouraging partners to select baseline indicators from the 2021 survey to follow clients’ future changes.
Based on the first year’s experience and results, challenges partners have faced in applying social data to their organisation have informed the design of a training webinar dedicated to social analysis.
This will be part of the partner support package for future surveys. Lessons learned have also resulted in a detailed handbook that Oikocredit will provide to partners in the next and future survey rounds.
Oikocredit aims to undertake further client self-perception surveys with existing and new partners every year, expanding to more of the focus countries.
Partners in Cambodia, India and Nigeria have already shown interest for 2022.