A storyboard from a mason design workshop I led in Gatsibo, Rwanda.

A storyboard from a mason design workshop I led in Gatsibo, Rwanda.

PROJECT OVERVIEW

As part of my summer fellowship with Earth Enable in Rwanda, I was tasked with researching employment and considering how we might create an employee experience and environment that fosters innovation and impact.


Earth Enable is a social enterprise in Rwanda and Uganda. Its mission is to provide affordable and sustainable floors I was the sole Summer Design Fellow and worked closely with Gayatri Datar, the founder, and engaged with multiple stakeholders throughout the company. I interviewed 34 employees throughout the company: masons, customer reps, floormen, drivers, and office employees.


Card sorting exercise about organizational structure.

Card sorting exercise about organizational structure.

Storyboarding exercise from a workshop

Storyboarding exercise from a workshop

RESEARCH TECHNIQUES

I practice human-centered design. I engaged with users through:

  • Card sorting exercises and surveys

  • Hour-long interviews with employees from various levels and parts of the organization. (Note: In deciding who to interview, I made sure to select a random set of employees that included people from various teams, offices and levels in the organization. I also made sure to interview longer-term employees along with newer employees to collect a broad set of opinions.)

  • Co-design workshops

INTERVIEW QUESTIONS INCLUDED

  1. Describe a moment when you felt really proud of your work at Earth Enable.

  2. Of everyone you know, who has the best job - what makes it the best?

  3. How connected do you feel to masons? How would you suggest that we get employees more connected to the work of the masons?

  4. What would you like to leave having accomplished or learned?

  5. What is a successful life to you?


USER INTERVIEWS

Due to the anonymous nature of the interviews, I cannot list the specific comments that emerged, but the How Might We (HMW) research questions that emerged were:

  • HMW help our masons feel a sense of job security when working with us?

  • HMW better incentivize our customer reps to commit to providing the best long-term

    customer experience?

  • HMW show our employees that we value fairness and value our employees?

  • HMW provide an environment for our employees that can foster productivity and our values?

To address these, I designed and led a series of workshops, inviting employees to co-design solutions.

 

I believe that a designer should advocate for their users; involving them throughout the entire design process and inviting them to ideate and design solutions that will impact them.

mason co-design workshop

  • 4-6 masons are invited to discuss in a group, then storyboard in 4 parts the problem: Why do masons feel a sense of job insecurity when working with us?

  • Each participant shares their drawing and we have a group discussion

  • Each participants storyboards a solution, which is then discussed and shared as a group

customer rep co-design workshop

  • 4-6 customer reps are invited to discuss in a group, then storyboard in 4 parts the problem: Why are customer reps prevented from committing to providing the best long-term customer experience?

  • Each participant shares their drawing and we have a group discussion

  • Each participants storyboards a solution, which is then discussed and shared as a group


How might we help our masons feel a sense of job security when working with us?


MASON co-design WORKSHOP STORYBOARD - PROBLEM

Problem Storyboard:  Quadrant 1: Mason arrives at working site, meets materials not there and he feels angry because he has to keep waiting for it, and use his time  Quadrant 2: He is still waiting at the end of the day without receiving materials, feels  ashamed, frustrated and angry because he wanted to work.   Quadrant 3: He is confused, and leaves late in the day without receiving materials. Now he is going back home, he seems frustrated, angry, not happy.  Quadrant 4: His mood is going to affect his family because when child comes to hug or play with him, based on the things in his mind, he is not happy and it may make his children not happy, partner is also not happy because when he is not happy, it affects everyone in the family based on what he passed and what happened to him.

Problem Storyboard:

Quadrant 1: Mason arrives at working site, meets materials not there and he feels angry because he has to keep waiting for it, and use his time

Quadrant 2: He is still waiting at the end of the day without receiving materials, feels ashamed, frustrated and angry because he wanted to work.

Quadrant 3: He is confused, and leaves late in the day without receiving materials. Now he is going back home, he seems frustrated, angry, not happy.

Quadrant 4: His mood is going to affect his family because when child comes to hug or play with him, based on the things in his mind, he is not happy and it may make his children not happy, partner is also not happy because when he is not happy, it affects everyone in the family based on what he passed and what happened to him.


MASON co-design WORKSHOP STORYBOARD - solution

Solution Storyboard:  Quadrant 1: A mason in coveralls and boots, ready to be engaged and work without worries and bike is helping him to get to site on time and go back from home on time  Quadrant 2: Tools and materials are on site, both customer and masons will be on time and interact well.  This will make the mason feel confident, knowing that his job is stable, knows where he can find the job and he feels able to go there. Mason will be willing to go anywhere for work.

