Helping to build ZayoHub

Helping to build ZayoHub

This blog outlines the amazing work ZayoHub is doing in Zambia and WSV role in supporting ZayoHub to develop the hub model and programming around them.

"WSV has been an important partner in launching and developing ZayoHub, and have worked with us from the start. We have been impressed by their reliability, creative approach and commitment to achieving results. We have expanded WSV's responsibilities, and they are now an important part of our team." 
Charlotte Scott, ZayoHub Project Lead

Introduction to ZayoHub

ZayoHub is building a network of community hubs in remote locations of rural Zambia, to support the delivery of SDG-aligned targets. In particular, providing Power, Connectivity, Content and Livelihood support.
The ZayoHub project is the biggest Transform (DfID & Unilever partnership) funded project to date.

WSV joined the ZayoHub project as one of the initial partners, with the role of:

  • Supporting the development of the micro-business model for the hubs
  • Developing the training programme for the agents
  • Developing and supporting the livelihood programmes around the ZayoHubs

Nabutezi ZayoHub

The formative research

Although not initially part of our remit, WSV was requested to develop the formative research for the entire project. WSV then led the formative research over 29 days, across 680 kilometres with a team of 12 research assistants. We assessed the needs in the community, analysed the suitability of the potential sites and looked for market opportunities.

The formative research was developed from the feasibility assessments used by WSV to assess whether a community is suitable for a WSV social franchise. This was combined with specific requirements from each of the ZayoHub partners and the ZayoHub core team. This included:

Adam (WSV Director) leading a community focus group

Community assessments conducted through WSV Collect, our data collection app

Community mapping using WSV Collect’s location grab

Focus groups with community leaders and community members

Assessment of key institutions (schools, shops, government institutions)

Using the WSV tools as a foundation allowed the formative research to be developed quickly and use our existing tools in a new application.

During the formative research Adam (WSV Founder) trained and led a team of local research assistants to collect the data, across 4 sites. WSV then also analysed the data and proposed some suitable interventions as indicated by the needs in each community.

WSV were brought back for a larger research mission into the phase 2 sites. In total, we visited, engaged with and analysed 17 communities.

Developing the micro-business model

Working with ZayoHub to develop the Hub business model, we integrated the information gathered from the formative research, the specific technical requirements of the partners and the local knowledge and expertise of the ZayoHub team.

The formative research highlighted many important considerations. For example, in the rural communities around the ZayoHub Cattle are used as a store of wealth. People invest their money into their cows, i.e. a cow bank. This means that although some people maybe wealthy (in cattle) they have very little cash, as cattle are only sold for major expenses such as health emergencies or secondary school fees. This is both an important consideration for the business model and an interesting livelihood opportunity for the future (to support cattle business).

Another example from the formative research - there were no Mobile Money agents (a money transfer and banking system through the phone) at the ZayoHub sites. As a part of the business model, having the ZayoHub Agents as Mobile Money Agents meant that it was not only providing a much-needed financial services to the community but also potentially solves a tricky cash management problem. Due to the remote locations of the ZayoHubs, it is difficult to take money to bank. If it there is a net cash out from the mobile money this helps to reduce the frequency needed to bank cash, as the cash as a result of sales/rentals can be converted to digital cash.
To help drive a net cash out the ZayoHubs, teachers and other Government workers can have the option to withdraw their salaries through Mobile Money from the ZayoHub.

Combining the specific solutions provided from the partners with proposed solutions drawn from the formative research, resulted in a model driven by 2-3 Agents running a range of services in the following business areas:

  • Household Items – renting batteries, airtime, phones, electrical accessories
  • Entertainment Centre – Free and paid for TV content
  • Financial services – Mobile Money and microfinance
  • Education Services – provided by specific partners, as well as classes run through the ZayoHub
  • Livelihood services – see below for me detail on some of the livelihood services

WSV also developed the training materials, training programme and record system for the agents from the core Business in a Box training that WSV uses in our other work.

Selecting and training the agents

WSV developed the recruitment process and worked with the ZayoHub team to identify and select the Agents, the people who would run the Hubs.

Upon the completion of the recruitment, WSV lead the training of the agents. Covering:

  • An overview of the ZayoHub and each of the components
  • Basics of Business and Finance
  • Sales and marketing
  • Records keeping
  • And much more…

Training, which was tailored to ZayoHub, but was also developed quickly from WSV experience and existing tools in the Business in a Box.

ZayoHub Agents during training

Developing the livelihood programmes

WSV led the development of the livelihood programmes for ZayoHub; funded by Vitol Foundation. This utilised our experiences developing micro-businesses that not only produce a livelihood for people, but also have a social impact. From the formative research, ZayoHub selected 4 key areas of livelihood development:

  • Chicken farming – the aim was to create large scale chicken farming programmes around the each ZayoHub. To do this we developed relationships with experts in the industry and the largest frozen foods company as an off taker for the chickens.
    The system we built made use of the ZayoHub as an aggregator for the chicken, as well as acting as a supplier of the chickens, vaccines/medicine and feed (as a part of the ordering system, see below). Creating a revenue stream for ZayoHub and livelihoods for people living around the ZayoHubs.
    The pilot is currently in operations and the aim is to scale this up around each hub to be able to provide 4000 chickens a month.

