In Laos, a large I-NGO used 1 million dollars to build an cellphone app to empower local farmers to sell directly to the market (and cut out the middleman). They spent 1 million dollars…and it flopped.
Why? The app was developed by a group outside the community using a top-down approach. They created a product that no one in the local community had been on-board to use. And this mismatch in approach meant that nobody actually used it.
But Move92 got on the radar of Click Laos, who said they wanted to try this cellphone app idea again.
We gave them a $10,000 grant and they brought in local developers who worked slowly and steadily with the Lao Farmer Network. The developers created the app in less than 4 months, but then focused on running trainings for local farmers as to why using the app would be good for them.
They helped the farmers see that the app was more than a market tool. It would also help large farm cooperatives get a big picture view of what’s happening within their networks with products and produce.
They ran many different outreach sessions and got in dialogue with the farmers, continuously going back and showing them how to use the app. They did it slowly but consistently. Bottoms up.
And they now have 72 different products being sold by 5,036 families and 33,498 official members on the app (with equal members of men and women).
The solution here was not “more money.” It was more listening, partnership, and backing a local approach that did things slowly and steadily from the ground up.
You can download the LFN Mart app yourself at the Apple Store.