Digital Transformation for Inclusive Business Development Final Event

Written by: Poliana Muñoz, Social Innovation@IE

On January 16th, IE hosted a workshop with relevant private and public organizations supporting small business owners in Spain. The goal of the event was to share best practices and present the results of the impact evaluation of the Digital Transformation for Inclusive Business Development Project. The Digital Transformation for Inclusive Business Development is a project supported by JPMorgan Chase Foundation, combining fieldwork (pilot project) and academic research, aimed to design, develop and test a methodology to promote technology adoption among small business owners. Beneficiaries in this project are a clear example of the current situation of small business owners in developed countries, which demonstrate a persistent gap in the use of digital technologies and in digital skills.

Cristina Andrés, Executive Director/Senior Country Business Manager and Senior Financial Officer of JPMorgan Chase in Spain inaugurated the workshop. Following the opening keynote, Concepción Galdon, Director of IE’s Social Innovation Center and Aloña Martiarena, Professor of Entrepreneurship at IE, presented the final report of the project. They described the evaluation methodology consisting of a quantitative and a qualitative assessment. The quantitative assessment was carried out using a quasi-experimental design methodology, involving comparable treatment and control groups. On the other hand, the qualitative assessments consisted of individual case studies of each of the beneficiaries.

According to the quantitative impact evaluation, participation in the project had a positive impact on the beneficiaries when compared with the average sales increase of the small business in the control group. They performed better in terms of average sales, showing a lower mortality rate and a higher percentage of projects achieving grew rates above the media. Beneficiaries on the treatment group showed greater confidence in their stores’ potential to generate revenue in the future. This positive perception of brighter prospects was translated into a positive average perception of their ability to generate employment in the future.

From the point of view of beneficiaries’ qualitative account of their participation in the project, the experienced difficulties in both launching and adopting the online store due to inadequate financial resources (prior to the project), lack of digital literacy and training, and cognitive factors related to gender perspective.  Along the project, beneficiaries became familiar with digital vocabulary, learned how to manage their own platforms and social media proved very empowering, giving beneficiaries a sense of achievement and autonomy. However, the factor that most beneficiaries mentioned as critical to their ability to take advantage of this experience was the continuous, empathetic and personalized support received from the program coordinator, mentors and other parties involved. This, being a project to promote technology adoption, the human element has proved to be the number one success factor.

After the presentation of the project and results as described in the final report, beneficiaries in the project conveyed a more vivid and personal depiction of their experience in a round table. They described their worries and fears and how they finally achieved their goal: being able to manage their own online shops. One of the beneficiaries mentioned “she was blocked herself but not with the technology”, other said: “I was scared at the beginning”. All of them felt insecure and had the feeling that they owe something to the people who supported them during the project. That was the real link in the project, the human factor and their networking.

Poliana Muñoz, Project Manager, and Laura Hernández, researcher involved in the impact assessment, accompanied the beneficiaries at the round table and shared their insights.  Laura explained how the inclusive aspects of the project and its methodological rigour were the main drivers that attracted her to join the project team. However, in the end, what struck her the most was to discover how, in the era of digitalization and robotics, technology is an instrument that needs the “human factor”. Poliana highlighted what a great experience it had been to work with the beneficiaries and continued to stress how the human factor was the most critical element leading to the success of the project.

The second half of the event was devoted to the exchange of best practices with participants at the workshop. All the organizations attending shared their experience in supporting small business owners. The conclusions have been summarized in a short report and will be shared with all the participants and made available on our online platform for anyone interested in this particular subject.

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