ZayoHub Agent supporting a chicken farmer

  • Bee keeping – WSV did an analysis of the different options for starting a Bee Keeping programme in Zambia and developed a relationship with the most viable partners, BeeSweet. BeeSweet use an out-grower scheme that integrates perfectly with the ZayoHub model. This has now been launched around 3 of the ZayoHubs
  • Agriculture and livestock supplies – the aim was to create access to agriculture & livestock products and services at the ZayoHub though an ordering system. WSV developed a basic ordering system for the hubs and worked with Livestock Services Zambia and other suppliers to build a list of over 300 products that could be ordered.
    WSV also looked at how to reduce the cost of livestock management and led the development of a low-cost spray race system, at a third of the price of commercial alternatives.

Spray race system during testing

  • Distribution of wholesale Unilever products – as the ZayoHub project is funded by Unilever through Transform, we looked at how the ZayoHubs can be used to create access to low cost Unilever products for shops in the rural communities. Shops that sometimes travel 700 km to restock… We developed an ordering process and relationship with a distributor to do the first stage of the distribution, with the second stage completed by local transport.

Going forward

WSV will continue to work with ZayoHub and hope to see ZayoHub not only grow across Zambia but scale to other countries as well.

At the heart of everything WSV does is creating social enterprises – using commercial strategy to maximise social impact! If you are interested to see how you can work with and partner WSV, please get in contact with us!

Market Assessments – building the foundations

Market Assessments – building the foundations

Before starting any social business, project or programme, it is key to understand the market influences and how these might affect what we aim to do. Market assessments are therefore a core part of WSV day to day work.

WSV has conducted market assessments across 6 countries. To assess everything from how communities live and what social innovations are viable, to is there a national level market for a large social enterprise.

Our experience has enabled us to build a transferable set of tools and processes for quickly and effectively conducting these assessments for social enterprises and programmes.

The market assessments WSV does can be categorised into 3 areas:

  1. General market assessments – is used to analyse a community in general and look for potential business ideas and programmes.
  2. Micro-business model - feasibility studies – is used to analyse whether a specific micro-business is viable.
  3. General business model - market research – is used to look at whether a business is viable beyond the micro scale.

All the market assessments WSV do focus on three key areas: (1) is there a market need? (2) do the numbers work? and (3) what barriers need to be overcome to succeed.

General market assessments

A general market assessment is used to analyse a community to answer these key questions:
- What needs are there in the community?
- What are the existing businesses and livelihoods in the community?
- What businesses opportunities there are?
- What is the potential for certain interventions (if already identified)?

This involves:

Community assessments conducted through WSV Collect, our data collection application.

Community mapping using WSV Collect’s location grab. This creates a map of the community and identifies the best locations for businesses and interventions.

Focus groups with community leaders and community members.

Assessment of key institutions (schools, shops, government institutions)

Other specific assessments as required. For example, footfall through community spaces to identify the best business locations.

Depending on the depth of the analysis required, we use some or all of these tools. Training on all the tools is available as well as support in implementing them. The tools can also be tailored for specific requirements.

Case study – General Market Assessment

WSV is a partner on the ZayoHub Zambia project, the largest Transform

(Unilever & DfID collaboration) funded project to date.

WSV was requested to develop the formative research for the project. WSV then led the formative research over 29 days, across 680 kilometres with a team of 12 research assistants.

We assessed the needs in the community, analysed the suitability of the potential sites and looked for market opportunities.

During the formative research Adam (WSV Founder) trained and led a team of local research assistants to collect the data, across 4 sites. WSV then analysed the data and proposed suitable interventions as indicated by the needs in each community.

Adam (WSV Founder) conducting a focus group

WSV were brought back for a larger research mission into the phase 2 sites. In total, we visited, engaged with and analysed 17 communities.

Micro-business model - feasibility studies

If you have a specific micro-business model to conduct market research for, then WSV uses a feasibility assessment to look at the viability of that business. Depending on the resources available, a selection of the tools from the general market assessment are used to provide further data.

The feasibility study is typically split into two parts:

  • Community assessment – analyses the knowledge, attitudes and practices of the community around existing solutions and the proposed new solution.
  • Business assessment – looks at the costings, existing market and general community details (size, geography etc.).

Feasibility studies often highlight really important insights into the viability for a business and often produce unexpected results. For example, during a feasibility assessment we conducted for the Petal franchise, the organisation expected most people not to be happy to use reusable pads. In reality 85% of people would use the pads. The problem laid in the practicalities of using the pads, where only 58% were happy to dry them outside. As a result of consistent responses like this, we introduced a drying bag that enables the pads to be placed on the washing line discretely, while still being exposed to UV and drying hygienically.

WSC Collect being used

As these assessments tend to be bespoke to the business idea/programme that is being researched, WSV offers training on how to develop the feasibility assessments and how to implement them in communities. WSV can also build the assessments for you.

General business model - market research

For larger social businesses, WSV uses a lean approach to market research, where possible, getting a solution to the market as soon as possible to get feedback from actual customers. The solution can then be built by working with the end user.

