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Pilot Testing

Dear awesome supporters,

It has been a whirlwind since we updated you last! Not only have we crisscrossed the world a few times to meet with supporters but we have also been feverishly working on the launch of our new product, Orion.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves.

The last time we touched base, we told you that we were in the middle of our pilot testing for our proprietary product (job training, evaluation, and placement). We finished our pilot testing in September to great success! Though the technology was finicky in the first week, by the beginning of the second, we had stabilized the tech and began to add new features based on user feedback and back-end necessities. Overall, 32% of the students were placed in jobs and achieved a 30+ point gain in knowledge in entrepreneurship and professional etiquette. 100% of students strongly agree or agree with the statement that “I am more confident in my job seeking and creation skills because of the knowledge I have garnered from my course with g.Maarifa.” If you are interested in the entire results of the pilot, please don’t hesitate to email Evanna at evanna@gmaarifa.com

Right after the pilot, Andrew and I flew back to the US and did a tour talking to supporters and potential investors and clients. Evanna spoke in front of Engineers Without Borders on behalf of g.Maarifa. From Chicago to New York to San Francisco, we received positive feedback and great enthusiasm for our products. Some of the negotiations are ongoing and hush-hush but we will keep you in the loop as soon as we get the disclosure OK!

Secondly, we are in the process of rolling out our new product, Orion. Because we already have an interactive SMS platform, we figured that it would be a lot more beneficial to license it out to NGOs and other institutions in developing markets who need to reach their own end users, most of whom are bottom of the pyramid, with their own content. Orion is our white label customization platform which means that we work with clients to customize their content, questions, and analytics and then deliver the content and evaluation questions to their end users.

Already we are working with two multinational social enterprise clients on reaching more than 700,000 end users by February, 2013 (contracts worth millions of dollars). One is using Orion to do entrepreneurship training in five provinces in Kenya and another is using Orion to remote-train their field staff and to educate clients on micro-insurance. We are super stoked to work and support them!

Lastly, you might have noticed that we changed our logo and design. Thanks to our awesome volunteer designer and web guru, Youn, we will also be getting a new website which will be launched next month. The website will include a simulation of our tech so folks outside of East Africa can also experience it.

The last few months have been hectic as we finally made the decision to shift our focus to Orion from our proprietary product, Sophia, and as we did our prelim round of fundraising. We are especially grateful for your support which continues to keep us inspired in building this business.

Best,

Evanna and Andrew

September 20, 2012

Our first wave of pilot testing ended on Tuesday the 18th with the holistic examination. Though changes and modifications need to be made, we are pleased with the initial results. Here are some highlights:

  • More than a 20 point gain in overall knowledge of entrepreneuership, financial management, and professional etiquette from 57% to 80%. The biggest gains are in professional etiquette, customer are, marketing, and human resources
  • 100% of them agree that the material is much more engaging , more applicable and relatable.
  • 32% of the students are getting job placements of their choice.
  • Peak time of system engagement: 5-8:30 AM and 6-10 PM- times at which physical classes do not convene.
  • There is no significant disparity in performance between the two genders. However, females tend to score higher in professional etiquette and customer care while males tend to score higher on questions about strategies and operations.

You can find the results in their entirety on our website tomorrow.

We will continue to monitor and follow up with the job performance and prospects of our students for the next year.  The course content will also be analyzed as we continue our talks and holistic evaluation with our graduates.

Our second wave of 235 students is currently in the progress of taking the course and will be taking the holistic examination in mid-October.

If you have any questions, please email Evanna at evanna@gmaarifa.com

August 30, 2012

Written by Evanna

The ambition and level of dedication of g.Maarifa youths never cease to impress me. On Tuesday, we went back to one of the pilot testing sites since it was the midway point of our testing. They like the content and the technology, although they did point out some bugs that we have been battling but are now fixed. They said that the are engrossed by the content because all the case studies made the units read more like a story than instructions. But mostly, they were eager to continue with the course so that they can start looking for jobs.

Many are devoting 2-3 hours everyday on the course material, quizzing each other on the content outside the unit quizzes they are given, and practicing the skills taught to them in our professional etiquette units. They are wondering if we have courses that will deepen their knowledge in areas such as accounting, journalism, and hospitality. Their thirst for hard-to-access information is enormous and their dedication to learn the hard-to-access information is mind blowing.

These youths are unemployed not because they are not willing to work hard or because they are uneducated. On the contrary, they are working hard everyday to scrape together enough money for them and their family members. They just do not have enough opportunities. We seek to change that. We want to give them the opportunities to prove their talent and potential and open new doors for them. That is the mission of g.Maarifa.

