Born and raised under scarcities and limitations that no human should face today, millions of villagers form enterprises and organizations to make better lives for themselves and their children. My Oral Village is field-testing oral tools that help members to build trust, protect their rights as shareholders, and achieve exponentially greater success. This involves oralizing constitutions, financial statements, and the work of general meetings and boards of directors. Proven tools will be published here.

A self-help group in southern India.

The Villagers’ Dilemma
Imagine for a moment that you live in a poor village, and you believe that you can improve your future – and your children’s — by building a local financial institution. A decision was recently taken by a large group of villagers to form one. Now you face a dilemma – who to elect as a leader?

  • One candidate is respected and literate, but not well liked. Many people wonder if they can trust him.
  • The other candidate is respected, liked and viewed as very trustworthy and hard-working. Unfortunately, she is illiterate.

This choice has been faced by millions of villagers, and no matter which path they walk, it is more likely to end in tragedy than transformation. The first candidate abuses the trust given to him, and the second is unable to protect the institution’s assets as they grow.

Socrates Warned Us About This
It is us who have placed villagers on the horns of this cruel dilemma. At the dawn of Greek literacy, Socrates warned against precisely the attitude we have taken. In our literate culture we assume, with no rational support or empirical evidence, that the written word is somehow more trustworthy than the spoken one.

Socrates in dialogue with his students. Thirteenth century Seljuk illustration. Topkapi Palace Library, Istanbul, Turkey.

As a result, we teach illiterate villagers to rely on text when they start and operate financial institutions. Fortified by our cultural biases, we assume that if text works in our culture it should work in theirs – and if it doesn’t,the fault lies with them — not with us.

The consequences of this bias are pervasive. Villagers deposit written constitutions at the bottom of cash-boxes and forget them, neither trusting them nor knowing how to use them. Along with them are forgotten the tools and practices that protect savings, sustain the rights of shareholders and limit concentrations of individual power.

For more information see Governing the Oral Institution.

It’s Time to Get the Coding Right
At My Oral Village, we believe that coding an organization’s vital operational and governance information in a way that is intelligible to a majority of the organization’s owners and users is not simply a minimum condition for success: it is a potential game-changer in the war against poverty. Transparency nurtures accountability. Transparency and accountability nurture more effective organizations. And with more effective organizations, serving more of their basic needs, villagers will keep their children in school longer and expand economic and social opportunities in their villages.

Digital designs, if adapted to oral capabilities and attitudes, can be transformative, especially in remote communities. From OIM savings group ledgers and passbooks to mobile phone-enabled e-payment networks, the opportunities for deepening financial inclusion are inspiring.



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