Project Year



Latin America and the CaribbeanEast Africa


Mexico, Guatemala, Tanzania

Project Description

This project proposes to investigate how individuals earning as little as a dollar a day manage and consider value systems. By using photography, interviews, observation and video recordings to create detailed surveys of objects of value, the proposal will study alternate methods for the exchange of goods and services, and emotional experiences around specific value systems of individuals in poverty. Design implications will inform the development of a financial service prototype derived from the findings in the field. This research is inspired by the growing need for interactive technology that addresses diverse dialects and varying levels of illiteracy.


Melissa Cliver

About the Researcher(s)


Melissa Cliver is a researcher and designer based in Seattle Washington. Melissa holds a Masters of Design from Carnegie Mellon where she studied interaction and service design with an emphasis on social entrepreneurship and HCI. She is currently researching and developing financial services for coffee farmers and workers in rural Oaxaca, Mexico in association with the Financial Alliance for Sustainable Trade (FAST). She also holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from Rutgers University. Melissa is particularly interested in designing technology and systems supporting everyday experiences in the financial and health care sectors.

Synopsis of Research Results

Based on research conducted with Rudy Yuly and Catherine Howard

How information communication technologies can support financial services in the sustainable trade industry


Overall, our goal is to utilize field observations and design implications that will give IMTFI stakeholders the information needed to create tools to help improve financial inclusion. Focusing on farming cooperatives as intermediaries to the poorest individuals, their day workers, we translate observations and design implications into concepts for financial services available through information communication technologies. Our aim is to generate scalable solutions that can be used throughout the sustainable trade network—a delivery route driven by innovation and fundamentally concerned with fairness, sharing and positive outcomes.

Our initial work in the field was with one large coffee cooperative in Zaragoza, Oaxaca Mexico—Cooperativa 21st de Septembre (comprised of 92 small farms and hundreds of individuals). We are continuing our work with the members of this cooperative to develop financial service models that could be tested at various other cooperatives globally. We examine the current practices of day-to-day management with farmers. Observations include the challenges they face as well as the ways they have used investments and share financial knowledge in their communities. Our research began in 2008 and will be completed in 2011. The team is comprised of individuals with backgrounds in anthropology, design, interaction design, journalism and business.

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