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Online Sales That Could Revolutionize Fair Trade


Together with two former Peace Corps volunteers, Moroccan artisans operate the Anou website, one of the best contemporary examples of fair trade.

In recent years, fair trade has become a successful practice for fighting inequality generated by the economic system we live in. When a producer of merchandise and the consumer establish a direct economic link, both win, as the sale price is free of the intermediaries that would have wanted to obtain a benefit from each transaction.

However, in practice it has not been that simple to implement this idea. There are businesses that present themselves as fair trade but which, eventually, end up reproducing the system in which the intermediaries multiply, subtracting the profit from the producer.

To find a way out of this contradiction, Dan Driscoll y Tom Counsell (ex Peace Corps volunteers) created Anou, an online store focusing on Moroccan artisans that seeks to link them directly to potential buyers in Europe, the US and the rest of the world.

This sounds very common, but the difference is that, since the beginning, Driscoll wanted it to be a store that managed its own artisans, each one of which would handle the trade of its pieces. But that aim faced a couple of obstacles, the language barrier and the lack of technological knowhow of the Moroccan artisans who worked for Driscoll and Counsell.

To overcome such problems, Driscoll proposed two solutions: Firstly, develop an interface for the site that was not in one specific language, but which could be understandable using icons, and at the same time he selected a few artisans who understood English and knew how to use a computer and made them the “lead artisans” who, in addition to managing certain functions of Anou, would teach their colleagues the necessary steps to operate the site themselves. With those two actions, the project began to function in a promising way.

But this is not a business for Driscoll. The intention is that, on the contrary, the artisans take the reins of the site as soon as they can so that he can step away. In fact, the intention is also that the website’s codes are open-source so that artisans from other parts of the world can organize themselves and establish a similar model.

The project, in summary, appears to be a return to the true essence of fair trade: generating the conditions to make the common good a daily reality.

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