How Do We Improve Our Scale?
One of One Acre Fund’s primary goals is to have a big impact on each farmer – boosting their yield and increasing their farm profit. But impact per farmer is only one piece of the puzzle. Scale – the number of farmers that we reach in each area – is just as important.
So one of the most important questions we can ask ourselves is: what can we do to reach more farmers? In the places we work, nearly every household has a small farm. With our products and services, most farmers see their profits double or even triple in only one year. So why doesn’t every household join our program? And if we are able to enroll almost everyone, how can we efficiently manage so many clients?
Main Duties for Our Scale Innovations Team
To answer these questions, One Acre Fund launched scale innovations teams in Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania. Our teams have been operating for one year now, and they've been tasked with four main duties:
Understand the challenges
We run research projects to better understand the challenges of scaling up. Things like quantitative surveying, gathering the opinions of our most experienced field staff, and human-centered design approaches help build our knowledge. Furthermore, our presence in rural areas gives us frequent opportunities to listen directly to our farmers. This helps us to figure out what will work best in the field. Our scale innovations team includes top-performing field staff who bring deep understanding of our villages, and who can connect easily with farmers to get their opinions.
Design program innovations
With a good understanding of the challenges, we get busy designing ways of overcoming them. For example, we might propose changes to our repayment model, new approaches to marketing, better ways to motivate our group leaders, bringing mobile technology into our operations, and more. These ideas combine the experience and creativity of our team with best practices of other organizations and findings from behavioral economics research.
Trial the innovation
The best of our ideas get tested in controlled trials, usually including 5-10 field staff and 500-2000 farmers. By comparing the results of these trials – like how many farmers in one area choose to sign up with us – to comparable One Acre Fund sites, we can assess how effective the idea is. Our team members run basic statistical analyses pairing operational understanding with technical skills in Excel or STATA; some Program Associates start with these skills, while others learn on the job.
When an innovation is successful, we scale it up to 10,000+ farmers. If that is large trial is successful, then eventually we’ll roll it out to our entire program. This involves collaboration with our field team to share our findings and generate excitement about the idea, and collaboration with our tech and finance teams to build the internal infrastructure to scale up the idea. Our team members have to be strong communicators and collaborate well across teams.
Joining Our Scale Innovations Team
Scale innovations is scaling up, and we are looking for new team members! We're interested in people who:
- Are relentlessly curious, creative, innovative and prone to questioning assumptions.
- Have an affinity for data. Statistics or economics background encouraged but not required.
- Are strong communicators and collaborators.
- Have field experience in a developing country, or a strong desire to develop field judgment.
- Have a commitment to developing innovations skills among top field staff.