Anou Founder Selected As An Ashoka Fellow

AshokaAfter a year and a half vetting process, we are excited to announce The Anou Cooperative founder Dan Driscoll has been named as an Ashoka Fellow. Ashoka is a global organization that searches for and vets social entrepreneurs with systemic solutions to some of the world’s biggest challenges.

Dan’s vetting process was unusually long but for good reason.  First, Ashoka has rarely awarded fellowships to expats and in recent years has effectively stopped this practice all together. Second, Ashoka places high scrutiny on artisan focused business and non-profits as they are rarely innovative nor are they built to address systemic problems that artisan communities face. In Morocco, these concerns invite even greater scrutiny because of the sheer number of expat or non-artisan businesses that crowd out the ability of artisans to develop the advanced skills and vision required to develop meaningful solutions of their own.

Ashoka knows that any solution to a problem that afflicts a community starts and ends with members of that very community. This is ultimately what set Anou and Dan apart in the vetting process. Ashoka’s global board approved Dan’s nomination to become a fellow by pointing out how impressive it was that Dan’s goal was not to use his work and creativity to profit but to phase himself out by creating an artisan focused entity where the full benefits would stay within the artisan community.

While we’re excited that Dan’s efforts in establishing Anou have been recognized by Ashoka, we believe this is more of a recognition of all the work that artisans have invested into getting Anou to where it is today. 

The goals from the early days of Anou were to create a fully artisan owned and managed entity that would serve as the vehicle for Morocco’s artisan community to 1) change how people and businesses buy craft, and 2) realize needed changes so craft could sustain the livelihoods of artisans and future generations. These are no easy goals. Yet we’ve made tremendous strides towards them because of the endless work of countless artisans.  

As we move towards the next decade, it will be the work of countless more artisans that will help finally see through the vision of Anou. Ashoka’s recognition brings us all one major step closer to realizing this future. Thank you to Ashoka, the team at Ashoka’s Arab World Office, and all of those who nominated Anou to Ashoka over the years. 

Artisan Leader Rabha Akkaoui Wins GroupX Business Innovation Competition!

Rabha on the stage at X-Maroc!

Rabha on the stage at X-Maroc!

Earlier this week, we were surprised to learn that we were selected as a finalist for Morocco’s Group X Innovation Competition. So with little time to prepare, Artisan Leader Rabha Akkaoui (Cooperative Chorouk) volunteered to represent the Anou community. The requirements were tough: 3 minutes pitch followed by 4 minutes of Q&A in front of an audience of business and policy experts, including the Moroccan Minister of Industry and Comm erce at one point. Anou’s artisan leaders have pitched Anou several times before, including Rabha, but the shorter the pitch, the bigger the crowd and the better competition, the more difficult the pitch becomes for the leader to pull off. Rabha spent the previous 24 hours developing her script trying to distill the message of Anou up until a couple of minutes before the competition began. So when Rabha took the stage in front of 200 people, she was understandably nervous. She started off strong — her hard work was paying off. Towards the end of her pitch though, Rabha forgot her last couple of sentences and froze — but it didn’t matter as the crowd gave her the loudest applause of the day. Rabha left the stage disappointed that she had forgotten forgotten the last sentence, but that disappointed faded when later that day GroupX announced that Rabha had taken first place in the competition! We’re incredibly excited for Rabha. She displayed the best of what the artisan community in Morocco is capable of by competing against some of the best companies and start ups in Morocco. And better yet, she won a prize of 30,000 MAD ($3,000 USD) that will be used to grow the Anou community! Congrats Rabha!

" Quote"

” Rabha is the symbol of the bold Moroccan belief that every morning everything is possible. “

FastCompany: How An Online Artisan Marketplace Wants To Upend The World Of Fair Trade

FastCompany Anou Artisans“Anou developed a language-free interface for artisans to add their own products to the site and handle their own business operations. The process works like this: Anou employs “artisan leaders,” who are artisans themselves and are also literate. These artisan leaders act as managers and trainers for Anou.