 

We debuted  g.Maarifa in our three pilot testing sites in Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya earlier this week. The three sites are Olympic Secondary School, Soweto Academy (whose Form 4 students are all girls), and Saving Our Daughters and Sons (SODAS) Foundation. We first introduced g.Maarifa to them, then demoed the product by putting them into groups and allowing them to do the first unit of the entrepreneurship course, and finally asked them for immediate feedback. In addition, because this pilot also doubles as an impact study, before we introduced g.Maarifa, we asked them to take a pre-test on entrepreneurship to see how much they already know. The pretest is composed of questions on two local-context case studies that cover strategies, marketing, employee hiring, pricing, and long-term thinking. The three schools all scored in the 68-70% range on the test. While they do have the aptitude and acumen for business, the score shows that they still have much to learn. In an economy that is primarily made of self-employment, it is necessary that these students learn these skills.

The students will officially start the program on August 13th.  With an estimated one- month duration, we will be getting concrete numbers and results the second week of September, when school will start again. In the meantime, we will be going back to these sites biweekly to evaluate their progress and answer any questions/concerns they might have. We will be giving them a final examination that mirrors the pretest which will allow us to see how much knowledge they have garnered and points of curriculum improvement for us.

g.Maarifa is looking optimistic already. When we introduced the concept of g.Maarifa, the students were very enthusiastic and had all types of questions ranging from, “My sister is from Elderot and graduated from Form 4 last year. Can she also do this program?” to ” what if I get into university and will not be able to work right away? Can I still do the training?”. They were also thrilled with the technology and began competing with each other to see how many questions they could get right and how fast they could do the unit. Olympic Secondary School head teacher and counselor were so impressed with the program that they requested that we offer the program, specifically the professional etiquette course, to their fellow teachers as well.

While the start of pilot testing was overall successful, we definitely learned some lessons that will make future training sessions run smoother. We learned that having plans B, C, and D in addition to A is crucial especially when the unexpected happens. For example, at one point, Safaricom’s shortcode system was down so we could not demo the technology. We had to go to plan B and C and showed them the g.Maarifa texts that were stored on our personal phones to give them an idea. We also drew out how the technology works on the blackboard to accompany our verbal instruction. Then, we promised to come back later in the week to give them another demo. While the situation was not ideal, we could not have done anything then except constant calls to Safaricom and our techies (which we did). Our ability to be flexible and to adapt to the current situation helped us tremendously.

We look forward to the results, which we will share with you as soon as we receive and analyze them in late September.

Written by Innocent Basso

Nairobi, Kenya-

My name is Innocent Basso, and I am interning with g.maarifa. I am a rising sophomore at the University of Chicago, focusing on Economics. Today I joined the g.Maarifa staff for field research in Kibera and met with two focus groups in order to introduce and test our SMS technology. There were ten participants in each group. They were put in pairs which received one testing phone. The attendance was very assuring although, not surprisingly, a few members walked in a few minutes late.

We began by introducing the basic idea of the technology. Today’s info texts were based on easy, non- contextual material developed to familiarize the focus groups with the technology. The pairs easily registered themselves by sending a text with a specific code to a number we gave them. From then on, the pairs proceeded to read the texts they received and to answer the questions when they were prompted. This process went very smoothly for both focus groups, but of course there were a few requests for clarification, for example, whether to reply in uppercase or lowercase letters.

At the end of both sessions, we asked the participants for feedback on the technology. Most of them were happy with the technology, and said they found it very easy to use. We observed that the time lapse between confirmation of enrollment and the first info text was a bit long and we are working on cutting it down. We also received questions such as if they would be able to use the technology on their own phones, and we said yes and assured them that the technology is compatible with all phones.

We ended the sessions with the discussion about the pricing of the product. We were interested in knowing what the participant felt was a suitable price they were willing to pay. To my surprise, a majority were willing to pay a higher price than it is set, that is 700 Kshs, some even saying they were willing to give up to 2000 Kshs. Overall, today’s sessions were very successful and helpful to us and the focus groups in understanding better the strengths and shortcomings of the product.

We are welcoming the following pilot testing sites to the g.Maarifa team: Soweto Academy in Langata, Nairobi; Foundation of Hope in Kianda, Nairobi; and Olympic Secondary School in Olympic, Nairobi. Pilot testing will start at the end of July/beginning of August. We are super stoked to work  with the youths and make an impact in their lives.