Reverse the knowledge balance: your clients already know a lot about money

no fit for all
no fit for all

Today, Mr. S., farmer and father of three, is attending a financial literacy workshop.  As the facilitator introduces himself, Mr. S’s mind wanders. He left his wife and eldest son to take care of the animals. It may rain this afternoon and he’d rather be in the field now. The first exercise is easy but it does not make full sense:  it shows how to manage a daily income- this may be relevant to his friends who work on construction sites but his main income is once a year when he sells his crop. His wife sells baskets- but not every day. The facilitator keeps talking about savings… but this is not Mr. S’s worries – what he really worries about is that half of his yearly earning goes to pay back his debts- and that never leaves him enough to live until next crop – so he has to borrow again. There is no way to escape it, even if debts are costly. Besides, he is never sure what price he will be able to sell his rice. To top it all, these last years, climate has been weird- with draughts and floods. Nothing to do with what the facilitator is talking about. But he doesn’t dare interrupt him. Anyway, Mr. S. is not the spender: he gives most of the money to his wife to manage: why wasn’t she invited to this workshop? The games are nice but they focus on how to pay the rent and utilities… and he owns his house and he has a generator- no bills to pay. The facilitator writes the key points on the board – he seems to know a lot, unlike Mr. S, who once again feels sad not to be able to read. The facilitator gives a paper to Mr. S with drawings and words to circle: “What do you want to apply from what you learned today?” The facilitator asks. Mr. S is not so sure; he takes a peek at his fellow participants and circles a few drawings.
Your organisation wants to introduce a financial literacy programme to your clients – and this story… is what you want to avoid. But how?

  • Why? – not what!

Very often, programme managers or facilitators wonder what to include in a training workshop – but don’t cut corners: the first question is not what to include, but why. What is your programme aiming to? Why do you want to offer a financial literacy programme? The ones who can best answer these questions are your clients – don’t decide for them what they should know. Involve them from the very first step of the programme: defining its goals. Let them play an active role in choosing what they think may impact their lives. This will also help you market the workshops later on as your clients won’t just be “spectators” but actors. How can you do that?

  • Clients-centered

The most important step of a successful programme is the needs assessment, even if you find out that your clients’ issues are unlikely to be addressed by a financial literacy programme and your project has to change direction. Select the target group(s) you want to focus on. Discuss with your team and select the questions you want to ask your target group(s): your needs assessment should include a mix of specific and open questions on your clients’ financial situation, but also availability to attend a workshop, willingness to learn, literacy level, family issues, dreams, etc… Collect the answers either in one-to-one interviews (especially to keep replies to specific questions confidential) or through focus groups. If you follow the same clients on the long term, financial diaries are an effective tool to understand your clients’ financial issues and spending pattern. You may also want to input your clients’ answers through phones or computers as you interview them to save time re-typing paper forms.  Then analyse, cross-check the data consistency and identify the issues faced by your clients, their aspirations and frustrations. Identifying problems helps point out to the solutions – a thorough analysis of the data will already contain the outline of your programme.

  • Shift the knowledge balance:

When I was a child, a history book publisher selected my father and me to test a new book about to be published. They interviewed us and listened to our feedback. As a child, I felt empowered: my opinion mattered – I could be useful and influence others’ work. Guess what, forty years later or so, I still remember the story and visualize the pictures. Why? I was given attention, I had a special mission to fulfil – so I read the book actively anticipating questions and thinking how it could be improved. I interacted with the book. Do the same with your clients – we all need to feel special and be listened to: reverse the roles and take a humble approach: you (i.e. your organisation) are looking for help from them (and not the other way round). You have learned some basics on money management but you need their help to adapt and share it – and your clients know how to take spending decisions with a $1 or $2 earning a day. They know how challenging it is to manage a yearly income, or save for school when they are never sure how much and if they will earn an income tomorrow or next week.
Show them a few selected activities that after analysing the needs assessment may address their issues – on finance and but not only, also choose other topics like communication, holidays, etc…- and ask them for advice: what is relevant? What would they change? Listen and take notes. We often know better for others than for ourselves: you can also ask them to select and adapt what would be relevant for their spouse, or their children to learn – and how to adapt it.
Go through several versions of the same training activity- a bit like when you go to the optician and he makes you try different lenses and asks you with which one you can see best. The optician has the material and expertise – but you are the one choosing the right lenses because you know what addresses your problem. Choose the same approach for your programme.
By testing and giving their opinion, your clients will learn – you too will learn – and your project quality will be raised. Your role as facilitator at this stage is important to give some direction to this workshop. Remember Mr. S’ story – he earns a yearly income, but his wife earns a few times a week and his friends daily. You will end up with several versions of some training examples. Don’t ask more than they can help you with – if they think for example that the drawings are not relevant or clear, find a professional illustrator. Or if your clients identify that they need to increase the yield of their crops, or new products to plant throughout the year, then contact agriculture specialists.
Once you have re-worked the training according to your clients’ specifications, invite them to test it and get their feedback. This way, your target group has participated to the workshop twice – with key learning contents that matter to them and that they can apply straight away in their lives. The chance is high too that they will be the best advocates to invite others to attend – and maybe some are even empowered enough to co-facilitate this workshop.
Use your organisation’s resources at best and build an impactful programme for and WITH your clients. What matters is not what you know, but what your clients can learn to do differently in order to improve their lives. Involve your clients at all steps of your project- from its conception to its delivery.

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