Artisans can access the site over computers in internet cafes or on their cell phones, as 2G and 3G service is becoming ubiquitous in Morocco. Once they are set up, artisans only need to take pictures of the good they want to sell and then click the appropriate icon to categorize it as a bag, a rug, a pillow, a bracelet, a necklace, and so forth. They can also set the price and list the dimensions and weight. All of this is done in an icons-based interface with no written words, but the end result as a products page that a consumer in the U.S. would expect to read.”

We’re very excited for the write up by FastCompany’s Coexist about Anou’s platform and community led structure. Head over to FastCompany Coexist to read the whole piece!

Anou Featured By NPR’s Marketplace

NPR Marketplace“Etsy is great for the small-time crafts-person to reach new audiences. But there one problem: If you’re among the millions of artisans around the world with limited reading and writing ability, it won’t help much. Anou, a new website launched in Morocco, helps rural artisans cut out middlemen. And you don’t have to read or write to use it. The Anou site addresses the technological hurdle of posting to the web — but that’s just the first step in a much bigger process of becoming actual business owners.”

NPR’s Marketplace ran a great piece that got to the heart of what Anou is all about. Listen to the whole piece at Marketplace!

Anou Nominated for E-Commerce Site of the Year!

Maroc Web Awards We were excited to learn that Anou was nominated as Morocco’s e-commerce site of the year! In order to make it to the finals, Anou must generate enough votes to finish in the top five. From there a committee of heavy weights from Morocco’s start up and business communities will select the winner based on criteria such as innovation, impact and originality.

So in order to get Anou to the finals, all you have to do is vote for us on the Maroc Web Awards site. It’ll take 30 seconds of your time and three clicks of your finger!

Vote below!

http://marocwebawards.com/mwa8/anou/

Anou Featured in Lonely Planet’s Morocco Guidebook!

Morocco_travel_guide_-_11th_edition_LargeThe cover of the new Lonely Planet Guidebook features a man in front of an imposing wall of Moroccan ceramics. The artisan-focused photo is fitting because Anou and its community of artisans have been prominently featured in the guidebook!

In order to change the market so it works for artisans rather than against them starts with educating tourists of the positive and negative effects their purchases can have in the lives of the artisans. There aren’t many better ways to reach this group of very important buyers than through the Lonely Planet. We’re incredibly excited to have such a significant endorsement of the work that many artisans have contributed to over the past two years.

Read what Lonely Planet wrote about Anou:

“Inhabitants in Aït Bougomez [where Anou began] are a surprisingly resourceful bunch, note the launch of Anou (www.theanou.com) a new artisan managed online platform that enables illiterate artisans to sell their work independently.

Unlike Etsy or Ebay the resource isn’t open to anyone but is limited to locally-recognised artisans peer-verified by Anou’s leadership team, the benchmark being the quality of the products produced and the motivation of the artisans to expand and develop their product line.

Anou then assists approved artisans in creating a profile page with a biography of each member, photographs of their studio and tools and GPS coordinates of their workshops. Each piece produced is subsequently approved by Anou’s administration team before being posted to the site, ensuring that every product on the site is exactly the item that will be shipped to you. When products sell artisans are alerted by an SMS from Anou and pop the purchased item in the post and, voilà, in two to three weeks your new handcrafted carpet/bag/sculpture will arrive on your doorstep.

It’s a great resource for travellers as Anou’s primary buyers so far are conscientious tourists keen to ensure that they are buying direct from artisans. At the time of writing there were 200 artisans on the site and 35 cooperatives and associations now extending well beyond Aït Bougomez across the whole country.”

The guidebook hits shelves on August 4th or you can buy their e-book online now on Lonely Planet’s online store!

 

Design Sponge, Anou, and Change

The best word to describe that state of Anou’s community in recent months is change. In January, we began to process of turning over the site’s operations to leaders in Anou’s community and we’re now in the midst of scaling Anou to reach more artisans across Morocco. It is only fitting then, that Grace Bonney at Design Sponge would feature Anou in a recent post about change. We’re incredibly honored to be featured by Grace as an organization bringing about change in the artisan community. Thank you for your support, Grace!