The research methodology is inspired by human-centred design, a creative problem-solving process based on empathy that develops improvements for a product or service by examining the perspectives and experiences of its users. Through a series of qualitative interviews, this research documented the first-hand accounts of targeted recipients, from being informed about their inclusion and learning to use the card, to withdrawing and spending their assistance. These insights were then used to develop recommendations to improve the services at their disposal.
The user journeys of MPC recipients shed light on both positive and negative experiences. Naturally, recipients generally perceive their inclusion in the MPC caseload very positively. Recent changes in the process of validation that provide more flexibility are also reflected upon positively. The locations specified for validation, however, caused some confusion among recipients who were unsure about whether they could validate their identity at any Liban Post or Cash United site.
Recipients have a consistently positive view of the SMS mechanism that informs them that their ATM cards have been loaded. However, those unable to read, need alternative lines of communication to WFP that ensure vital information is received and understood. Recent changes to the validation process and instructions regarding the pandemic are examples of messages included in the loading SMS that may not have been properly understood by illiterate recipients.
Despite varying degrees of confidence in using ATMs across personas, the fear of doing something wrong when using the ATM and possibly causing delays in receiving their assistance drives them to rely on third parties. In most cases, recipients trust and rely on cooperating partner staff for support. However, training at card distributions could focus more on training recipients to become confident users of ATMs. More regular practice using ATMs without the risk of losing out on assistance can help recipients develop the confidence to use ATMs independently.
"Before the crisis, we used to wait a long time. There were always a lot of people waiting. We had to wait 2-3 hours to be able to withdraw the money. After the pandemic struck and the banks were vandalised, I had to go 3 to 4 times to withdraw the money. Now, it’s gotten easier. I no longer have to wait and there is someone there to help." Heba, 26 (user journey persona)
Given the unprecedented levels of vulnerability present across user journeys, the predictability of assistance is vital to ensure recipients can meet their basic needs. Although the staggering of loading is undeniably important to avoid crowding at ATMs, changes to the loading schedule should be kept to a minimum and communicated as far in advance as possible to ensure recipients can adapt accordingly.
Finally, the user journeys underscore the need for complementary services that could support households when unexpected shocks reduce their ability to meet their basic needs. Access to medication and treatment, for example, seems to be particularly challenging for the female personas included in this research. A “Cash Plus” approach with stronger links to complementary services is recommended.