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Internet shop w Mentor/tutor/guidance

This is similar to other concepts, but suggest a permanent location in each village and city, in attachment to a school, library, municipal offices. To have a computer being able to reserve for one hour per person per week, and staff present at all times that are trained to assist. And with printer/copier to be able to make paper versions of facts that the user wants to take with them home.

Photo of Johan Löfström
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Primarily it is to make a chain of permanent computer-offices that is free to use for people wanting more opportunities, education and presence online. (only practical, educational and useful purpose, not aimed for fun or games)

One computer on a desk in a small room is enough to start, so it is cheap and easy to replicate in many villages.
The staff should be trained w skills that is like a combination of teacher, journalist, lawyer, financial advisor, mentor, translator.

The staff could help create an Etsy-account (or a presence in any other online web shop) for each individual or make one account per each office/village, or only one for the whole chain of these internet shops, and perhaps also include all entrepreneurs attached to the Mobile Training Office...-concept.  (for more exclusive and unique artworks perhaps an auction-site is better option to have presence on? so the customers can decide on correct price level)

If all individuals want their own Etsy-account, you should make a central portal or group-page for all the involved Caldas-entrepreneurs, so as to create an entrypoint for international clients to find all that are connected to this project in the same place.

When a customer buys something online, the staff can send out a text message to the producer, with postal address and brief info to send the item with post to the buyer. Payment could be managed and centralized through one central PayPal-account or similar service that the staff are managing, and distributing the payment in cash, retroactively next time the seller comes into the shop.
(Perhaps we could get Paypal as sponsor to this concept, to make their fees lower for this purpose?)

At least 50% of the time-slots should be reserved for women. If there is not enough interest from them, we could give some incentives to the males in order to trying to encourage their mother/wife/sister to try it.

What online-purposes is meant to use this office for :
  • Selling handicrafts and art work on web shops like Etsy and similar. Finding contacts with buyers in foreign countries in different ways (small-scale and large-scale)
  • Informal Education for adults, Fact-finding : farming, home-business, food and health resources...
  • searching for jobs that is possible to do online or remotely.
  • Finding available micro-credit-schemes.
  • Connecting with other Colombian/south-american artisans and craftsmen to make it possible for them to collaborate on spreading/sharing skills and knowledge about DIY-projects and new lowcost business models and viral marketing...
  • Making users contribute with their expert knowledge to wikis to help other regions of the developing (spanish-speaking) world. Involve them more in current technology and international development...

Off-line purposes:
  • Potential to hold a wide variety of regular courses/classes/meetings/workshops/discussion groups on entrepreneurialism, small-business, nutrition, health, HIV-prevention, alcohol and drug abuse. also local politics, election campaigns...
  • Coordinate group sessions to collaborate on ; writing articles for local/international newspapers; designing clothes, handicrafts, starting up farms together in teams...
  • Having video camera to be able to record above-mentioned group meetings to put up on internet distribution to all other regional offices in this concept. Also for documenting local traditional textiles design/patterns and similar, for preserving online.
  • Set up a billboard in each office, to make people advertise locally for wanted/available jobs/skills leasing of equipment/tools. (like an informal job agency, poolsharing of resources)
  • Having some packaging material handy for those that sell products online

(see also " Caldas Coffee Exchange" from Avi)
(see also " Social Business Times" from Meena)
(see also " Instructional Videos..." from Avi)
(see also " Caldas Village Construction..." from Avi and Marcin Jakubowski)
(see also " Mobile Training Office..." from Nathan)

disclaimer : if there are existing internet cafés, the model must be very careful to not out-compete those businesses.
Please feel free to add ideas, comments, feedback below, i appreciate all of your inolvement!

How do you envision this idea making money?

There will be some income on selling printouts, copying, office supplies, stamps. (but there can be potential to get sponsors pay for the paper and toner and equipment) There could be a percentage fee on those sales that the users make on Etsy and so on (voluntary or fixed rate) Provides job opportunities for extra services around the printing/distribution, could be made a combination with Meena Kadri's suggested "Social Business Times". Experts on public health could be made to pay a fee for holding group meeetings. For attendants it needs to be free, but the expert could be funded by international aid org's. There is lots of sources for small revenue on all services.

How does this idea create social impact, particularly around improving health?

Promotes learning, education, even to those too old to go back to school. Provides job opportunities for extra services and spin-offs around the printing/distribution/communication, could be made a combination with Meena Kadri's suggested "Social Business Times" More awareness will spread. the people of Caldas learns about the world, the world learns about Caldas. (about life, food, health, diseases, knowledge, technology...)

How does this idea add social value at every step of the process?

Training of locally employed staffmembers, making them tutor people in the village. All involved would become role-models and PR-people to get more people interested and involved. Enabling many to find the education cheap and all communication adds value to participants and to those they communicate with internetionally. Making the role-models start to re-distribute courses and printed handbooks to their neighbours. Increasing creativity around skills, abilities, self-confidence, ambition in the whole social setting.

What are the short term steps we could take to implement this idea tomorrow?

Start to canvas the cities and villages in the whole region to find most suitable organisation or department that already have a presence and available offices/internet connection to piggy-back on. Try to make rental contracts that pay retroactively amount depending on how success rate is, that makes incentive to help promote mouth-to-mouth in all regions. Try to combine with the idea of the "Mobile training camp office" from Nathan Waterhouse, if the staff there are experts, they could stay in touch regularly with users in my suggested permanent locations (no matter where the Mobile office are)


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Photo of Sarah Fathallah

Great idea Johan!
I wonder why you chose not to implement this in existing internet cafés? Shouldn't this reduce the initial costs, and provide more incentives for the internet cafés owners (diversifying their sources of revenue)?
Another question: the mentor/teacher/etc. is employed by whom? Self employed? Owner of the shop?

Photo of Johan Löfström

Sarah, thanks for asking the questions. Maybe others have suggestions on these.

I have no idea on the regularity and availablitity of internet cafés there. But I am sure there is some that would like to include this service. However this does not guarantee a widespread chain of similar functions. I think it needs to be "packaged" in same way, for those that travel and move around to get equally good service wherever they drop in.

I think for mentors there are several options. One I had in mind was an actual staff member on the school or government offices, perhaps they are now working only parttime, but thanks to adding this program can go up to full time employment, and get some of the wage costs subsidised from these extra services.

Or rather the staff would be employed by the organisation that operates this whole mentoring scheme (not sure how big or small scale is appropriate)
If we imagine that this would be small start-ups for self-employed entrepreneurs, we would need to set up standardised training and education. With some centralized administrative functions like search for sponsors, expert advisors from abroad... But micro-scale can definitely be a good path to go.

I was feeling a bit concerned also about privately owned café, and the owner would probably be a mentor there, so that could raise security issues. I think most computer users would like to have some secrecy and safe integrity around tasks that involve their financial business, login-passwords to Etsy, Paypal and so on.

And for the payment model I imagine would be best (to make the users get all service for free and then pay retroactively when they start to earn money) I think not many existing business owners would agree with.

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