Updated: May 20
This year, Shaping Horizons has been focusing on the theme of financial inclusion with the programme ‘Fintech For Inclusion’. So far, great progress has been made with the first stage already complete. So, what is the first stage of the programme and how does it work? This article will provide a deeper insight into the process, with a focus on participants’ feedback and the results of their co-operation.The data in this article was collected through a feedback survey, completed by the participants of the programme on conclusion of the first stage. The survey combined quantitative and qualitative data, and the results were analysed thematically. This survey is important in understanding the impact of the first stage, as well as gauging how participants felt about the experience, in order to reflect and develop for the following programme next year.
What is the first stage?
The first stage of the programme is called ‘pre-incubation’. In this stage, participants join together from all parts of the world to share ideas, combining knowledge and experience to push forward new ideas. The title for the 2020-2021 programme is Fintech For Inclusion, which aims to create more opportunities for financial inclusion in Latin America and the UK using new digital technologies. The main categories of the programme are loans and microcredits, savings and investments, payment methods and financial education. A total of 60 candidates were selected to take part in this year’s programme which took place digitally. Participants were grouped according to their skills and expertise and each was given a different topic to focus on. Each team then worked alongside their mentors using the Shaping Horizons innovation tools to work through set targets and deliverables. There were a total of fifteen teams working on different topics.
Recently, a survey was conducted with participants of the first stage of the project with a total of 44 participants responding to the survey. Questions were centred on various aspects of the experience, with a focus on project management skills, communication within the teams and co-ordination of tasks. Respondents were asked to rate their experiences as well as being asked open questions in which they could give more detailed feedback. The comments from the research give a considerable insight into how the experience was for the participants in this year’s programme.
The results show that a large proportion of participants enjoyed the experience of working with an international team with 70% citing ‘cultural exchange’ as a skill or aspect learned from the programme, while 84% note a development of teamwork skills. There were various comments related to the strong teamwork and incredible group dynamics. Nicolas Carreras from Argentina noted “It didn’t take long for us to get along and work together. Everyone contributed their fair share and committed to achieve goals and results right from the start. Support and communication were key aspects during this stage.” Some valued the diversity and varying perspectives existing within the team, while others enjoyed the opportunity for bonding and making connections. One of the benefits of being part of an international organisation and an international community, particularly in the digital age is the opportunity to build connections with a diverse range of people. There is also a specific acknowledgement of the supporting role of mentors, which was highly appreciated by the participants.
Figure 1: Overall experience of the pre-incubation stage rating
Many participants also commented on the tools, particularly the tools used for problem solving, with 87% of respondents citing collaborative work tools as something which they learned from the programme. Carreras explained “They were very structured and well designed. Being patient and focusing on one tool at a time were fundamental once you looked at the greater picture. In the end, I was often surprised by the results.” However, there were a few comments which suggested that the tools could have been explained more or explained through some practical examples in order to fully understand their potential and maximise their impact.
Figure 2: Usefulness of the innovation tools rating
Another highlight which emerged was getting the opportunity to interview professionals and experts in the field. Respondents noted that as well as being enjoyable, it also allowed them to develop a deeper insight into the issues they were exploring. “Definitely interviewing experts and potential users. It helped us break down any confirmation bias we had in order to study our society and determine what segment of the population we could reach out and assist.” This depth of knowledge had a profound impact on the participants, which expanded beyond the programme into their personal and professional life. “Besides lecturing on the subject at my alma mater, right now my team and I are in the process of designing a tool capable of educating and introducing people into a world full of opportunities and improving their lifestyle as a result.”
Development of skills was a strong theme throughout the research. Many respondents expressed that they learned project management skills such as organising and delegating tasks according to skill sets and deadlines, setting objectives and co-ordinating those responsible, structuring meetings and dealing with deadlines, and finally, acknowledging the value of teamwork in achieving deliverables. Along with professional development, participants emphasised the social and cultural learning as a result of working alongside such diverse teams. Particularly in Latin America, many people enjoyed discovering shared cultures and interesting customs about different countries in the region. This added to the feeling of being an international community and team as mentioned previously.
Figure 3: Learning level of project management rating
Figure 4: Cultural awareness and learning of other participants rating
Insights for future research
The ability to conduct the programme digitally proved to be a success, which means there is potential for greater involvement and participation internationally going forward. There was a strong emphasis on building relationships and building professional skills throughout the process. Through the responses, it was gathered that the participants would enjoy a more profound level of involvement with the mentors and leaders of Shaping Horizons, as many wished to see more of the great minds involved in the creation of the organisation.
Figure 5: Key learning and aspects gathered from the participants
The fifteen teams worked on different issues in the area of financial inclusion in the region of Latin America as well as the UK. Although each team worked on different geographical areas, many common themes emerged. Examples include the absence of financial education in São Paulo, particularly for the trans community, while in Buenos Aires and London it was highlighted that the absence of financial education is felt mostly by the younger generation. Another team revealed that there is an overall lack of financial education in the Dominican Republic. In Mexico, there was shown to be a lack of awareness of the importance of saving for the future, which may also stem from a lack of financial education. There was found to be low accessibility to financial services in the Yucatan Peninsula particularly for women, in Panama for the migrant community and for the low-income population in Brazil. Finally, another prominent theme was poor access to credit or microcredits in Salvador, Brazil for small-business owners or for home improvements in Argentina.
After the first stage of the process has concluded, participants move on to the second stage. Those involved in researching and brainstorming problems have the opportunity to engage in conversations and dialogues with experts in the field in order to develop ways to approach the problems. Participants can question academics and professionals during focused discussions. This year, the second stage ran from 26 April to 1 May and it was conducted virtually due to COVID-19 global restrictions. Participants received personalised advice and feedback from the experts attending the summit on impact studies and creating a prototype to tackle the issues. The summit was a huge success and all participants greatly enjoyed the wonderful experience.