In Mozambique, the Vale a Pena project (“it’s worth it” in Portuguese) aims to transform how rural Mozambican girls aged 10-19 perceive and access modern contraception. Vale a Pena’s objective is to create an enabling environment that increases demand for modern contraceptives and results in additional family planning (FP) users in rural areas. The project is divided into a six month inception phase and a 24-month implementation phase. During the inception phase, PSI and N’weti, in partnership with the design firm ThinkPlace, employed a human-centered design-inspired approach to identify project solutions that are rooted in the needs and aspiration of adolescent girls. During the implementation phase, project solutions were piloted, refined, and scaled up. Throughout the inception phase, ThinkWell conducted operational research to inform implementation.

Breaking New Ground

The project used human-centered design (HCD) to achieve a deeper understanding of the barriers and behavior drivers of rural adolescents girls. The project also designed user-centered, catalytic interventions to increase adolescents’ use of family planning. ThinkWell conducted operational research to continually inform the design and the implementation of project solutions.


With 67% of the population under the age of 24, Mozambique faces several challenges in increasing demand for youth-friendly FP. Most adolescents and young women in Mozambique are aware of contraceptives. Despite this high level of awareness, myths about the side effects are prevalent. Many girls receive information from their friends or siblings, and even those that visit a health facility may receive misinformation from providers that perpetuates the myths. Especially in rural areas, where marriage and fertility are culturally very important, adolescent girls don’t seek out contraceptives because of the perceived future risk.


Vale a Pena produced evidence to inform project implementation, scalability, and sustainability. In the inception phase, our operational research employed an emergent design to conceptualize the research sub-questions, as well as in data collection and analysis. This approach allowed for unanticipated information arising within the research process to feed back into the research design.


During the inception period, the following questions were identified to guide operational research:

  1. To what extent did the project achieve the desired results for the inception phase?
  2. What are the added value and challenges related to the key features of the inception phase?
  3. To what extent is the project adaptive during the inception phase?

Results from the first assessment enabled the project team to gain a deeper understanding of rural adolescent’s barriers to FP.