From the classroom to the phone

New digital training program for entrepreneurs in Colombia

Entrepreneur Nelcy Gamarra accesses the Dialogue on Business program from her mobile phone.

Entrepreneur Nelcy Gamarra accesses the Dialogue on Business program from her mobile phone.

Shoemakers, tailors, bakers — these small business owners are usually experts at their craft, but that doesn’t mean they automatically know everything about running a business. Dialogue on Business (DOB) is a classroom-based business education program designed to help low-income entrepreneurs gain the skills they need to succeed in their enterprises and grow their businesses.

In 2016, Accion and FedEx launched a two-year initiative to create a digital version of this award-winning program to use in Colombia. By bringing the DOB program online, we can make the program more cost effective to deliver, more flexible, and more easily accessible for a broader audience.

This digital business development program has been designed specifically for low-income women entrepreneurs and business owners who can access the platform with an internet connection — or even offline — from a computer, tablet, or smartphone. We hope to reach more than 2,000 entrepreneurs by the end of 2018.

To make sure the program is as engaging and useful as possible for entrepreneurs, we’ve enlisted their help in its creation by performing market research in three regions of Colombia. We conducted 600 questionnaires and 24 ethnographic interviews on the training needs of small business owners. We found out that:

  • All respondents owned cell phones, and they were familiar with the internet — though they had not used it for learning
  • Women wanted practical, concrete information that could be easily applied to their work for short-term results
  • Women felt more comfortable having some degree of interaction with people despite the digital approach of the program

The design of the digital version of the Dialogue on Business program also incorporates relevant research findings from the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion (CFI). CFI’s report, A Change in Behavior: Innovations in Financial Capability, details seven practices that help people cultivate the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors to make sound financial decisions.

The program also incorporates peer-to-peer interaction into its user-friendly and intuitive platform. This collaboration allows for a smoother transition from traditional classroom-based programs to digital ones. It also helps provide a balance of human-centric and technology-enabled

The digital version of Dialogue on Business focuses on three main dimensions:

  • Personal — identifying skills, competencies, and behaviors to improve each entrepreneur’s profile through goal setting
  • Enterprise — widening the participant’s entrepreneurial vision and skills through knowledge, tools, and business consolidation
  • Financial System — motivating entrepreneurs to engage in the financial system and strengthen their ability to make smart financial decisions

By creating a digital version of this ground-breaking program that expands financial and digital literacy and capability, entrepreneurs can achieve even more success. Through our partnership work with FedEx, we’re excited to give a boost to entrepreneurs in Colombia, across Latin America, and potentially even globally.

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