In July of 2015, SPRING was launched. It is a pioneering accelerator that supports entrepreneurs and businesses whose products and services have the potential to transform the lives of millions of adolescent girls. It began with an inaugural cohort of 18 entrepreneurs from Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda. Over the next four years, the program has grown to serve more than 70 businesses in nine countries across two continents, bringing new products and services to millions of girls.
SPRING is funded by DFID, USAID, and the Nike Foundation and represents a revolutionary approach to development challenges: supporting market-based solutions that address some of the world’s most pressing challenges.
SPRING’s impact goes beyond the success of its commercial ventures. By providing promising ventures with funding, world-class mentorship, strategic guidance and technical expertise, the program fosters a broader entrepreneurial ecosystem where economic success and social impact are inextricably linked.
The results are new products, new capital flows, new innovation capacity, and new business models that recognize the potential of girls as agents of economic and social change.
As the lead partner in a global consortium, fuseproject’s Business Innovation team designed all elements of the accelerator, from the program architecture and key interventions to the entrepreneur experience and proprietary curriculum. fuseproject designed SPRING using a human-centered methodology, recognizing SPRING’s diverse group of stakeholders and users, the power of prototyping and iteration, and the importance of tangible outcomes.
Our work included:
Program Design and Implementation: To inform our program design, we conducted a thorough survey of the entrepreneur support ecosystem. Through field research with diverse stakeholders and a broad analysis of the market, we identified unmet needs and positioned SPRING to address gaps while complementing existing services.
Curriculum and Experience Design: We tailored the program’s specific programmatic elements to the needs of our entrepreneurs by co-designing both the accelerator format and it’s unique curriculum with them. We then facilitated their learning, leading workshops and strategic advisory sessions.
Business Prototyping: We worked with each entrepreneur to build an implementable plan that incorporated their product and brand design into a business model that included supply chain partners, distribution channels, and financial projections. These Business Prototypes were viable and scalable, giving each entrepreneur a clear strategy with which to go to market.
User Research: We went to field with entrepreneurs to research with the girls in their target markets, either as consumers or value chain participants. This research generated important insights that informed the businesses that they built.
Having a brand that is intentionally designed at all touch points is imperative to any business, but especially a start-up. In our research, we found that even where resources are not as abundant, people are still drawn to good design. For each business in SPRING, we worked with the entrepreneurs to analyze every touch point of their brands – from name and logo to corporate collateral and packaging. In a series of hands-on working sessions at our design bootcamps, our brand teams worked with each entrepreneur to develop a brand language and a cohesive visual narrative that represents the core of their business.
Many of the SPRING businesses utilize digital platforms, either through a website or an SMS service which is extremely common in most parts of East Africa. Having a digital platform that is both seamless to navigate and aesthetically attractive is important, especially for young girls who are trying to navigate their way to secure finances, doctor’s appointments, etc. Our digital team worked hands-on with the entrepreneurs to look at every aspect of their digital designs – including architecture and system wire-frames, UI/UX, and website compositions.
Physical product is a key element in many of the businesses going through SPRING, in areas such as hygiene, health and safety, education, food and shelter. Having physical products that are designed to be efficiently produced, intuitive to use, and desirable for the end user is imperative to any business, but especially to emerging start-ups. We worked with the SPRING entrepreneurs who have physical products as a core offering of their business to look at every element of their industrial design, in order to ensure that their products will be most effective to their cause. Working hands-on, our designers helped sketch and prototype new designs for the entrepreneurs to then test in-field.