Category Archives: Good Economy OS

Fair Trace Tool launches campaign furthering innovation to build value in transparent supply chains

Let’s make sure devastating tragedies, like the ones in Bangladesh, will never happen again.

Fair Trade USA

Fair Trade USA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We have the technology to intervene—and you have the power to help us put it in place. Can you please help us get the word out and share the INDIGENOUS Indiegogo campaign with your networks? This campaign will allow us to share breakthrough technology with other brands and organizations around the globe.

This year, nearly every INDIGENOUS garment comes with a QR code attached that makes it possible for our customers to meet the artisans who make our fashion, see a map of our supply sourcing, and read about the social impact of their purchase. This simple technology, called the Fair Trace Tool ™, was created with the help of our good friends at RSF Social Finance, Worldways Social Marketing, SourceMap, Good World Solutions and the Grameen Foundation.

We are calling on YOU to help make it possible for us to share this technology with fair trade brands that are otherwise unable to afford it. Your donations will also help fund social impact studies that prove the astounding value of fair trade in the lives of artisans and farmers.

We’ve offered some amazing perks for donors, including merchandise, discounts, even a trip to Peru. Check it all out at

Supply chain transparency can truly save lives and change our world.
Give a little, give a lot, but please give something. And whatever you do, share it with everyone you know!

Yours in collaboration,
Scott Leonard

How can enterprises display resilience in periods of sudden and gradual change?

Last week, I started thinking about the topic of resilience in the midst of early-stage growth. Shaun’s post from the beginning of the week sparked my thought process around the product iteration developments coming out of Farmerline. I’ve been doing some research on existing ICT providers within agricultural technology and thinking about how Farmerline stands out. On the business side, an early stage company has to be able to prove its commercial viability. After reading the Stockholm Resilience Centre’s definition of resilience, I am thinking about Farmerline’s potential to sustain “periods of gradual and sudden change and to adapt and change shape” (What is Resilience? ).


In order to be successful, Farmerline wants to develop products over time that can adapt and change shape based on the needs of consumers. Right now, Farmerline’s voice technology stands out above other ICT firms working with smallholder farmers because many utilize only SMS messages which many farmers cannot read. This is a period of very dynamic change as mobile messaging apps are developing rapidly, so how can Farmerline’s processes move quickly enough to adapt while still remaining attune to the speed of development within the agricultural industry itself? By focusing both on building farmer autonomy and non-profit monitoring and evaluation, Farmerline’s technology addresses individual and collaborative ways to build the agricultural economy. It is important to address the vital impact NGOs, many of whom have been working locally for many years, can evaluate using Farmerline’s M&E capabilities.

Alloy explained to me that even if farmers have access to market prices and weather forecasts along with connections to buyers, how does that ensure they make the necessary connections to get their product to market? For this stage of the company, Farmerline primarily focuses on opening market access for smallholder farmers through easy and inexpensive communication channels as well as helping NGOs conduct monitoring and evaluation. The technology enables rapid change by speeding up communication pathways, allowing fast change now. This kind of speed may slow down when the next kind of demand for services presents itself. The widely applicable technology brings scalability to the idea, while combining a localized approach could ensure that the product could evolve and adapt based on its local context. I’m curious to hear about how others adapt during the dynamic interplay of sudden and slower change.

Considerations for M&E capabilities during Farmerline’s early-stage pilots

In the past week, I’ve been working with the Farmerline team on how we can take the next steps to expand while in the middle of a pilot (and beginning another). Farmerline plays an integral role in getting stakeholders the information they need to better manage crops, reach markets to sell those crops, and appropriate market prices for inputs and outputs. One of the toughest things I am constantly thinking about is what will be able to prove our business model. Right now, they have had strong interest from non-profits with large groups of beneficiaries, but the hope is that farmers would be able to pay for the service to sustain business. While all its value-added services are extremely important in the process of getting vital information to farmers in Ghana, what do farmers demand the most? Right now, they need information from non-profits and government to reach the market and manage crops. But what services do they demand where the net benefit of Agro-Calls and Call-Ins is positive for their growth? At this expansion phase, we know we have to take advantage of growth at the right time and make decisions quickly, all of which is difficult while in the middle of the pilots.

The uniqueness of Farmerline is a combination of ease of use, wide applicability and its specific focus on small shareholder farmers. At a glance, this seems like a win-win for so many organizations working with differing cultures, languages, and access to a mobile phone. I’ve learned that in Ghana, the country in which they operate, researchers have cited up to 91% of the target population for mobile use is saturated. The vast use of mobile phones has seen an explosion of apps targeted at solving deeply entrenched social issues, but the new space has created what one article from SSI calls “pilotitis” (Khan & Joseph, 2013). Writers Khan and Joseph highlight the need to move beyond the “conceptualizing and testing phase” in order to “catalyze systemic change” (Khan & Joseph 2013). This “innovation cult” drives inventors to seek new solutions to endemic problems, which is inherently good, but ultimately change needs execution to scale. Even though the founders developed this technology as they themselves lived and worked on smallholder farmers, wide adoption is still key to success.

One of the suggestion the authors recommend is “linking pilot approval phases to the solving of associated executional demands” (Khan & Joseph, 2013). For us, each hypothesis Farmerline posits during its pilot can have a decision-making step once it is proved or contradicted. That way, we can hopefully take advantage of quickly moving opportunities and adapt the product to how farmers and stakeholders best need it. One of the benefits of having a widely applicable technology is that during the pilot phase, Farmerline will be able to test which of the umbrella options in its technology are most beneficial. For non-profits seeking monitoring and evaluation technologies, the Agro-Polls technology is tailored to their needs to compute statistics and qualitative research. But in testing the buying power of individual farmers or farmer-based groups, Farmerline can understand if calling in a hotline or receiving weekly/monthly subscribed updates is worth paying for to help them increase yield and reach access to market. As we work to scale the current services, we focus on these needs.

As I think about the BCR tool in relation to how Farmerline enhances monitoring and evaluation, it becomes tricky. We are currently facilitating better M&E for nonprofits with our real-time dashboards that come with polling systems. Real-time data collection and analysis is possible for non-profits. The key is to make the product sticky enough so that when the pilot ends with a non-profit, its beneficiaries will realize its benefits. The flexibility of the pay-as-you-go platform creates affordability for low-income farmers, and allows nucleus farmers to regularly send updates to the hundreds of smaller farmers they support. After testing the nucleus farmers’ receptiveness to the service, Farmerline could then develop in-house M&E tools that measure farmers’ increases in yields and productivity since the time they have been using their ICT. At this pilot stage, developing potential impact metrics to put in place later on will test M&E capabilities. As an ICT organization, Farmerline addresses very specific pain points along the agricultural value chain; however, quantifiable impact is more indirect as it allows faster communication and facilitates better management practices among stakeholders. Providing in-house workshops on BMPs is one example of how direct impact can potentially be linked to Farmerline’s services.



An updated powerpoint describing our accelerating biocultural resilience

I am sharing here an update to our presentation.