With a Little Help From My Neighbors.

The Con Vos Network, the pilot that connects community markets with digital inclusion arrived to Fray, Catamarca, Argentina.

 

 

PROJECT SUMMARY

The second edition of the Con Vos (With You) Network was launched. This project scales a grassroots innovation that connects community markets with digital inclusion. Con Vos is a network of local community stores, where neighbors can carry out digital transactions and operations close to their homes. This network aims at making it easier for neighbors to do more things online and solve their errands, saving time, money, and distance. The Accelerator Lab of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Argentina, in collaboration with the municipal government of Fray Mamerto Esquiú, province of Catamarca, and the Subsecretaría de Innovación Administrativa de la Jefatura de Gabinete de Ministros de la Nación (Undersecretariat Administrative Innovation of the National Cabinet of Ministers of Argentina), implements the network in Fray, using the lessons learned from the first experience in 2021, in Concepción del Uruguay.

 

PROJECT CONTEXT

The Con Vos Network is inspired by a neighborhood-level initiative, which can take different forms, with the potential to achieve higher levels of digital inclusion. These solutions were mapped by the Co_Lab, UNDP in Argentina, first in 2019, and then during the pandemic, in 2020. By identifying, mapping, and scaling grassroots innovations—that is, what people do on a daily basis in the territory—the Lab aims at shedding light on the understanding of the problems that hamper the development of individuals and communities. People experiencing those problems become experts in dealing with them, and the solutions they find can teach us valuable lessons to solve them.

Digital environments increasingly allow accessing products and services, many of them crucial for their subsistence, such as several public aids. Today, being able to do this online is a key element to achieve higher levels of inclusion. However, in low-income neighborhoods, many people lack access to computers or cell phones; even if they do, they do not dare to complete their online tasks and errands by themselves. As a result, they must complete them at the offices located in the city. This results in more crowded offices and longer waits for customers. In addition to the waiting, neighbors either walk a great distance or spend money to get to the offices by other means. Not to mention that work commitments may limit their availability, others may experience physical limitations that prevent them from moving around, or, in other situations, they may have care responsibilities of children or other dependents that are difficult or expensive to entrust to carry out their errands in person at public or private offices.

"Con Vos" is a network of nearby stores where neighbors carry out their online tasks and errands with the support of shopkeepers. This facilitates access to key services,  saves time, money, and distance, and encourages more and more people to complete more tasks online. This network was successfully implemented in 2021 in Concepción del Uruguay, and today it was launched in Fray Mamerto Esquiú, with the support of the Argentine Undersecretariat Administrative Innovation of the National Cabinet of Ministers.

PROJECT GOALS

The pilot of the Con Vos Network in Fray aims at joining a number of businesses distributed throughout the municipal territory to:

  • Promote digital inclusion, which means that more and more people can do online tasks.
  • Reduce the time and costs neighbors need to complete their tasks and errands. 
  • Reduce the in-person demand for services in public offices, including ANSES [National Social Security Administration].
  • Raise the relevance of local stores by training shopkeepers and encouraging their support to neighbors.
  • Promote community markets by increasing purchases from local stores.

 

DATA RELEVANT TO THE PROJECT

Undoubtedly, similar solutions were first timidly deployed before spreading over the country when the pandemic hit. The first case identified in 2019, which served as a real inspiration for the Con Vos Network, involved Sabrina Montenegro, a young woman who owned “Empoderarte”, a school supplies store in José León Suarez, province of Buenos Aires. In the midst of the pandemic in 2020, we found that, in the context of mandatory isolation, many similar experiences unfolded in different parts of the country. Some took place in local shops, while others were deployed by grassroots leaders or just kind neighbors helping each other.

Sabrina also provides another kind of service in her store, assisting people who visit her to carry out and complete online tasks (such as applying for  government social aids or requesting their ID, among others) in exchange for an amount equivalent to what the neighbors save in bus tickets. Since Sabrina is not familiarized with all the procedures involved in the tasks the neighbors request, frequently she has to learn how to do them herself. Sometimes, neighbors are halfway through the procedure when they arrive, and it is necessary to restart the process to figure out how to proceed. Thus, the keys to the success of this solution are, on the one hand, the patience, communication skills, and proactivity of the shopkeepers who provide the service, and, on the other hand, the neighbors’ trust in them as peers.

 

ACHIEVEMENTS

The need for digital inclusion is today greater than ever. Inspired by Sabrina's story, we learned the relevance of local stores. Thanks to the experience of the Con Vos Network in Concepción del Uruguay, we learned that:

  • Nearly 60% of the neighbors who came up to the Con Vos Network did not know how to use digital tools, did not have them, or both.
  • The Con Vos Network helped the neighbors of Concepción to carry out more online procedures close to their homes and allowed them to save time (over 637 hours) and travel distance (a total of 293.7 kilometers) by avoiding the need to complete the errands in an in-person fashion downtown. Each customer saved an average of 1.7 kilometers and 21.7 minutes.
  • Store owners earned new clients and made additional sales with 2 out of 3 neighbors who went to complete their tasks and errands.

 

To learn about the first successful experience carried out in 2021, in Concepción del Uruguay, province of Entre Ríos, you can read the detailed report on the following site clicling here

For more information about the project or the participating stores, or if you want to add your business to the network, you can get in touch with: convosfray@gmail.com

Co_Lab, the Accelerator Lab of Argentina of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) builds solutions that work. You can contact Co_Lab at: equipo.lab.argentina@undp.org