How to build development solutions based on human truth

Girl Effect's new Insights Toolkit will equip the development industry to do better research and create more effective solutions for girls.

Girl Effect has created a new toolkit for researching and understanding the lives of girls in poverty.
The Insights Toolkit is a practical guide to generating valuable insights that can be used to design powerful development solutions. It brings together 21 different techniques tried and tested in the field by Girl Effect over the past five years.
"We created it to help people understand girls' lives on a really deep and meaningful level," says Girl Effect's insights director, Ben Gallagher.  
"It's about uncovering human truth, the truth about why something is the way it is. If you can build solutions built on human truth they will be much longer-lasting and more effective."

Solving development problems

At the heart of the Insights Toolkit is the idea that research must go beyond just statistics or observations. Engineering change requires a much deeper understanding of the problem.

"Insights are unique ways of looking at existing problems," explains Ben.
"They come from truly understanding why people do what they do, say what they say or think what they think.
"Lots of research is built on observations, but that only tells you what is happening. Creating insights enables you to understand why those things are happening." 

Protecting girls

The Insights Toolkit is split into three sections: Discover, Insight and Generate.

Discover is about how to conduct research with girls in innovative ways that creates interesting results. Insight is about analysing those results and using them to create unique points of view. Generate describes how to use your insights to start developing solutions.
The Insights Toolkit also helps mitigate other common research problems, including what Ben calls "the research effect".
"Lots of people are going out into the field and talking to girls, so increasingly girls are aware of what they should be saying," he says.
"The approaches in the toolkit ensure that girls are comfortable with the process, that their rights have been protected and that they're being looking after appropriately within proper child safety guidelines.
"That's the only way to get the best research outcomes."

Empowering Rwandan girls

One of the projects that Girl Effect created in Rwanda is a radio show and magazine for adolescent girls. The programme, called Ni Nyampinga, was created using many of the approaches now in the Insights Toolkit.
"When we started working in Rwanda we tried to understand girls' lives from their perspective on a really deep level," says Ben. "By using the methods in the toolkit there were a couple of things that became very obvious.
"Firstly, our research showed us that for many poor, and especially rural, girls in Rwanda the reality of their lives is one in which they have very little exposure to options and opportunities.   

"Secondly, as soon as girls hit a certain age society expects them to get married. For so many adolescent girls their journey is inevitable - from being the daughter of their father to the wife of their husband.
"Those two insights helped us create Ni Nyampinga, which enables girls to benefit from adolescence in a meaningful way by inspiring them as teenagers and preparing them for adulthood."

Improving the Insights Toolkit

The publication of the Insights Toolkit is only the beginning of Girl Effect's mission to create better development solutions for girls.

"We'd love people to suggest new tools and approaches so we can add them to the toolkit," adds Ben. "We want people to share it, use it and give us feedback on how to improve it."
Download the Insights Toolkit and let us know what you think on Facebook, Twitter or by email