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Save the Children's

Impact Investment Fund

"Where profit meets purpose!"

Project Overview

THE BACKGROUND
 

Save the Children is a world’s leading independent and global organisation working for children. They give voice to children all around the world and champion their rights. Their work includes supporting children by providing access to quality healthcare and education and protecting children from an abuse and neglect.

In 2019, Save the Children directly reached around 40 million of the world’s most vulnerable children in 117 countries.

 

In Dec 2020, Save the Children acquired funding and launched an Impact Investment Fund, aimed at supporting enterprises that emphasise social innovation and address pressing social and humanitarian issues.

THE CHALLENGE
 

Save the Children’s Impact Investment Fund wanted to start investing in innovative, social enterprises that further Save the Children’s values and mission.

 

"EdTech" was seen as a market segment with big opportunities for the investments. So, Save the Children's Impact Investment Fund wanted to research and explore the suitable, potential investment targets, in the fast growing EdTech market.

The Impact Investment Fund needed to understand the EdTech market segment deeper and better to make the well informed, educated decisions about investing in the right EdTech organisations.

 
THE OBJECTIVES
 
  • Gain deeper understanding of the EdTech market and different EdTech segments

  • Research the needs and drivers of the EdTech entrepreneurs

 

  • Uncover EdTech businesses’ motivations, goals, needs, problems etc.

 

  • Research the adoption of EdTech innovation to help Impact Investment Fund cater for the invested businesses and the entrepreneurs, in a more suitable manner

PROJECT SCOPE

  • Advanced UX research into EdTech market segment

MY ROLE

  • UX researcher (solo)

  • Presenting the findings and the recommendations to the stakeholders, Laura Scott, Head of Impact Investments, Save the Children and Mary Sue Rogers, Board Member & Investment Committee Member, Save the Children

TOOLS & TECHNIQUES

  • Miro, Dovetail

  • Qualitative research techniques, Landscape analysis

DELIVERABLES

  • Affinity map, User personas, Value proposition canvas, The research report

TEAM

  • Self directed with feedback from the mentor, Nima Idelkhani and peers (from Harness Projects)

DURATION

  • Jan 2021 - Mar 2021 ( 7 weeks )

The Approach

"THE WORKING CAPITAL … ” - Understanding the Impact Investment Fund

The first and very important step in this project was to understand the Impact Investment Fund as a whole. This was critical in obtaining the business requirements, their goals, pain points and in general, learn more about the Impact Investment Fund.

 

I interviewed the project stakeholder, Laura Scott, to gain a deeper understanding about the Impact Investment Fund, the due diligence and selection process of the potential investment options etc.

 

I, also, interviewed the Subject Matter Experts from Save the Children and Impact Investment Fund to understand  more about the strategies and supports for the Impact Investments and also about the EdTech market and its role with respect to the Impact Investments.

        Key takeaways

  • Social impact, "for-profit" EdTech organisations - The Impact Investment Fund would like to invest into such EdTech organisations that are creating a social impact through their innovations while also generating a revenue.

  • Geographical constraints - For the purpose of this research, the Impact Investment Fund would only like to focus on the EdTech businesses primarily founded in Australia and having a local (within Australia) social impact.

  • A pool of investment options - With this research, the Impact Investment Fund would like to find a way to assess and identify the possible investment options. This can help the Impact Investment Fund to have a possible group of potential investment targets, at a given time.

  • Better support and coaching - The Impact Investment Fund would provide the necessary supports and coaching to the entrepreneurs along their journey, once they’ve invested.

"KNOW THYSELF ..." - Understanding the EdTechs 
 

To understand the EdTech market and the Australian EdTech landscape in detail, I used the qualitative research technique and interviewed 8 EdTech entrepreneurs.

 
        Key considerations (for recruiting interview participants)

  • Revenue generating social impact EdTechs - EdTech entrepreneurs creating social impact through their innovations, but also generating revenue.

  • Geographical location and impact - EdTech entrepreneurs with their businesses primarily founded in Australia and creating local social impact.

  • Participant with business knowledge - A participant holding the management position in the EdTech organisation, for e.g. the founder, the CEO, the Head of Marketing etc., to share the knowledge and information about their EdTech business and the business journey.

These interviews helped me gain a deeper understanding of the EdTech businesses’ goals, motivations, pain points and their future aspirations. Along with this, during the interviews, I also investigated the “financial” aspect of these EdTech businesses.

