The Fair Trade Potential of New Media

Session chaired by Tim Davies

Example in action: Dr Ian Brown and Dr Dorothea Kleine – The Fair Tracing Project

The Fair Tracing project is a research project from Royal Holloway Uni on using technology to open up the supply chain and involve consumers within the process:

The Fair Tracing project, funded by the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) grant number EP/E009018/1, aims to help bridge the digital divide between Northern consumers and Southern producers by using tracing technology to enhance the Fair Trade model of trade. Digital tracing technology enables each individual product to be both given a unique identity and tracked throughout the value chain from producer to consumer. The Fair Tracing project believes that attaching tracing technology to Fair Trade products sourced in developing countries will enhance the value of such goods to consumers in the developed world seeking to make ethical purchasing choices

Ethical consumption  is giving consumers the choice – creating a regulation, giving choice, offering information to the consumers – this project is about how to get the information to the consumers. Mapping a chain of a product – valuable to both producers and consumers, but also how can we give businesses an opportunity to use the tool to show they are doing things better?

The project is looking at two different Fair Trade products – Chilean Fair Trade wine and Indian shade-grown coffee – and creating an online tool that took into account producers and consumers. Looking at production process as well as social and environmental aspects that producers might be interested in. Looked at where the money from Fair Trade went in communities. Mapped the entire value chain

As part of the research they talked to consumers about their decision making. They found consumers made their decisions differently based on different products – varied in the two diff products they were looking at – coffee and wine. Consumers cared about fair trade, food miles, carbon footprint, child labour. what they wanted was third party info – where can I see where my money goes? high degree of distrust for UK supermarkets and scepticism of ethical claims made by supermarkets. Aura of trust in brand changing trust in belief of fair trade- I trust Waitrose so I trust their FT claims.

Looking at how you use technology to make people feel connected with the producers and to feel the same affinity as they do with local farmers. On site could collect video, audio and text all the way along the chain and play it back to consumers. Food miles came up again and again – especially when using mapping data. Also working with Nokia – using barcode readers,

Started project at the end of 2006 – now are in touch with 13 other similar projects in UK, USA and Finland – trying to find points of agreement to create open source effort to bring all ideas together – held Ethics 2.0 summit in Oct 2008 to try to put together ethical consumer information system – no decided system yet – the buzz is there but no concrete answers yet

learning experiences:

  • True participation is crucial to building the system but is resource and time intensive
  • Language barriers caused problems for international fair trade
  • Key difficulty with using such open info – what happens to the trust? Who should have editorial rights? Should info be crowdsourced and if so how do you build trust?
  • Time pressure issues – too much info is overload for consumers
  • Important to understand when academia should hand over to social enterprise
  • process is deeply replicable but product is evolving

Social Media speaker 1- Steve Bridger – Online Community builder and Digital Engagement adviser to charities

Steve Bridger - ftf09

Steve talked about his past with Oxfam. Progresso Coffee was before its time

He first saw the power of individuals in making change in 2007 when he watched the Water Buffalo Movie – technology helping us to connect people directly to issues (the YouTube video has been watched 56,282 times)

Other great examples: Akvonon-profit organisation with a knowledge, funds/projects matchmaking and monitoring/reporting web platform for water and sanitation projects – set themselves up as a platform for small NGOs to share knowledge and tell their stories – often through video (which now is pretty easy and cheap to do)

mobileactive.orgA global network of people using mobile technology for social impact - the power of mobile now is being able to tell personal stories. Also huge potential of gaming and apps to bring people closer together

Social Media Speaker 2 - Pete Cranston, New Media and ICT Specialist - “I’m a convergent geek!”

Pete Cranston #ftf09

We’re in phase 2 of using social media – now I can see who’s talking to who and can move laterally – I can see what’s going on and have multiple separate conversations – exponentially connecting people

Using social networks – Oxfam is on many of the social platforms (facebook, MySpace, twitter,) Greenpeace US as over 100,00 followers on MySpace (actually 122,019 as of today!) -  value of network is in engaging people in the wider issues around the product

Issues in Masai Mara being discussed through social media – Western Kenya reserve talking to the rest of the world through twitter facebook, etc

Not just about outside conversations – La Campagne – group of Haitian vets set up a buy-a-cow-for-a-farmer project that you can track – you loan a cow to a farmer and are kept informed of its progress – after it has had 4 calves you get one back

Kiva - direct microloan organisation – loaning money directly to individual entrepreneurs. Kiva is a tiny organisation so very small overheads – huge power of re-intermediation. However - Social Edge (part of the Skoll Foundation) did a critical review of Kiva and the transactional impact on small producer- you have to show how you spent the money (blogging, video etc) rather than just writing it – asking people who are farmers to produce and edit compelling video as they are now competing on a global market

Safe assumption that pretty much everyone can use a mobile phone – and as soon as people can connect they go social - Mixit: a basic mobile only social network enabling you to communicate to your whole network by SMS is hugely popular in S.Africa with over 6 million users

convergence and digital divides – mobile is the technology for Africa – no longer just a phone it’s effectively a computer you can talk to people on

questions / points raised:

  • risk of making it harder for smaller, poorer producers – how much does it cost?
  • tracability is absorbing – will create high transaction cost on consumers

using RFID technology to trace value chain – story telling element and electronic systems being implemented – combining these is powerful – links to how we can create models of trust based on factual reality of social constructivist ideas from people’s own stories – think about trust (WFTO running a sfms – barcode traceability through system)

  • How does the producer feel about collaborating and talking to the consumer?

Robin Smith talking about World Fair Day website – most is artisan-produced content – producers want to be involved in the conversation

  • Issue of older people not online – people don’t always want to go to a website- what else can we do? Reflection from audience – at her fair trade shop they write the name of the producer on the price tag of each product sold – Tim Davis - Is the till receipt where we tell the story?

Dorothea Kleine – generational gap – there’s a space for intermediation between twitter and the newspaper – how can we open those different channels for different people with different usage profiles to get the plethora?

  • consumer end of the chain is too politicised – we don’t talk enough about the producer end
This entry was posted in Fair Trade Futures and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.