For more information on the market research WSV does, get in contact!



The most important aspect of any market assessments is the analysis of the results and how best to look for opportunities. Depending on the type of market analysis WSV offers:

  • Training on how to analyse the results, focussing on:
    • General data analysis techniques and templates
    • Understanding the needs from the community
    • Do the numbers work – building basic financial models
  • Tools that do automatic analysis of data (useful when a market assessment is going to be repeated many times for scale)
  • Analysis of the results by the WSV team, including:
    • Developing financial models
    • Suggesting possible interventions and support if required in implementing those.

If you want to learn more about WSV can support, you in developing and implement market assessments, for creating social enterprises from both existing programmes and in developing new social enterprises, then get in touch!



Before I start I would like to say that I do not have a background in psychology, what I have done is read about the subject, in particular Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, The Black Swan by Nassim Taleb and The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli which form the basis of my knowledge for this article. Beyond this I have simply opened my eyes to the bias around me. My hope is that this article will help you do the same.

Although this article is aimed primarily for international development organisations the effect of bias and ideas discussed here affect every individual and organisation.

So what is bias: by definition it is “an inclination or outlook to present or hold a particular perspective”. I prefer to describe it as: Every decision or idea you have is based on every decision, idea and interaction you have had. In other words your bias is the entirety of your past. For this reason there can be no un-bias decision as this would require an individual to have no past.
Now some among you may be thinking “what about when the decision has no links to anything in your past”, at this point your mind may think you are un-bias, in reality you are unconsciously using your life’s experiences and knowledge to derive an answer. Which is bias.

If everything is bias then what is the point? The aim of this article is to make you aware of some types of bias that can have a significant influence, put a name to them and hopefully create a higher awareness in your decision making process.

So let us look at some examples starting with the ‘confirmation bias’ for no other reason other than it is known as the mother of all misconception. It is the tendency to unconsciously twist information so that it fits pre-existing theories. This is extremely prevalent in situations when emotions are involved, let us use the example of identifying a community for a charity to work in. If the person identifying the community has visited there, then you may often hear “I have seen how bad it is with my own eyes”. Which if you think about it is not a comparison between that and a different community but simply confirmation bias at work, changing the importance of that community to fit your desire to help that community.
This also links in with ‘personification’ your minds inclination towards emotion and action associated with a person or personified character rather than facts and numbers. Personification is one of the most common bias used in social sector advertising and advertising in general. Think about an advert you have seen from a charity… What is it that springs to your mind? Statistics and figures about that need? Or is it a child’s face staring back at you? Now, stop and really think about what is more important, that is the power of personification.

The Black Swan focusses primarily on the probability of rare events with dire consequence (‘black swans’) and how we fail to predict them before they occur and how afterwards we rate the probability of them happening much higher, ‘hindsight bias’. Now imagine as a social organisation that you are working somewhere and you are investing in that community. Infrastructure, housing, what would it take for that all to be wiped out by a war, tsunami or other natural disaster? Although you may have taken a moment to consider these, did you ever look at the probability of these occurring?
Continuing along the same train of thought there is a strong tendency to not recognise the multiple causes of a problem (in the case where it isn’t a black swan) and more often than not to try to attribute a problem to a single cause ‘the fallacy of the single cause’.

The majority of social sector organisations will say their biggest issue is cash flow, for that matter this is the biggest issue for almost any organisation. Now most people in this world want to help their fellow man and we all know about the amount of excess in the world, so why is it so hard to get donations. Bias. There are so many different things at play here but to name a few.
‘Affect heuristic’ the momentary judgement you make, when you hear something you like or don’t like. We have said that (almost) everyone likes helping people but the same applies that people do not like parting with money and unfortunately that is the first thing that comes to mind. The ‘affect heuristic’ then causes us to think of all the negatives associated with charity, “where’s the money going?”, “why are they bothering me?” and so on. Whilst also stopping you from remembering the people we would be aiding.
‘Paradox of choice’, there are so many different charities out there, doing similar things. So many that you may not be able to decide which one to donate to and therefore do not donate to any, an issue faced a lot in modern life.

Let us now look at it from the other perspective. How to use bias for fundraising. A very strong bias is ‘social proof’, otherwise known as herd instinct. When you see a group of people looking at something or doing something it gives you the social acceptance to do it yourself, and at a deeper level by doing it you satisfy the risk of not missing out.
So if you have managed to get people around you, what is next?; ‘liking bias’ is one of the most powerful tools and one almost every salesperson will tell you is their trick to success. That is ‘making people truly believe that you like them’ and therefore they are far more susceptible to your pitch. This covers everything from the way you talk to them, to how attractive they think you are.
The final bias to look at is ‘reciprocity’; the psychological need for people to return a positive action with a positive action. So how can you utilize this? It is quite simple, give something away for free and the return will far exceed the gift.

I have only had the opportunity to touch on the subject bias, if you want to learn more please read ‘The Art of Thinking Clearly’. For more on sustainability and how we overcome bias at Wessex Social Ventures please get in contact with us.

Adam Boxer
Wessex Social Ventures