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The Anou: Enabling Illiterate Artisans to Sell in a Virtual Marketplace

Dan Driscoll was a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco. Living in a small village called Ait Bouguemaz, Dan was working with the community to improve the general quality of life for those in the village. Morocco, being a country known for the quality and creativity of their artisan crafts and goods, and the Peace Corps volunteers would work with them to find ways to market and sell their goods. Dan noticed that the methods used were not working within the context, especially given that many of the artisans are illiterate or do not have access to high quality cameras or technology to market and sell their products. Most of the time, a middleman steps in from a bigger city or from even outside of Morocco and sells these artisans goods giving them only a small fraction of the profits.

Dan then decided to create a solution for this problem, knowing that if these artisans could sell and market their own goods, they could earn sustainable incomes to benefit their families and communities on the long run. The website, called The Anou, which is Berber for well, allows the artisans to upload their own images, manage their inventory, and list prices that they choose and all without words. The entire interface of the website’s backend is visual, making use of graphics instead of words so that every artisan can use it easily. With the help of other artisans, Dan trained all artisans to use this site as a sort of virtual marketplace.

Last year, a few of the carpet makers featured on the site actually attended and displayed their work at the London Festival of Arts. “I was surprised to see how design-minded everyone was in London. Moroccan artisans used to be design-minded many years ago, back when artisans designed with purpose. Designs then were created to make tribes distinct from each other during times of war; new ideas then were a necessity. Today, Moroccan artisans wait for foreigners to tell us what to do so we can make a little money. There is no purpose now, we need to find that purpose again,” said Rabha Akkaoui, one of The Anou’s artisans.

For more information: Check out The Anou’s official website, like them on Facebook and follow @Moroccan.Artisans for up-to-date images of their work and products.

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