 

This  gave me a lot of valuable insights about different financing options available to the EdTechs, the process of finding an investor and the frustrations around it, the investor relations, the risks involved in financing, the expectations from the investor etc.

Having the knowledge of “financial” side of the EdTechs was extremely necessary for this research to help Impact Investment Fund better attract and close the investment opportunities.

The interesting fact about my interview participants’ sample set was that it was quite balanced, with some of the EdTech businesses as early stage start-ups, some EdTech businesses at traction stage while few others at the growth stage.

In my opinion, having a mixed, balanced sample set of interview participants was very important in understanding the complete EdTech landscape and understanding their needs and drivers, better. This helped me immensely in forming the insights and the recommendations.

DOUBLE DIAMOND APPROACH

  • Used the double diamond problem solving approach, based on the user-centred design principles, to perform the user research and form the insights.

  • The two diamonds represent a process of exploring an issue more widely or deeply (divergent thinking) and then taking focused action (convergent thinking).

APPROACH​ FOR THIS PROJECT

  • This being a UX research project,  only focused on the first diamond of the process.

  • Started with a detailed research plan to incorporate research goals,  user recruitment and different research methods to accomplish the objectives.

  • Conducted the interviews to gather qualitative research data along with landscape analysis to learn more about the similar products in the market. 

I'm an impact person. So I'd rather impact five people than spend $30,000 on a marketing campaign on Facebook, you know, just it doesn't work."

Really the blocker is we can't go any faster than the cashflow coming in."

So I think that's one of the things that founders can often find frustrating. Like it's not a slow, it's not a short game, it's a long game."

Schools are now inundated with products, and a lot of schools have also been burned by some pretty poor products that are not designed by people who have experience in educational, the solution that they're offering."

"THE MOST IMPORTANT ASSETS …” - The personas

Once I completed synthesising and uncovering the insights, three distinct personas emerged from them, based on the growth stage of the EdTech businesses. These three personas, each, had a completely different sets of needs, goals and aspirations, based on the business age and their stage.

Here’s a quick snapshot of the comparison of the three personas, based on their needs.

SmartEd
Dtalks
Aptimetrics

From the above comparison, we can clearly see that the EdTech businesses, at different stages in their business journey, have different needs in order to grow and be successful. This key insight was also considered when providing my recommendations to the Impact Investment Fund.

"THE TREASURE TROVE …” - What did I find?

To make sense of all the gathered information and to synthesise the qualitative data gathered from the interviews, I created an affinity map.

For this, I sorted out all the data collected from the interview responses into common groups and themes digitally using the dovetail app, the user research analysis and repository platform.

The affinity mapping, helped me study the emerging patterns to uncover the insights and the findings and formed a basis for the personas and the value proposition canvas that I created, further, in this project.

            Key insights

  • The Business 101 - Most EdTech entrepreneurs were ex-teachers, so they lacked the necessary knowledge and skills to run a successful business. These entrepreneurs would greatly benefit from trainings in business, finance, legal etc.

  • Funding vs Growth equation - Most of the EdTech businesses in early stage or a traction stage require funds to grow. However, these businesses, often, do not get enough funding and investors and their growth is limited with restricted sales numbers and figures.

 

  • Longer sales cycles in EdTech - Most of the EdTech entrepreneurs expressed concerns about the longer sales cycles in EdTech market. Due to this, these entrepreneurs are facing challenges in getting their sales targets and getting the required traction to have a sustainable business.

 

  • Slow and resistant education sector - Most of the EdTech entrepreneurs complained about the education sector responding very slowly to the change and to adopting to new things and technologies easily.

  • Need for technical, Mentor expertise - Many EdTech entrepreneurs shared that finding the right talent, especially the technical talent, the mentors and the advisors was really important for the success. However, they, often, faced challenges in finding these expertise.

  • The right “context” - Most of the entrepreneurs of growing businesses think, having the current and right context to the education sector is very important for their success. So, these entrepreneurs always invest into getting the “right context”.

"FINAL PIECE OF THE PUZZLE…” - The value proposition canvas

After I created the personas, it was time for me to map out and see how well the services and supports offered by the Impact Investment Fund fit with the needs of the EdTech businesses.

The value proposition canvas for each of the personas that I created, helped me summarise how the Impact Investment Fund can help the EdTech businesses create the desired gains and alleviate their pains. It allowed to me see how well the Impact Investment Fund aligns with the EdTech businesses.

This overview also helped me determine the new opportunities and improvements for the Impact Investment Fund to support the needs and aspirations of these EdTech businesses better.