"Fair Trade Global Communication System".
FT relies on fair prices to provide sustainable development for excluded producers.
If you want to find more on Fair Trade, just click here  What is Fair Trade?

The environment is complex.
There are many different actors: Producers Organizations (usually in Economically Less Developed Contries), Importers Organizations (usually in Developed countries), World Shops (usually in Developed countries) with their staff (employees or volunteers). There are actual and potential customers (usually in Developed countries). There are National and International Labelling Organizations. A big amount of informations need to flow among these actors but, nowadays, no or little informatic support exists leading to slow or missing communications.

For a complete study on the Fair Trade environment and its needs, you should really have a look to
"Creating a Fair Trade Partenership through a Fair Trade Global Communication System"
at http://www.worldshops.org/news/ftgcs/reference_paper_news_2001.pdf
(if you want different formats, visit http://www.worldshops.org/news/ftgcs/ )

: create ad hoc Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) software for the complex needs of the Fair Trade Organizations

FairTradeNet on SourceForge

Mailing list for FairTradeNet

CVS for FairTradeNet on SourceForge
(how to use this cvs)

SourceForge Logo

A more detailed description

Fair Trade Global Communication System

During the European World Shops Conferences in Rome (March 1998) and Gothenburg (March 2000) it clearly emerged the existence of an "information divide" in Fair Trade. Important information data, as sales and market trends, consumer preferences and profiles, producers' stories, evaluations, are not systematically collected or unevenly accessible. Because of the poor communication and information flow, World Shops - and consumers through them - and producers remain fare away, not only geographically.

Several efforts have been done by a few Alternative Trading Organisations (ATOs) to fill the information gap, overcoming a certain resistance to the use of new technologies and innovation processes. Data management systems have been build up at different levels. Although very valuable, they lack a global and co-ordinated strategy and cause some work duplication. Moreover, these proprietary systems usually serve the purposes of restricted Fair Trade communities.

The Fair Trade global communication system proposed, seeks to respond to the different needs of the Fair Trade stakeholders, creating a global framework for the existing and future communication and data collection systems. It aims to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the whole system with positive effects on the satisfaction of people involved and on the turnover of their organisations. Its feasibility is analysed from different points of view - political, technical, financial.

The feasibility study is available at http://www.worldshops.org/news/ftgcs/report_feasibility_study_news_2001.pdf

A more detailed description of the project is available here: http://www.worldshops.org/news/ftgcs/


fair trade situation now

The grey arrows represent the information outgoing from Producer Organisations and World Shops, the white ones the incoming information. As suggested by many Producer Organisations and also by a number of Importing Organisation, the information flow between European and ELDC ATOs is unbalanced. Lots of data, required by Importing and Labelling Organisations, mainly for monitoring purposes, must periodically be provided by Producer Organisations, while the other way round is not working properly (with few exceptions). Between World Shops and Importing Organisations or National Associations, the information flow is more balanced, although it can still be improved. Between National Associations and Importing Organisations, the relations are fairly good with common projects and activities, while the relations between Importing Organisations and Labelling Organisations are still turbulent. It is also clear that between Producer Organisation and consumers there is virtually no communication and that the information is always filtered by other organisations.


fair trade: proposed information flow

As shown in previous figure, the present information flow is inefficiently centralised by the Importing Organisations and, partially, by the Labelling Organisations. The inefficiency does not lie in the centralisation itself, rather in the fact that the internal structure is sometimes inadequate or not open enough to allow an easy access. To solve this problem and allow a smoother flow of information throughout Fair Trade, it is necessary to shift to an open system where each ATO still plays an important role, without being the ultimate owner of the information. Basically the idea is that every ATO provides the open system with the information needed by the others. As soon as the information is recorded in the system, it is immediately available to all the users connected, with the only exception of confidential information.

The grey arrows represent the outgoing information, the white ones the incoming.
Labelling Organisation will upload to the server the consolidated information about producers, market studies, information about the labels. At the same time they can get all relevant information about producers and sales and market trends in World Shops.
Producer Organisations will provide their profile, stories, pictures, videos of producers, pictures, characteristics and use of products, information about events and campaigns, their evaluation of the relations with Importing and Labelling Organisations. At the same time they will get information from the World Shops, especially the trends of sales, market analysis, consumers' profiles.
Importing Organisations will have to provide processed information about sales in World Shops and in other selling points, market studies, price structure, evaluation of Producer Organisations. At the same time they will get information about producers and products, will be able to read the evaluations done by the Labelling organisations and will use sales data and consumers profiles.
World Shops will provide sales data and consumer profiles, directly or through their National Associations or the Importing Organisations. World Shops will be able to download directly producers profiles and stories and show to their customers pictures and videos of producers groups. At the same time they will have their own application to process data on sales that can be used for their internal analysis and planning.
World Shops National Associations will be able to retrieve updated information about producers to build up partnerships for campaigns, to involve producers in the training provided to World Shops, to have a clearer idea of the impact of Fair Trade on producers' lives. They will have to process and upload to the server data from World Shops and provide information about campaigns and any other awareness raising activity undertaken to promote Fair Trade.
The Innovation Task Force will act as an antenna on the World, providing the system with information and predictions about market trends, products development, consumer preferences.
The adoption of the open system concept can help breaking the wall between Producer Organisations and consumers, reducing the present communication gap. Through computers installed in each World Shops, consumers will be able to access up-to-date information about producers groups and their products.
Consumer can even become turist in the countries of Producers they have learnt to know (see Responsible Turism ideas at section  "Ethical/fair trade tourism in developing countries" http://www.big-world.org/upload/chap8.htm ).


Nowadays, there are a number of proprietary systems used by Fair Trade Organizations but there is no global vision and no (or little) interoperability between the different systems.

I think that what is lacking is a global view over the Fair Trade Network.
For example there isn't a uniform way to give ID to products; in this way it is not possible to follow their history and to discover which product sell well and which not, it is almost impossible to take into account feedback on products ("this product is fine but is better if red and not green") and to communicate it to producers so that they will change it. This kind of communication anyway nowadays is supported by email messages or intercontinental call phones and it can take even 2 years to receive feedback on selling data of products in World Shops, sending them to Producers, waiting them to change the new products and resend it. Of course this timing is not appropriate for a Fair Trade activity.

There are a number of challenges:

This project is very ambitious and covers a lot of different but related aspects. I think that only the "free software community" can find a reliable solution to such a big problem and I hope that soon very skilled people will join the project.

The idea will probably be to extend some existent CSCW software but I'm not sure.
There is no constraints up to now concerning programming language.
The system must run on every possible platform.

List of acronyms

ATO      Alternative Trading Organisation
EFTA    European Fair Trade Association   
ELDC    Economically Less Developed Countries   
FLO      Fair trade Labelling Organisation
IFAT     International Federation of Alternative Trade
LNI       Labelling National Initiative
NEWS! Network of the European World Shops
NGO     Non Governmental Organisation

If you would like to join the project or give any kind of suggestion/feedback,
please send an email to