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NICE: It's Not an Acronym (Part 2)

We have been excited about the interest and discussion of lean research. This post offers some additional examples from our work.


Our evaluation of New York City’s Financial Empowerment Centers illustrates our lean approach to field interviews. The protocol we developed to recruit participants into the study carefully balanced their needs and the importance of a high take-up rate to obtain research results. After randomly selecting participants, we called a maximum of three times to schedule interviews at locations of their choice—often local coffee shops and libraries. During this call we were sure to discuss the content and purpose of the interview as well as incentives in advance. We often insist that people be paid for the time that they spend speaking to us, recognizing not only that they require a motivational incentive, but that there is an opportunity cost to people’s time. On the day prior to interviews, we called respondents to confirm the interviews and their locations, this helps build trust so that respondents know that we will be where we agreed. During the interviews, our researchers facilitated active two-way discussions in which people were offered the opportunity to voice their opinions and experiences with managing their finances and the Financial Empowerment Centers candidly. More often than not, our central questions were answered naturally in these back-and-forths. These methods affected a high take-up rate and detailed qualitative data, without disregarding or intruding on respondents privacy and contentment. More importantly, “people leave with a smile,” as one respondent told us a few days after an interview.

Beyond the standard methods of data collection, EA Consultants has acted on these concerns with creative research methodologies designed to further maximize the value to respondents and gather more data over shorter periods of time. Our market research to develop an outpatient health insurance product in Guatemala is an example of this type research streamlining. Our survey asked not only about demand and willingness to pay but tested delivery methods as part of its design. A nurse accompanied our surveyors and offered to take respondents’ vital signs. In doing so, we were able to better assess how respondents felt about the model for on-site diagnostic and preventative healthcare delivery as well as to gather data on health diagnostics, which help price the product. In this way, we streamlined our field research into short visits with brief surveys that collected three types of data essential for fully evaluating the product, while offering respondents a chance to get real medical advice from a professional voluntarily. In this case, a financial incentive was not offered so as not to be perceived at coercing respondents into unwillingly accepting the nurse’s services. Instead, respondents were told the information would be used to design a health insurance product for their needs, that the results would be confidential, and only used in an aggregated manner to design a health product. This type of creative study is a boon for our researchers and interviewees alike, saving time and improving the study’s quality and value.

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