It’s 5 o’clock on a Sunday evening in the suburbs of Hyderabad and I’m listening to a mother talk about her solar fan. The fan is on, providing some cool relief after what has been a long day searching for our customers in communities across the city, of which many of these communities no longer exist. We find abandoned tents where there were once thriving informal communities; often these abandoned communities are adjacent to brand new homes.
My interns Aditya and Nikhil are in conversation with Ms. Mariyamma, discussing her living situation and how the fan has impacted day to day life for her family. Her responses are being gathered for our bi-annual impact assessment, which helps us better understand customer needs, and how the products we sell are impacting people’s lives.
At Pollinate, data collection can be very time consuming; our customers are often transient, changing location and phone numbers frequently, speak different languages to our staff, or work irregular shifts. These are just a few of the challenges we face in collecting impact data, however thanks to our dedicated teams of Fellowship Participants and City Leaders, we are able to overcome these obstacles and more.
Why do we persevere in gathering this data?
Because understanding and measuring social impact
are crucial activities for any social enterprise.
At Pollinate Energy and Empower Generation, we are entering a new and ambitious period where we have the opportunity to improve how we assess our impact, particularly when it comes to empowering women and monitoring the impact of our increasingly wide range of life-changing products. We are constantly reviewing and renewing our Impact assessment processes to help us to better understand the experiences of our customers, sales agents and fellows, which helps us to identify opportunities and to address existing challenges.
As one of Pollinate Energy’s City Leaders, I will be contributing to the review of our impact assessment processes, which includes consolidating the metrics of the two countries where we operate, India and Nepal. One of the exciting lessons learnt from consolidating the impact metrics of our Indian and Nepalese operations is that Empower Generation’s strengths lie in assessing entrepreneurs, whereas Pollinate’s lie in understanding its customer.
As a single company, we can combine these strengths and prioritise both types of impact, as we know that we cannot achieve product access and uptake without locally empowered networks, and that women must be included in solutions pertaining to community development, family empowerment and energy access.
Impact at Pollinate Energy in 2018 looks very different to the Pollinate of 2014 when our first impact assessment was conducted. While we continue to sell solar lights, we now also sell many non-light products, such as solar fans, water filters, cookstoves, mosquito nets, pressure cookers and mixer grinders.
Since December 2017, we have been collecting data on these new and old products, as well as other aspects of the business, including our fellowships and Pollinator. Our bi-Annual impact assessment will be released shortly, and you can read about our impacts first by signing up for our newsletter here.
The impact assessment has already identified improvements we can introduce to our non-light products range, and processes surrounding servicing and our solar lights’ lifecycles. Large numbers of our customers send products they purchase to their native rural villages, and the impact assessment has given us a deeper insight into how products find their way and are used in those native villages.
At Empower Generation, entrepreneurs have been responding to impact assessment surveys on the topics of economic empowerment, involvement in their local community and politics, personal independence and how they are viewed by fellow community members.
To share just one story, one of our Entrepreneurs, Mina, told us of how prior to joining Empower Generation, people knew of her only by her husband’s last name. Now, people know her as Mina Mahato, CEO of Prekshay Saurya Urjah and her husband is known as Mina’s husband. These surveys help us to understand what empowerment looks and feels like from the women we’ve set out to support.
Our recent merger has allowed us an opportunity to apply a new approach to impact assessment which looks beyond the immediate impact of the products that we distribute. What has really emerged from this year’s impact assessment is an entire ecosystem of people who are impacted by Pollinate Energy. We look forward to sharing our results with you.