Sourcemap and Mars – making a difference in the Cote D’Ivoire

In part 1 here we introduced you to Sourcemap, a website and enterprise software platform that enables firms to map their supply chains and collect and visualise key information about suppliers. But as well as a mapping tool, it is also a platform for collaboration, allowing different participants to use it in various ways with differing levels of access.

And it is both the mapping and the collaboration element that have helped food group Mars, Inc. with their initiative "Vision for Change" (V4C), aimed at improving cocoa productivity and farmer livelihoods in the Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire). V4C is one element of the company’s Sustainable Cocoa Initiative, which is a long-term project helping to secure the future of cocoa production by prioritizing the needs of farmers. I started my career at Mars, many years ago, and I saw even then that one of the benefits of being a private company is that they can take a genuinely long-term view in cases like this, perhaps more easily than quoted businesses can.

So the connection between Sourcemap and Mars came through the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in their “Media Lab”, which was where the founder of Sourcemap, Leo Bonanni, developed the product. Mars, which also works with the Lab, saw that the Sourcemap product could be used as a dashboard to support their work in the cocoa supply chain.

Here is Bonanni writing on the Sustainable Cocoa Initiative website.

“V4C includes multiple workstreams aimed at supplying better planting materials, training farmers in good agricultural practices, and investing in community-driven development projects across the Soubré region of Côte d’Ivoire. By 2020, the project aims to reach 150,000 cocoa farmers. Sourcemap is providing the central dashboard for the Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) of each workstream. Do improved planting materials raise cocoa yields? Will farmer trainings lead to widespread adoption of good practices? How do community-driven projects impact farmer livelihoods? The M&E dashboard will help answer these questions by providing a shared platform for monitoring every intervention and evaluating their impact on the surrounding communities”.

So program participants will enter data into the Sourcemap system, such as real-time progress indicators around community development projects. That data can be analysed, and can also be mapped, which sometimes identify trends or factors that aren't immediately obvious from bare numbers.

But as well as building this repository of data, there is also a social network side to this. Communities are given project funding, for new schools perhaps, and the platform is also used to share progress reports, pictures or even business case documents. This is networking, but also has a real educational element as well, with the cocoa programme running side by side with developmental and educational goals.

Different groups can see and access different things on the platform. Indeed, that is one of the product's key areas of competitive advantage - different dashboards are developed to meet the various needs. So as well as the attractive (and useful) mapping abilities, what we see in Sourcemap is, as Bonanni puts it, a "social network for supply chains".

Now there are some other solution providers who have been thinking in this way - Rollstream, now part of GXS and called “Active Community”, is perhaps the best example. But the ability to tie this social network concept together with the mapping element makes Sourcemap a very interesting idea.

At the moment, Sourcemap it is a very small firm, but the basic concept and platform, plus the interest they have already got from blue-chip firms such as Mars suggests we're going to see rapid growth. We'll certainly be keeping an eye on them, as well as following the progress of the excellent Mars initiative.

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