Prioritising the Leave No-One Behind agenda in the selection of super-users to conduct usability testing of electric cooking appliances for the Global LEAP Awards 2020

By Dr Joni Cook & Dr Jon Leary (MECS team, Loughborough University).

In this latest piece of the Leave No-One Behind (LNOB) blog series, we discuss the decision making behind the process of prioritising the LNOB agenda in the context of selecting super-users to conduct usability testing of electric cooking appliances as part of Global LEAP Awards activities. This blog post discusses prioritising the LNOB agenda in formulating the super-user selection criteria prior to the selection process being conducted; a later blog will discuss and evaluate how this selection process performed in practice once super-user selection and usability testing have been completed. This overall body of work will underpin the development of a standard protocol for prioritising the LNOB agenda upon selecting research study or survey participants for future application across a range of MECS programme activities and country contexts.  

Championing the Leave No-One Behind (LNOB) agenda, to eliminate group-based discrimination and to “reach the furthest behind first”, is an integral, fundamental theme and imperative across all activities of the MECS programme. Here, we discuss prioritising LNOB principles in the formation of criteria for selecting super-users to conduct usability testing of electric cooking appliances as part of the Global LEAP Awards 2020. The Global LEAP Awards is an international competition to identify and promote the world’s best off-grid appliances, accelerating market development and innovation. In 2020, for the first time, electric cooking appliances, specifically electric pressure cookers (EPCs), are the focus of the Awards, with EPCs having been identified as the most energy-efficient cooking appliances on the market. The focus of the Awards has been extended to include underserved markets more broadly, including off-grid, weak-grid and reliable grid connections. EPC models nominated for the competition will be assessed by laboratory testing and usability testing, the former evaluating the performance of EPCs in an objective, repeatable context, and the latter focusing on evaluating the effectiveness of EPC models in meeting the needs and aspirations of cooks in high impact potential markets, in a subjective and culture-specific context. As part of the competition process, 10 super-users based in Nairobi, Kenya, will be selected from a wider pool of 30 pre-selected individuals to test a range of EPC models using controlled cooking trial (CCT) and focus group methods. Prioritising LNOB principles in selecting the super-users will endeavour to “reach the furthest behind first” by identifying and promoting the needs and aspirations of underrepresented groups of every day cooks, such as persons with a range of disabilities, age profiles, ethnic and cultural backgrounds, through the ranking of the suitability of EPC models for market development.  

In the selection of super-users, it is not only essential that key market segments are represented, but that underrepresented users – groups that are typically left behind – are prioritised. The selection criteria that we have identified to satisfy these objectives are outlined in Fig. 1. Selection criteria are categorised according to those relating to the cook, the household, eCooking / fuel characteristics, and the ‘influencer’ status of potential super-users.   

Figure 1. Criteria chosen for selecting super-users for appliance usability testing for the Global LEAP Awards.

We discuss the decision making behind three of the selection criteria below: 

Gender.  

Of the 10 super-users, we aim to select 8 women and 2 men where possible. Whilst a shift towards gender equity in household cooking is projected, women currently perform the majority of cooking in Kenyan households, hence representing the majority of our 10 super-users. However, it is important to include male super-users as men are currently predominantly responsible for household purchase decisions (including cooking appliances) and therefore may offer a different perspective on EPC model assessment (e.g. energy efficiency and durability considerations).

Ethnicity.  

Ethnicity, including cultural and religious background, is also a key criterium for super-user selection. Over 70 distinct ethnic groups exist in Kenya, the top five most prevalent (2019 est.) being the Kikuyu (17%), the Luhya (14%), the Kalenjin (13%) and the Luo (11%). Cooking practices vary widely according to ethnic and cultural background (e.g. Fig. 2), therefore the ways in which these communities use an EPC for household cooking is likely to differ. In order to sample as widely as possible from these groups, we aim to select at least one super-user from the top five most prevalent ethnic groups (also considering religious background and region-specific influences), with the remainder from the less prevalent groups where possible.  

Figure 2. Githeri (boiled corn and beans) is a favourite of the Kikuyu (image, left), whilst matoke (plantain stew) is a favourite of the Sabaot Kalenjins (image, right). Photo credits: CIMMYT (image, left); Bswitaba (image, right).  

Disability. 

Approximately 2% of the Kenyan population is classified as having a disability, however we aim to select a much higher proportion, 50%, of super-users who meet this criterium. Specifically, we aim to target 4 persons classified with varying categories of disability and 1 ‘influencer’, an expert specialising in the requirements of multiple types of disability, in order to “reach the furthest behind first” by highlighting EPC usability requirements of as broad a spectrum of disability categorisations as possible. To assess whether a person is classified as having a disability and to identify disability type, we will employ the standard approach of the Washington Group Questions on disability, a methodology used to disaggregate Sustainable Development Goal data by disability status. We aim to select super-users with as wide a range of the most frequently occurring disability categorisations as possible, with preference given to the most prevalent categories – mobility and seeing issues (Figure 3). This will enable assessment of (i) the suitability of EPC models for meeting a broad spectrum of adaptation requirements; (ii) how cooking habits may vary by disability type, and (iii) how EPC usability requirements compare between persons classified as having a disability and those that are not. 

Figure 3. Number of Kenyan people by disability domain (Development Initiatives (2020): Status of disability in Kenya, statistics from the 2019 census). 

We acknowledge that this set of criteria for selecting super-users constitutes a ‘wish list’ of aspirational targets which will be virtually impossible to fully satisfy in practice, however we endeavour to meet as broad a range of criteria as possible in order to maximise inclusion of underrepresented groups. We also acknowledge the limitations of the selection process, particularly in light of restrictions due to the Covid-19 global pandemic. For example, we are unable to represent those who do not have access to household electricity in the selection of super-users, as appliance usability testing would need to be conducted outside of the households which is not possible due to Covid-19 movement restrictions. We will address how applying the selection criteria fares in practice, and discuss the overall benefits and limitations, in a future blog once super-user selection and appliance usability testing have been conducted.

Further details of how we are prioritising the LNOB agenda in the selection of super-users to conduct appliance usability testing for the Global LEAP Awards 2020 can be accessed via this recording of the MECS Field Methods Seminar held on 15 July 2020: