TEGA launches pilot in US

Girl Effect’s multi award-winning mobile-based research tool trialled in a developed nation for the first time.

Girl Effect is piloting TEGA (Technology Enabled Girl Ambassadors) in Saginaw, Michigan, in the United States, to test its authority as a truly global research tool to better understand young people.

Originally developed in Northern Nigeria to uncover insights about girls in some of the hardest to reach communities in the world, TEGA is Girl Effect’s revolutionary and award-winning research tool. This is the first time it will be used to carry out research in a developed nation.

Laura Scanlon, Director of TEGA at Girl Effect, said:

“At Girl Effect, we know that when it comes to understanding girls in hard-to-reach communities, conventional research methods have serious limitations. To unleash change, there needs to be a much better understanding of girls’ realities. Our hope is that TEGA’s success in Saginaw will not only help pave the way for changing the situation for girls living there, but will pioneer a new wave of mobile innovation in the development sector, shifting from treating the symptoms of poverty to addressing its root causes.”

The Great Recession of 2008 – 2012 was devastating to the economic vibrancy of Saginaw - several large automotive related manufacturing plants shuttered their operations which elevated unemployment levels and accelerated migration out of the city as many left to seek opportunities elsewhere. Poverty in the city of Saginaw is more than twice that of the national average, and unemployment is at 20%.

Consequently, the city's property values and income tax collections shriveled, severely impacting its ability to provide public safety services. 

Saginaw was once a vibrant manufacturing city but much of the industry has closed down 

From 2011 to 2013, the city's police force was cut from an authorized level of 96 sworn officers to 55 officers. In 2012, Forbes named Saginaw one of the most dangerous cities in America to be a woman.

In that back drop, Saginaw's citizens, members of the faith community, civic organisations, city, regional and state leaders, rallied together to form new partnerships and strengthen collaborative efforts to meet those challenges head on.

However, there remains a need to address and better understand core issues such as poverty, substance abuse, and limited educational opportunities that create an atmosphere of despair and all-to-often lead to higher rates of crime. There is little to no research revealing the extent and impact of violence on the community and, in particular, on women and girls.

Filling this evidence gap - and better understanding the lives of girls and women in Saginaw - could significantly improve future programmes and policy.

Girl Effect is working alongside Saginaw-based organisation, Youth M.O.V.E, to employ and train a group of local young women from Saginaw to become fully qualified Technology Enabled Girl Ambassadors and conduct research through bespoke mobile phones. 

A TEGA conducting an interview

Willie Hillman, Director of Youth M.O.V.E. Saginaw, has been working with Girl Effect to run the training of all the girl researchers:

“All too often, not enough time is spent actually listening to young people, how they feel about their community, and what they think needs to change – that’s particularly true of young women and girls. This research has the potential to give young women in Saginaw a platform to make their voices heard, and we hope it will be embraced by those who have the power to make change happen.”

The project has gathered local momentum. Dan Kildee, US Congressman for Saginaw, Bay City and Flint recently met the TEGAs. He said,

“Girl Effect is doing important work using technology to lift up and empower girls in our community and around the world. I was inspired after meeting the girls in Saginaw and moved learning about their mission and work. The TEGA research helps leaders learn about the experiences of young people in their community and increase opportunities for girls in places like Saginaw and across the world. I am excited to follow Girl Effect and their great work in Michigan.”

Congressman Dan Kildee meets the TEGAs

Since early 2017, the TEGAs have completed ten rounds of research, conducted 350 interviews - men, women and young people - and collected over 6,000 video and audio clips.

These insights - about ambition, sex, education and violence - help to paint truly authentic insights into the lives of young people in Saginaw.

Now, Girl Effect is committed to continuing the TEGA network in Saginaw, working towards it becoming a locally led network of researchers that continue to give girls a voice, whilst creating real-life impact in local programmes.

To achieve this, Girl Effect is working with the Saginaw Community Foundation. For the next 12 months, TEGAs will continue to conduct research to uncover key issues, as well as monitor programmes and co-design solutions.

If you would like to receive a copy of the first wave of research please e-mail TEGApartnerships@girleffect.org