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Business Management for Illiterate People



I'm heavily involved in support micro business development and a key challenge we have always come across is how best to advise illiterate people on how to keep financial records, stock taking etc. What options are there beyond the more or less traditional approach of integrating literacy training into business management programs? In my experience literacy training often has low success rates and often people who have just learnt to read and write struggle to keep and update written business management tools straight away.




Hi Rob,

if you can trust one of the local people you have in your training program, and if you can teach that person some record keeping skills, then maybe that person can devise a method for the others. That person may become the local "chartered accountant" for the community. Who knows, local creativity may surprise you. Cheers,


aidos.nando gravatar imageaidos.nando ( 2016-06-21 07:44:14 )

3 Answers


Maybe it is worth looking at the ancient history of such tools?

For example the use of knotted strings or carved wooden sticks (split for "double accounting") and such non-written tools have been used for centuries in many societies.

Mary Allen
Practical Action

Maybe also worth looking at whether something like the REFLECT approach could be helpful to examine some of the issues that the people who need to keep records are facing, and enable them to develop tools to meet their own needs


Dear Krischan and Mary,

Thanks for your answers. I have some experience with REFLECT and other similar techniques. They have been successful for increasing numeracy and financial management but in my limited experience there remains challenges in sales recording, stock taking etc.

I have found a company called Somtou ( who seem to have a technological solution to this problem. In addition there are other options moving away from written records, particularly in using voice recording technology. Do you have experience in these types of solutions? Do you know of any other dedicated solutions?

These solutions obviously have a few drawbacks to overcome, which may limit there effectiveness.