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Artisans will not go digital unless they become creative participants in the process

The following is a guest post written by Gina Hollenbach from , an impact venture studio that aims to unleash the sustainable development of Latin America through the growth of small businesses.

Overcoming challenges to artisan digitalization

What is the biggest challenge facing the in Mexico? It has two central components: limited access to markets and low adoption of digital tools. FUNDES Catalyst empowers micro-entrepreneurs through building solutions such as Pymental, a gamified e-learning platform for digital skills.

The first iteration of Pymental faced an unexpected challenge: target users (artisans, restaurants, and beauty salons) weren’t engaging with the platform’s content. Leveraging FUNDES’s experience working with Latin American micro-enterprises and the learnings from Pymental’s first nine months of operations, our team discovered two key insights. First, the platform lacked practical “how-to” content on accessing and using digital tools. Second, the artisan segment seemed most motivated to increase their levels of digitalization so we had to change the model.

: a reimagined e-learning platform focused on relatable peer-to-peer micro-content for artisans in Mexico. Traditional e-learning platforms typically provide a longer, course-based experience to learners and lack the practical format most effective for individuals with low existing digital capabilities. Pymental fills the existing gap in “how-to” content and provides a faster, more engaging learning experience through its micro-learning format. Artisans were not only the most digitally curious segment, but they presented more time available to learn new skills. They saw a high value gained from selling online due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s impacts on the customer flow in markets, and a higher potential to sell online due to the transportable nature of their products.

Caption: Pymental 2.0 is a reimagined e-learning platform focused on relatable peer-to-peer micro-content for artisans in Mexico. Images courtesy of FUNDES.

This pivot from the original version of Pymental not only promotes engagement based on content length and its “how-to” nature, but also directly engages artisans in the content production process. The power of peer-to-peer learning cannot be understated.

Understanding the relationship between artisans and digital content

Understanding the analog cultural context within the artisan community required interviewing artisans in Mexico City and surrounding areas to understand two central characteristics: their existing use of digital tools (e.g., social media and online selling platforms) and their existing use of online platforms (e.g., YouTube) to learn new skills. Evaluating this “secret sauce” not only helped us select artisans as our key user group, but also allowed us to identify several artisans with higher levels of these characteristics who could serve as our early adopter “community influencers.” These community influencers are an important route to building digital confidence, as many artisans are hesitant to sell their products online due to concerns about design theft.

Understanding the artisan community in Mexico required interviewing artisans to understand two central characteristics: their existing use of digital tools and their existing use of online platforms to learn new skills. Photo courtesy of FUNDES.

Artisan’s skills are unique, and as such, need relatable content to engage — the “traditional” e-learning process isn’t sufficient. has allowed us to implement Pymental’s new focus on micro-content, community interaction, and direct engagement with artisans in the creative content development process.

Strategies for engagement in content development

Based on insights gained from field interviews with artisans, three key strategies for effective engagement emerged:

  • Early involvement. Actively engaging early adopters in the artisan community (our “community influencers”) in the content creation process will not only help our platform scale, but allows for a continual flow of learnings — ensuring that Pymental’s offering finds a strong fit in the artisan community.
  • Relatable micro-content as a way to increase engagement. The power of relatability stems from the familiarity and comfort associated with seeing someone from your community in an educational setting. Short, effective, peer-led micro-content prevents boredom and disinterest and encourages higher levels of video completion.
  • Provide opportunities to share artistic skills. The unique capabilities of this user group must be recognized and celebrated. This applies not only in terms of empowering individual artisans to share their designs, but also in how this act of sharing increases engagement from other artisans.

These three core strategies are essential in creating the right fit between product and community. They also allow Pymental to provide value to digital tool providers who seek to connect new groups with the digital world.

First proof of success

True engagement requires real relationships with users and active listening to their needs. Pymental’s new model builds trust within a group that tends to distrust the concept of sharing their products online, empowering the artisan community to explore opportunities within the world of digital tools and online selling platforms.

So far, the videos on have had over 53,000 views, and we’re excited to see the impact of our minimum viable product launch in early 2023. The incredible potential for digital channels to increase the profits of artisan micro-businesses can only be made a reality through the trust generated by genuine inclusion.

Interested in learning more about digital capacity building for small businesses? Explore Strive’s . For more information on human-centered engagement Latin American micro-enterprises, follow FUNDES on .



Strive Community is a global philanthropic initiative launched by Caribou Digital and the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth. The program will equip 5 million small business owners with innovative digital solutions that unleash their potential as catalysts of inclusive growth

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