Rural Inclusion is a social enterprise driving economic development in underserved rural communities across the world, with a focus on designing digital education programmes for local partners to advance financial inclusion and empowerment for communities.
The idea for the company started when Jack Farren, the Co-Founder & CEO who had been working in UK insurance at the time, became fascinated about the possibilities of microinsurance for developing communities, and visited Mexico on a consultancy role to explore the possibility of how blockchain can help the advancement of microinsurance. He noticed that one of the key reasons for low uptake of insurance is due to awareness and education. This realisation led to Jack and co-founder Joseph Lakwago, carrying out research in Uganda about how people access financial products.
During their research it was evident that to circumvent low literacy levels, one way to educate people about the benefits of finance is through animations. So, they decided to develop a series of animations around financial literacy which have been translated into five different languages and are available to partners. These videos are uploaded to an App called Ostrii, which enables trainers to use in their training sessions. They now employ two full-time animators in Uganda.
Ostrii is available to partners for a subscription cost which is usually part of wider grant proposals – the end beneficiary doesn’t pay. Partners include NGOs, agribusiness and microfinance institutions who leverage their agent network to deliver educational content to local communities.
The animations are great, but obviously I was interested in how social media is used within their organisation and was fascinated how they scaled their business through an ambassador network via LinkedIn.
We started as self-funded and wondered how we can actually scale our vision as this is a global problem. So we reached out for volunteers to join us through a LinkedIn campaign. We didn’t really expect much from the campaign, but advertised for a two year voluntary position in six different countries (Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi and Rwanda). We were looking for four individuals in each country that can be our local champions of inclusion, and help our growth through local market research, identifying potential partners, reviewing content in the local languages and helping with logistics on the ground, maybe attending a conference here and there. We would pay for the expenses for travel or any costs incurred, but it’s a voluntary role. We had 1000 applications for those positions and we brought ambassadors on board from many international development organisations!Jack Farren
The LinkedIn campaign means that Rural Inclusion has instantly recruited ambassadors with credibility within the communities they are working in. Since their initial success they have also used LinkedIn to recruit four ambassadors in El Salvador where they have recently started a project.
I wanted to know why ambassadors would want to be involved when the positions are unpaid. Jack responded:
It’s a good question and we’ve worked a lot on providing value to our ambassadors through non-financial incentives. We have seen some ambassadors go and new members join, and heading into 2023, we are now confident we have the right foundation to motivate our ambassadors and grow the network. Most of them have stayed the course, we brought new ones on, but there’s the element of we help them build their personal brand, giving them exposure and also help them with social media and networking opportunities. For example, let’s say you are an insurance underwriter in Uganda, but are now working in a group with a development consultant in Tanzania and a coffee expert in Malawi.”Jack Farren
As part of this network there is also a great deal of knowledge sharing and this is also enabled via social media channels.
We’ve produced an internal learning platform and structure. For example, we hold quarterly meetings and invite people to make presentations to share knowledge on subjects such as grant writing, intellectual property or digital agriculture. We used to communicate through Trello but we have recently moved to WhatsApp communities. We have set up different subgroups and task forces for different projectsJack Farren
Jack admits that they have not really managed to find time to invest in other social media platforms such as Instagram and TikTok even though some NGOs are using them very successfully for fundraising from personal donors, but they do intend to develop their Facebook presence to build communities in the future.
I was really interested to hear about both the recruitment of ambassadors via LinkedIn and the knowledge sharing via Trello and WhatsApp communities. Let’s face it, social media is all about networking – not just pumping out one directional messages to your audience.by