Innovative Partnerships: ThoughtWorks and Ruby Cup

Understanding Impact: ThoughtWorks and Ruby Cup Come Together To Improve Data Collection 

Every Ruby Cup sold comes with a Buy One, Give One promise. Our donation programme is a central part of our work and our company ethos, and ensuring that our donations have impact is crucial to our understanding of what success looks like for our company. We don’t simply hand out menstrual cups and hope for the best. We monitor each of our programs to ensure that as many donated cups as possible end up being used for up to 10 years. 

Since we launched in 2012, Ruby Cup has grown rapidly. We’ve moved from donating cups to schoolgirls in East Africa, to running donation partnerships in 12 countries across 3 continents. So far, we’ve donated more than 95,000 cups. We partner with a range of organisations, from small, grassroots initiatives like teacher-led Ditch the Rag in the UK, and large, international organisations like Care.org and Save the Children.

As we grow, keeping track of feedback and evaluations for all of our different partnerships and donations programs has become increasingly complex, and more and more important in order to ensure we’re retaining high standards.

An Offer of Support 

In 2019, Global Software Consultancy ThoughtWorks offered to help us to track our impact. Through a process of consultation and group ideation, they helped us come up with new tools to evaluate our programs and gather impact. 

Previously, we had been asking participants to fill out paper feedback forms, but we’ve been told that some participants felt they were being asked to sit a test at the end of their session. It also left us with thousands of individual surveys to process and analyse, which made it difficult to make the most of our findings.

At Ruby Cup, all of our donation programmes are run in collaboration with locally based partner organisations who have a better understanding of local context and culture than we do. The opportunity to work with ThoughtWorks gave us a chance to create a partnership that would improve our internal processes and ways of working too. “Ruby Cup's social project aligns with our commitment to social impact,” said Guy Samuel, Lead Consultant at ThoughtWorks. “We identified opportunities where our knowledge of software development could complement Ruby Cup's journey.”

New Data Collection Methods 

ThoughtWorks suggested new data collection methods that mix digital and analogue tools. Trainers are supplied with a phone or tablet, access to our online survey account and a series of answer cards. Our new survey tools are totally paperless, so the data is sent across for analysis in real time, reducing delays and removing the scope for human error.

Workshop participants are given two sets of answer cards. One set contains 3 cards - with a smiley face, one a frowning face and one with a neutral face. The other set contains a ‘Yes’ and a ‘No’. The trainer simply asks the feedback questions, and the participants hold up their cards and move into groups with everyone else who is holding up the same card. The trainer then logs the responses to each question on our digital survey tool. The responses can then be sorted and analysed by our central teams in our offices in Nairobi and Barcelona, who can easily identify trends and ensure the quality of each programme. 

Answer cards that are used to gather evaluation data

The answer cards that are used to gather evaluation data

Not only do the new tools reduce the workload for our trainers and partner organisations, but they’re also much more fun for participants. As a result, they provide feedback that is clearer and more in-depth, so we’re gathering more data that is also more relevant. There is also space for the girls to talk more freely about how they feel, rather than having to stick to specific questions.

ThoughtWorks also helped us to come up with an additional feedback form for the trainer, which works alongside the participants' feedback to provide a 360 degree picture of each workshop. 

The New Tools In Action

We tested the new tools whilst delivering menstrual health workshops and donating Ruby Cups in two schools in Kisumu County, Kenya. At one of the schools, headteacher James Mabeya has been working with the Golden Girls Foundation and Ruby Cup to offer menstrual health education and free Ruby Cups to both staff and students. Mr Mabeya is a champion for girls education and regularly holds talks to encourage his female pupils to focus on their studies as a way to improve their futures. He was so impressed by the scheme and the way it worked that he personally distributed the first set of cups to his pupils. 

Students at St. Agustine Kandege school (Kisumu, Kenya) at participating in our menstrual health workshop and sharing feedback about their use of the Ruby CupStudents at St. Agustine Kandege school (Kisumu, Kenya) participating in our menstrual health workshop and sharing feedback about their use of the Ruby Cup

"In this area,” says Mr Mabeya, “a lot of parents don’t buy period products for their daughters, either because they don’t see the need or they simply can’t afford them. As a result, a lot of female students miss classes. They tell us they are sick, but we suspect they don’t have the period products they need to come into school.” Since the menstrual health education programme, Mr Mabeya has seen a change. “The girls seem more confident than before,” he says.

Through these initial tests, our trainers reported that the new tools took less time compared to the previous evaluation methods and also that they drastically reduced the chances of gathering incorrect data.  We also learned that it’s important to offer offline options for the trainers to record the data they gather, just in case workshop sessions are being held in areas with limited or no internet connection.

Because the data is automatically gathered online and delivered in real time, it’s also much easier to analyse, meaning our teams have already been able to look at trends and start mining the data for information about areas where we can improve or adapt. The new method is also much easier for our partner organisations and trainers too. Previously they were left with hundreds of paper questionnaires which needed to be collected, read, recorded and analysed. All of this added hours of work and required the use of computers, printers and other IT equipment, which are not always abundant in the areas where we distribute. 

We hope to roll out the new data collection tools to all of our donation programs over the next twelve months. Thank you to everyone at ThoughtWorks who contributed to the project. 

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