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iii-lab: improving access to insurance for those who need it most

Reos Partners
September, 2022

Discover how Reos Partners, A2ii, and GLAC’s Inclusive Insurance Innovation Lab (iii-lab) is improving access to insurance for those that need it most.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are 17 interlinked global goals intended as a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all and the planet by 2030. If we’re to achieve such goals, particularly with the accelerating threat of climate change, we have to find ways to increase resilience and reduce risk. One way to do so is by improving access to insurance.

Insurance has its origins in a real need – people looking to protect themselves, their families and livelihoods from unforeseen financial shocks. The protection of people and assets is a critical component to more sustainable, resilient and inclusive development.

Inclusive insurance – insurance products aimed at the excluded or underserved market – is crucial in helping to reduce poverty and vulnerability against risks. State-sponsored social security is seldom available in developing countries, so people often deal with risk in costly ways – by minimizing risks and forgoing income opportunities or hoping for the best and sometimes losing it all. These are some of the many reasons why improved access to insurance is key for tackling poverty and promoting development.

Collaborating to expand access to insurance

In 2017, the Access to Insurance Initiative (A2ii) and the Global Leadership Academy (GLAC) joined forces with the support of Reos Partners to design and launch the Inclusive Insurance Innovation Lab (iii-lab) to develop more inclusive insurance markets.

iii-labs are year-long processes of continuous exchange and learning aimed at developing leadership and innovation capabilities among key stakeholders of the inclusive insurance sector and promoting sustainable innovations that help expand access to insurance.

"We’ve been working with Reos Partners in our A2ii Inclusive Insurance Innovation Lab for several years now and it’s been an incredible and impactful journey so far. Yiannis and Rachel are experts at making multi-stakeholder collaboration work – whether in a face-to-face or virtual context."

Mariella Regh, Manager, Access to Insurance Initiative

"They have never shied away from readapting the workshop design when the team's needs changed and have found great solutions to make online work fun and tangible. They make participants feel valued and manage to bring everybody’s voice into the process. We’ve achieved tremendous results and are looking forward to continuing the work for our third lab,” Mariella adds.

Increasing the uptake of insurance requires the collective knowledge of actors with diverse experiences and perspectives to comprehensively understand the bottlenecks within the sector and propose feasible solutions.

An iii-lab has three main objectives:

  • Build trust, relationships, partnerships and alliances in the sector through the use of dialogue
  • Research, innovate, prototype and pilot human-centered solutions
  • Develop leadership capacities within the sector, organizations and individuals.


Captured moments from various iii-labs over the years.

"Years in the field have taught us that the most resilient and sustainable solutions are those created and owned by the people who will be directly involved in bringing them to life. Solutions won’t work without having such people embedded in collaborative delivery partnerships from the beginning

Rachel Jones, Project Co-Lead, Reos Partners

“Our strength as Reos is to take a stuck system and get it moving. In terms of improving access to insurance, simply adapting regulations is not enough. The sector needs to find innovative and inclusive solutions that aren’t created in a boardroom but co-created with those that are most affected. To do that, we need to foster new partnerships and new ways of working across the sector,” adds Yiannis Chrysostomidis of Reos Partners and Project Co-Lead.

iii-labs for sustainable development

To date, there have been three iii-labs across 12 countries and over 150 participants. The first iii-lab happened in 2017-2018 with country teams from Albania, Ghana, Kenya, and Mongolia guided by the question, “How can we increase uptake of good quality insurance by vulnerable people and businesses?”

The second took place in 2020-2021 and included Argentina, Morocco, India, and Rwanda where the country teams’ leading question was, “How can we develop our insurance markets?”

The third iii-lab started in 2021 with representatives from Costa Rica, Grenada, Zimbabwe, and Zambia asking, “How can we help to increase the resilience of the most vulnerable segments in our societies against the impacts of climate change through innovative insurance solutions?”

iii-Lab-overview_Map (1)

A map highlighting the countries that have participated in iii-labs so far.

The progress to date has been significant. In Mongolia, an insurance game app has been designed as a fun way to educate consumers about insurance. Ghana has hosted micro- and small business clinics to aid the industry to identify risks, develop solutions, and raise awareness. Morocco has designed a digital interface using WhatsApp where clients can access a simple health insurance product through chat and pay using loyalty points.

Government agencies are changing policies to make insurance regulations more inclusive and to allow for innovation. Stakeholders – both private and public – are working to improve the customer journey by building more trust with consumers and changing the perception of insurance into valuable and essential support for families and businesses.

But perhaps the biggest win has been the meeting of the iii-lab’s original objectives: dialogue and mutual learning have happened, participants are taking action and stepping up to lead in the space, and relationships have been fostered that will last long after the formal process concludes.

As noted by an iii-lab participant:

"The most significant outcome in my view is the social capital that has been created which offers a wealth of experience to tap into as we all try in our respective ways and countries to deepen insurance penetration in the lower segment of our market."

And another:

"We used to work as individuals in our respective companies in trying to increase insurance penetration in the lower end of the market. This has now changed. We now are collaborating more and working together as a team made of members within the insurance industry as well as those from outside the industry. We even have the opportunity to tap into the expertise and experience of other colleagues from other countries."

Social Labs for inclusive insurance

The Social Lab approach is used to foster collaboration across the various organizations and sectors participating in iii-labs. Social Labs are great for situations where conventional planning, development, and strategic responses have failed. The approach is systemic, participatory, and experimental. The premise that no single actor has the solution ensures that diverse perspectives and interests are embraced, creating a real commitment of different stakeholders working together toward common goals.

When a diverse group of leaders realizes that their situation is unacceptable or unsustainable and that it can’t be transformed unilaterally, directly, or immediately, there’s a need for spaces that allow for a collective search for new approaches and initiatives. The iii-lab has created such a space, based on the Social Lab approach.

A few of the over 150 participants who have taken part in iii-labs so far.

Teams are taking an iterative approach to the challenge, prototyping interventions and managing a portfolio of promising solutions. Whilst the bias is towards action, iii-labs also provide a space for a ‘purposeful detour’ that enables participants to explore and uncover the existing reality and create new ideas and solutions.

The year-long lab process includes national workshops and international dialogues designed to build trust and understanding within country teams and foster learning and peer support between different countries. Additionally, several activities take place to strengthen networks, create momentum and facilitate peer exchange and support, including supervisor dialogues, expert webinars, global team dialogues, and one-on-one peer exchanges.

Through the process, Reos uses human-centered design methods to support teams in:

  • Analyzing the current state of inclusive insurance and the role of each actor in the situation they are in
  • Getting close to users and customers and (re)defining the most pressing challenges
  • Developing solutions or prototypes that improve the lives of vulnerable people in their country.

"No person should live at risk of losing a lifetime of work and investment in seconds. It’s our hope that in time we’ll see an increasing impact of these and more iii-labs where collaboration leads to inclusive insurance that decreases risks to the most vulnerable members of society. Within the reality of climate change, collaboration and innovation are the essential keys to humanity achieving the sustainable development goals," concludes Yiannis.

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