Solution Storyboard:

Quadrant 1: A mason in coveralls and boots, ready to be engaged and work without worries and bike is helping him to get to site on time and go back from home on time

Quadrant 2: Tools and materials are on site, both customer and masons will be on time and interact well. This will make the mason feel confident, knowing that his job is stable, knows where he can find the job and he feels able to go there. Mason will be willing to go anywhere for work.

MASON WORKSHOP FINDINGS

Masons are committed to their work, and want conditions to be set up so that they can be successful and stable in their work: starting with materials delivered on time and bicycles to help them get to their work. They feel a sense of job insecurity when there are delays because it makes them question if the work is really there for them. Delays cause conflicts in the family, and make masons feel less motivated regarding their jobs.


How might we better incentivize our customer reps to commit to providing the best long-term customer experience?

customer representative co-design WORKSHOP STORYBOARD - Problem

Problem Storyboard  Quadrant 1: Customer rep who is starting the day is finding it very hard and challenging because - customer located far away from where rep lives. For rep to see customer, they have to call and plan to see them.  Quadrant 2: If you plan maybe you cannot respect the time because you have long travel, then when you do not respect time, you may meet customer and feel tired or customer is angry because you did not show up on time. Then it is hard to convince someone to even get the floor. You will not be happy because you are talking to an angry person and you are tired.  Quadrant 3: When you arrive there, you worry how you will get home, you do not spend much time with customer because you try to go home  Quadrant 4: Arriving home, you are thinking is this job too hard for me, is it going to facilitate me, will it help me? It will cause you to think what can you do to make life easy. Arriving to family, sometimes we discuss what we did today, if I did not get contract, I do not get money for end of month, get stressed and do not want to talk to relatives/partners because you seem stressed and go to bed, based on this story, sometimes you may feel insecure because if I use my day working and do not work anything, feel insecure and try to figure out plan B.

Problem Storyboard

Quadrant 1: Customer rep who is starting the day is finding it very hard and challenging because - customer located far away from where rep lives. For rep to see customer, they have to call and plan to see them.

Quadrant 2: If you plan maybe you cannot respect the time because you have long travel, then when you do not respect time, you may meet customer and feel tired or customer is angry because you did not show up on time. Then it is hard to convince someone to even get the floor. You will not be happy because you are talking to an angry person and you are tired.

Quadrant 3: When you arrive there, you worry how you will get home, you do not spend much time with customer because you try to go home

Quadrant 4: Arriving home, you are thinking is this job too hard for me, is it going to facilitate me, will it help me? It will cause you to think what can you do to make life easy. Arriving to family, sometimes we discuss what we did today, if I did not get contract, I do not get money for end of month, get stressed and do not want to talk to relatives/partners because you seem stressed and go to bed, based on this story, sometimes you may feel insecure because if I use my day working and do not work anything, feel insecure and try to figure out plan B.


customer representative co-design WORKSHOP STORYBOARD - solution

Solution Storyboard  Quadrant 1: Any type of transportation: money to rent moto, bicycle, company transportation, with this type of transportation they can meet each customer on time and will be able to earn more because meeting many customer per day,  Quadrant 2: Customer will trust in her because she will be on time, respect what she says to them, she will be able to have fresh memory, no frustration and not being annoyed because of travel, customer will be happy to see her.  Quadrant 3: By dark, go home with happiness and motivation for meeting many customers here and the family will be happy and she will be happy  Quadrant 4: Family will no long miss her because usually she has to spend much time coming back. try to figure out what can improved in her family. customer, her and family can be happy at same time.

Solution Storyboard

Quadrant 1: Any type of transportation: money to rent moto, bicycle, company transportation, with this type of transportation they can meet each customer on time and will be able to earn more because meeting many customer per day,

Quadrant 2: Customer will trust in her because she will be on time, respect what she says to them, she will be able to have fresh memory, no frustration and not being annoyed because of travel, customer will be happy to see her.

Quadrant 3: By dark, go home with happiness and motivation for meeting many customers here and the family will be happy and she will be happy

Quadrant 4: Family will no long miss her because usually she has to spend much time coming back. try to figure out what can improved in her family. customer, her and family can be happy at same time.

CUSTOMER REP WORKSHOP FINDINGS

Customer reps face long commutes to get to their customer. As customer facing employees, the long commute is a problem because it affects their interactions with the customer. The long travel affects their punctuality and ability to visit more clients. Reps often arrive tired and worried about how to get home, and it affects their ability to sell and achieve long-term stability in their job.


Summary

As a designer, I advocate for my user. I collated the findings form the workshop and shared it with senior management. My deploying human-centered design research techniques, I was able to gather insights about our masons and customer reps, and co-design ways to improve on employment practices. I believe that Earth Enable ca set the standard on what a more formal form of employment could look like in rural Rwanda and shape the way employees are developed.

I am particularly proud of this project because I feel that I was able to use use design as a way to communicate across different cultures and languages, achieving a result that I believe will have a positive impact on our employees.