User-Perceived Value 

Capture the numbers, don’t miss the stories

At Rural Senses we use a novel method (the User-Perceived Value Approach)—devised by Cambridge and Oxford researcher and Rural Senses’ co-founder Dr Stephi Hirmer—that allows us to understand what is important to local community members and to effectively link this to project design. By ensuring that projects target what local community members truly value, the success rate of interventions can be increased.

User-Perceived Value

“User-Perceived Value refers to benefits, concerns and feelings and underlying drivers that vary in importance and act as the main motivators in the lives of the people—as perceived by the beneficiaries at a given time.”

Hirmer, S. (2017

Currently, there is a lack of methods and tools available on the market that help project developers to link what is important to local community members —traditional approaches tend to focus on short-term project output, do not reliably and accurately predict what is important or are infeasible due to time and financial constraints. We use this method as other needs assessment tools were deemed insufficient to recognise UPVs. Therefore we use The UPV method as it avoids the shortcomings identified by Hirmer (2017).

Use the UPV Approach to:


Develop in-depth understanding of the local conditions



Map UPVs to enable more responsible project planning



Integrate project planning to facilitate sectoral integration



Use appropriate messaging to increase buy-in



Measure the change in UPVs to evaluate project impact


What is the UPV Approach?

The UPV approach, consisting of a game and mapping tool (‘UPV wheel’), provides a structured and visual process to identify and map what is important to local community members. Project end-users often cannot articulate and prioritise what they value and project developers can unwittingly influence beneficiary responses, leading to poorly conceived project designs.

The UPV approach addresses these weaknesses with simple visual tools and indirect probing to uncover what beneficiaries value most. Traditional social data, such as current infrastructure levels, can then be augmented by the factors (UPV) captured. This delivers a more rounded picture of community needs, values and wants, creating a foundation for better inventions at all stages of the project life cycle.

“Coming to an understanding of what customers value is a far more fruitful
exercise than merely asking them to submit their own solutions”.

Ulwick (2002, p. 97)

Want to Learn More?

Much of this work has been published in well-established peer review journals.

UPV framework

A method for determining the ‘User-Perceived Value’ of rural electrification initiatives.

UPV application

The benefits of energy appliances in the off-grid energy sector.

UPV project planning

Recommendations for responsible project planning (PhD thesis).

UPV project planning

An analysis and adoption of existing models and

Hirmer, S. (2017) Improving the sustainability of rural electrification schemes: Capturing value for rural communities in Uganda. The University of Cambridge. doi:

Ulwick, A. W. (2002) ‘Turn customer input into innovation’, Harvard Business Review. Harvard Business Review, 80 (1), pp. 91–97. doi: citeulike-article-id:850877.