The Alliance for Artisan Enterprise and the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues U.S. Department of State have designed an artisan value chain toolkit that has been recently piloted in the Philippines and Rwanda. Artisan value chains in the Philippines and Rwanda offer unique challenges and opportunities as well as striking comparisons. In each country, artisan enterprises currently present a very promising mechanism for inclusive economic development, bringing capital and resources to women in the informal sector, and improving livelihoods in economically depressed areas.
Greta Schettler from the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues U.S. Department of State (S/GWI) and Natalie Deuschle (author of blog entry) from the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise (AAE) traveled to the Philippines to pilot this artisan value chain toolkit. Created by the Department of State and the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise, the toolkit has two goals. The first is to provide stakeholders the ability to visually see and understand all components of the value chain. The second is to create a common language enabling all stakeholders to better work together.
The questions explored while piloting the toolkit were:
- Can the toolkit be utilized with minimal training and intervention?
- How might the toolkit be leveraged in conjunction with existing value chain analysis frameworks?
- Does the toolkit help create a common language from which domain specific patterns can be extrapolated?
- Given the larger sample set, could business model archetypes be derived from data revealed from the toolkit?
While in the Philippines, Greta and I met with a variety of stakeholders who tested the toolkit. The first group we visited, the Echostore, is based in Manila, and offers fair trade and sustainable products that provide livelihoods for marginalized populations in the Philippines. The Echostore staff dove right in to testing the toolkit!
The steps of the toolkit are:
- Using pictures and words, draw out all transactions that occur for each stakeholder of the value chain, i.e. Designing, Sourcing, Making and Selling
- Note the takeaways from the ecosystem of each component of the value chain
- Note what each stakeholder is thinking, feeling and saying
- Perform a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis for each stakeholder
- Determine opportunities for innovation for each stakeholder
After the artisan value chain map was completed, we debriefed with the Echostore team on their findings. A unique factor of the design thinking process is the element of empathy involved. Emotional aspects of business transactions are often not considered in value chain analysis but can offer significant insight into areas ripe for innovation. This particular aspect of the toolkit allowed Echostore to understand their value chain in a new way.
Thank you Echostore for being the first Filipino artisan business to test the toolkit!
On the second day, AAE and S/GWI traveled to GK Enchanted Farm, a platform for supporting social entrepreneurs in the Philippines. The creation of GK Enchanted Farm was inspired by founder Tony Meloto, who desires to create an economy that doesn't leave anyone behind. GK Enchanted Farm's mission is to end poverty for five million families by 2024.
The first part of the farm we visited was IASIS, a spa and wellness center that trains aspiring body workers and aestheticians. Meditation and yoga classes are offered to farm residents and guests.
Next at the GK Enchanted Farm, we visited the Center for Bayanihan Economics, where social entrepreneurs on the farm attend business classes. Social entrepreneurs on the farm are encouraged to find the economic aspect of everything available at the farm. Each crop on the farm is tied to a social enterprise, i.e. pineapples are used to make jam. Bayani Brew, a juice brand created from the farm, is the most advanced social enterprise at the farm to date.
Lastly, we visited Plush & Play, a social enterprise that designs stuffed toys designed by women in small Filipino villages. About 75% of the toys are made in women's homes. Plush & Play Program Manager, Fabien Courteille, explained that when the Filipino textile industry moved to China & Cambodia, it left many women jobless but also created an opportunity for a social enterprise. Although the textiles Plush & Play uses for toys are made in China, Fabien believes that if the product is shown to be successful, a Filipino textile manufacturer will come in to provide textiles for the industry. His dream is to use native banana and pineapple fiber for the toys.
Later that day, we visited the Community Crafts Center of the Philippines (CCAP) Fairtrade for Development Inc, which focuses on the export trading of handicraft products made by urban and rural poor.
The feedback we received from CCAP on the toolkit was that the innovation section was the most helpful. They also suggested that it would be nice to track what the recurring programs are in other artisan business value chains.
On the third day of our trip, we met with Villar SIPAG: Social Institute for Poverty Alleviation & Governance. Villar SIPAG is a foundation created by Congresswoman Cynthia Villar that has social enterprise projects to provide livelihood to underserved Filipinos. We first visited Villar SIPAG's coconut factory where workers bring coconuts to a facility where they are ground for fiber. Workers have the option to sell the fiber products to Villar SIPAG or to private sector buyers.
Next, we visited Villar SIPAG's recycling center on Las Pinas River. This livelihoods project employs people to collect trash from Las Pinas River, which is then melted and turned into desk chairs for public schools.
In the afternoon, we hosted a roundtable discussion, Optimizing Artisan Value Chains, at the Shangri La Manila Hotel. Individuals from the private, governmental and non profit sector were all present, creating a diverse audience that brought many different perspectives to the conversation. During this discussion, we presented the artisan value chain toolkit, discussed whether or not it would be useful, how it could be improved and plans for implementation. Participants who had already used the toolkit shared their experience and others offered their feedback as well. The lively conversation turned to networking and guests commented that simply being in the same room with so many people involved in and passionate about the artisan sector was a wonderful experience.
On the fourth day of our trip, Greta and I met with SAFFY, the marketing arm of Social Action Foundation for Rural and Urban Development. SAFFY works with artisans who are self-reliant and have separate businesses of their own. Taking a holistic business approach, SAFFY focuses on developing several different aspects of their artisans, social, mental, physical, spiritual and economic capacity building.
SAFFY staff were eager to test the artisan value chain toolkit. Staff from different areas of the value chain worked on the toolkit together. They found their experience in completing the toolkit to be collaborative and said that people enjoyed brainstorming their value chain together and that it became more interactive as the process progressed.
In the afternoon, we traveled south of Manila to Lumban Province, where we met with the Lumban Embroidery Association (LEA), a cooperative of weavers established in July 2004. LEA has 20 regular members and a network of 200 artisan cooperatives. Artisans are paid by the piece and there is always a middle man trader involved with each purchase order.
LEA staff worked together to complete the toolkit, which they found to be helpful due to its visual and emotional aspects. They said that the process will help LEA reach their goal of selling their embroidery in the United States.
We had a wonderful time piloting the artisan value chain toolkit in the Philippines. The Alliance team has also tested this toolkit in Rwanda, learnings from that trip are forthcoming. Next steps for this pilot project are to share the toolkit with Alliance members, publish it online and share it in US Embassies around the world.
Written by: Natalie Deuschle
Photos by: Natalie Deuschle