Despite being the second largest source of income after agriculture in low income countries, the craft sector receives only 0.3% of all impact investing, according to the latest report of the Global Impact Investing Network. Carved wooden bowls, silver jewellery, woven carpets, traditional oak stools, embroidered blouses made of traditional fabrics… Global retail chains are increasingly developing long-term relationships with social enterprises, sourcing a wide range of goods from food to handicrafts. Two main trends have led to this development: growing customer interest in “authentic” products on the one hand, and on the other, big retail companies deciding to increase transparency of production, sustainability and social responsibility. But although demand is growing, particularly from retail groups in the US and Europe, small-scale artisans, often belonging to communities threatened by poverty, lack the skills they need to engage in retail cooperation. This factor holds them back from taking advantage of this market opportunity.
Why not simply develop a roadmap that links small handicraft enterprises with larger companies? co/rizom is developing this process. It is designed to bring traditional crafts to a wider market and ensure their long-term sustainability. This methodology enables artisans from vulnerable communities – grouped into small social enterprises – to become reliable and trusted suppliers of major retailers. It also ensures their financial stability, giving them a solid basis for financial independence.
More than 50 artisans are currently participating in the project. Creating the co/rizom roadmap involves adjusting tested social enterprise and product development procedures and adapting basic marketing and branding practices for inclusion in an open source tool kit that will facilitate replication of the approach at scale.
Traditional crafts can only survive if artisans are empowered and supported. The project thus helps to preserve traditional handicrafts. Vulnerable communities must be enabled to move from their peripheral position into the mainstream of society so they too can benefit from the general prosperity. We must build and maintain communities and collective resilience in the financial and social sectors. Everyone is entitled to an equal and secure place in society. With our projects we aim to achieve sustainable economic development for disadvantaged groups and communities, and thus help provide people with new perspectives for a dignified life – based on their own skills and competencies.