60 Decibels Researcher Spotlight, Issue 1: Meet Anognya, Kanak, and Nafeesa

60 Decibels
6 min readDec 18, 2019

By Jasleen Kaur, Analyst at 60 Decibels

At 60 Decibels, we are all about listening. We use our approach to impact measurement, Lean Data, to speak directly to customers and beneficiaries. We turn those conversations into high-quality impact data that helps organizations learn and improve.

You might be wondering: how have we listened to 100,000+ customers? How do we navigate different countries, regions, languages, and dialects? The answer is: our amazing 60 Decibels Researchers that have been Lean Data-trained and certified to make the magic happen.

Our global, growing community of more than 150 Researchers conduct phone surveys in local languages across 35 countries. This new series, Researcher Spotlight, provides a behind-the-scenes peek at how we talk to and connect with end-customers.

This month, Jasleen Kaur, an Analyst in our India office, spoke to three 60 Decibels Researchers in India who have worked with us for more than a year: Anognya Parthasarathy, Kanak Rajdhyaksha, and Nafeesa Usman. Like all of our researchers, they share a passion for social change and they love talking to people!

Meet Anognya: Anognya grew up in Mumbai. At 15, she moved to Costa Rica for high school and then went on to study economics and international relations at Colby College in Maine. After graduating, she moved back to India to work in the development sector. She is pursuing her Master’s in Public Policy from the National Law School of India University.

“I joined 60 Decibels because of the conversations you have with the populations which don’t usually come up into the mainstream and are not considered very important/usually not spoken to.”

Meet Kanak: Kanak has always lived in Mumbai. She studied economics, then moved on to pursue journalism for a year and a half. She then shifted to the development space when she started doing her Master’s in Social Work. She is currently pursuing a PhD.

“I started working with Lean Data because I was looking for part time work which would also involve research. I thought working with a place like Acumen would give me decent experience and in terms of research, it was also put to very practical use. Also, in impact assessment, when I am talking to people there’s also something that I am learning out of it.”

Meet Nafeesa: Nafeesa is from Chennai, where she pursued her undergraduate studies in clinical nutrition. She transitioned to the development space as a writer and freelancer. She worked in Uttarakhand as an SBI Youth for India Fellow in 2015–16 and has worked at the intersection of nonprofits and research.

“I joined 60 Decibels because I could work remotely and I liked the work that I was doing. It allowed me to speak to so many different people and I love how it works because I could also do other things on the side.”

How our researchers make Lean Data more impactful:

Our researchers help us refine our questions, test our hypotheses, and deliver the highest quality results. We wanted to get the scoop from our researchers on what aspects of Lean Data stand out to them the most, and why this approach is needed in the context of impact measurement more broadly.

1. The success of phone surveys really depends on the art of designing and asking good questions.

Our researchers appreciate that Lean Data surveys are designed in a way that allows them to get to the crux of the matter quickly and efficiently. That’s music to our ears. We keep surveys short and sweet and we tweak the phrasing of survey questions lots of times before finalizing them.

Nafeesa described our questionnaires as: “structured and concise”, which allows her to collect data from large samples in less than a month’s time.

Anognya said that our approach helped her understand how impact measurement could be grounded in asking carefully designed questions to uncover impact.

After joining 60 Decibels, I saw that there is a way to understand which factors exactly contribute to the results. I found it really simple and easy to identify these factors, and understand how someone’s life has changed. I am now able to directly understand what impact measurement is, earlier it was an airy concept in my head.”

This insight helped reinforce our belief that end-customers and beneficiaries really are the ones that are best suited to explain how their life has changed.

2. The importance of context: what works for one person may not work for another.

We frequently get the question: why is it important to collect data from customers when the theory of change shows the intended impact?

The truth is, it is probably easier to complete a theory of change, rely on existing evaluations, and crunch numbers to estimate impact. But, as our researchers share, potential impact and actual impact for customers can be very different. Context matters a lot.

According to Nafeesa, “it was really interesting to find out that the same product/service works for one person and does not work for another for different reasons.”

Even if you can’t do in-person interviews, making an effort to listen and hear about someone’s unique, contextual experience is imperative: “While I was doing my Master’s, it was difficult for me to continue to travel and go into the field, and I thought 60 Decibels is a great midway for doing that.”

3. Forming connections is possible — even over the phone!

All three researchers we spoke to said that Lean Data allows them to connect with, and form relationships with people in a more frequent manner than what would be possible through in-person surveys, and that these connections are richer than they might have expected.

For example, Anognya spoke with customers of a financial inclusion product offering that helps single moms in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities support their families by setting up small businesses such as beauty salons or small boutiques. She describes:

“I had really insightful conversations during Neogrowth with people in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities and I learnt a lot about financial inclusion at that level. I learnt about their processes of setting up the business and the challenges that they faced.

Sometimes, I could hear their child cry in the background or some of them would tell me that they will call me back later because they needed to be with their child. It’s a two-way street in the sense that those women were able to open up to me in terms of how they were communicating with me. It was really genuine and they were telling me the full stories.”

Hearing what stands out to each researcher allows us to get a glimpse into their personalities and perspectives. Their stories help us improve our customer surveys and support our researchers by creating an environment that allows them to do their best work.

Anognya, Kanak, and Nafeesa by the numbers:

  • Anognya: ‘0’ because I like to zero in on myself.
  • Kanak: Languages: 3; Dance forms known: 1.5; Number of recipes downloaded and not cooked: too many to count.
  • Nafeesa: Places travelled to: 30+; Countries lived in: 2; Languages: 3.75



60 Decibels

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