Even in 2020, many cooperatives still use manual forms of communication and engagement.
Today, the cooperative market remains massively underserved with few digital tools written with cooperatives in mind. According to our research, the membership engagement tools that do exist are too complex and assume unlimited access to good quality Internet. The Anycoop founders realised that cooperatives needed a digital membership engagement tool that was accessible even when access to the internet was not possible.
The creators of Anycoop set out to build a service that will help the masses.
According to the ITU, nearly 3.6 billion people remain unconnected from the Internet and thus unconnected from the digital products and services that could dramatically improve their lives. Most people who are unconnected living in low-income countries, where an average of just two out of every ten people are online.
At least 12% of people on earth is a cooperator of any of the 3 million cooperatives on earth. Cooperatives provide jobs or work opportunities to 10% of the employed population, and the three hundred largest cooperatives or mutuals generate 2,034.98 billion USD in turnover while providing the services and infrastructure society needs to thrive (World Cooperative Monitor).
The goal was to reach everyone to share vital information and build a community of people who share common values, whatever their connectivity level. However, the challenge of poor internet coverage in these emerging countries became apparent early on. Therefore, creating an internet-based solution, like many which exist in the market would simply not be feasible.
100% functional on desktop, mobile app and SMS
Not everyone owns a smartphone or has access to reliable internet connectivity. It makes sense for people to use what they know and have already, without needing to invest in new tools or technology. Consequently, we set out on a mission to build a service designed to be 100% functional on SMS, and accessible by the 3.6 billion people who are unconnected and underserved.
Collaborative Approach with cooperatives
Anycoop was developed in collaboration with cooperatives. During the development, we interviewed more than 200 cooperatives, gaining their feedback in the various stages of the project. This remains the case even today.
Here is a summary of the key findings:
- Low penetration of digital tools - Many cooperatives are not using digital tools to engage at all. Many are still communicating using letter/mail and manual means.
- Facebook - is frequently used as a member engagement tool. However, Facebook doesn’t provide the required features and capabilities, for example, forums, surveys and member management. While these services are great for outreach, they are not the place for official information to be shared. A common challenge facing administrators was that open forums were frequently being used to share personal information.
- Privacy - is extremely important. Many cooperatives are uncomfortable using social media tools to post private and sensitive information.
- Fragmentation of tools used - Cooperatives use a plethora of different tools that are not integrated. This often results in the same information needing to be managed in multiple platforms and difficulty in keeping the data in sync.
- Lack of good quality internet and 'smart' devices - Cooperative members do not always have access to the internet and many are heavily reliant on mobile phones as way to communicate.
- Ease of use is key - Cooperatives are dissatisfied with their current tools because they are overly complicated and are bloated with unnecessary features.
Fundamentals service requirements
It was clear that the new service must be able to meet some basic requirements:
- Capability to access the service on all devices - offline and online
- Should have all the core features 'under one roof' (eg surveys, forums, news etc.)
- Capability to manage members and the directory
- Allow member to member communication both one-to-one and in groups
- Secure authentication and data privacy
Thank you for reading our story, we would love to hear your feedback. Our first release of Anycoop is now available and free to use for the first 20 members.
To get started, visit www.anycoop.zone and create your community. If you have any questions feel free to email@example.com
Help us to help you. Take our survey so that we can learn more about the digital needs of cooperatives and improve Anycoop.