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Step 1: Service Value Test: Research


The SVT is a rapid and effective field exercise that is conducted in focus groups with about 10 participants. It's aim is to gather data on end user needs, aspirations, and surrounding context at a level appropriate for preliminary system design. The end result is quantitative preference data on end user service priorities, and a greater understanding of the 'why' of end user choices, as well as descriptions and opinions on current and aspirational end user practices. All of this is taken into the next stage of the SVM: Service Maps.



Participants suggest services that they need better access to in their community. What services would you like to have access to here?

Suggestions are gathered onto a central chart.

Important points to remember:

  1. These aren't just energy or electricity services - all services are relevant, contributing to a holistic understanding of end user preferences and community life

  2. Electricity is not a valid SVT service - ask: what do you want the electricity for?


Draw out individual and group preferences as quantitative data - participants place 20 counters anywhere on the chart to indicate the relative value the services hold for them. To avoid groupthink, participants first make their choices individually on small paper cards. Each participant has a different colour counter - the result is a rich visual of individual and group preferences.



Delve into the underlying needs and opinions that motivate the choices participants have made, prompted by the results. Do participants agree with the group results? Why are some services more important than others? As well as the 'why', the discussion explores current and aspirational practices around desired services, and reveals important surrounding context. New infrastructure such as an energy system will encourage new practices - and these must not be in opposition to current ways of doing things.

Household vs community: The SVT can be run with a focus on household services, or community services - or the distinction can deliberately not be made as in the example here. It does have implications for the analysis, and what's best depends on your project.

Questions, thoughts, comments? Get in touch, and if you've used or adapted the SVM, please let me know how it went!

For a deeper-dive into the SVM and to read the original research, see Clements, A., Wheeler, S., Mohr, A., & McCulloch, M. (2019). The Service Value Method for Design of Energy Access Systems in the Global South. Proceedings of the IEEE, 107(9), 1941–1966.

If you can't get access to that link, a preprint version is available here.

Step 1: Service Value Test: Research


In Community Engagement

Community engagement activities need to be approached putting participants' comfort and privacy at the forefront, respecting their time, energy, and input, and seeking equality in engagement.

If you're working through an institution, they will likely have their own ethical and best practice guidelines which should be followed. Another good resource is: UNICEF's 'Minimum Quality Standards and Indicators for Community Engagement: A guidance towards high quality, evidence-based community engagement in development and humanitarian contexts'.

It is recommended to also seek permission and approval from local/national ethics committees and community advisory boards, where possible.

In the context of using the SVM, pay particular attention to the issues of informed consent and data privacy and protection.

If you're not from the area or community that your end users are from, expand your design team: work with a local partner. You will need their local expertise in the culture and context to successfully engage with the end users and to design and implement an energy system. Learn from them and stay humble.

Finally, if you're an outsider to a community, it is imperative that you recognize any aspects of privilege or positionality, particularly in relation to power dynamics, that you may bring. Be aware of how your presence will be interpreted and how this might impact participants, and mitigate any adverse effects to participants as much as you can.

SVT Implementation Recommendations: See Appendix B of the original paper: here or here.

For some further reading on community engagement and participation, see:

Step 1: Service Value Test: Text
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