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The Alliance for Artisan Enterprise, founded in November 2012 and hosted by the Aspen Institute, is a collaborative effort of over 70 artisan businesses, artisan support organizations, corporations, government agencies, and other partners who are working together to promote the full potential of the global artisan sector.  

The Alliance for Artisan Enterprise was created to elevate the importance of the artisan sector, support and grow artisan businesses, and share best practices in a collaborative learning community. 

Alliance @ Santa Fe 2014 Summary Report


Alliance @ Santa Fe 2014 Summary Report

Natalie Deuschle

The Alliance for Artisan Enterprise’s annual conference in Santa Fe this July was our second since our founding in November 2012 and it was a great pleasure to see our collective progress. Despite a sudden change in venue from Morningstar Ranch to La Posada de Santa Fe Hotel due to inclement weather, the Alliance Team was eager to welcome the Alliance and kick off our biggest event of the year. 

Day One 

The conference began with a lunch and introduction by Alliance director Peggy Clark to the 60+ participants who traveled to the meeting from all over the world, ranging from corporate representatives of The Coca Cola Company, Walmart and Eileen Fisher to local artisans from the folk market.  Peggy then discussed the impact of the Alliance to date from results of our impact survey. 

Next, Peggy introduced the first speaker and Alliance partner, Carlos Pierre, Manager of Strategic Initiatives at Kiva, the world’s first online lending platform. A non-profit organization, Kiva’s mission is to use microfinance—as little as $25 loans—to empower people to discover opportunity and alleviate poverty in the world. This loan system is evidence of the Alliance directly supporting artisan businesses by bringing capital to the sector. The Alliance is thrilled to have the privilege of partnering with Kiva, which will allow our members to have access to a trustworthy loan system that values relationships.

For the afternoon, participants attended one of three Deep Dive conversations of their choosing. The Alliance was fortunate to welcome a wide range of experts who brilliantly led the conversations.

 Design Interventions That Work, Cynthia Lawson

Cynthia cofounded and runs a research lab, Development through Empowerment, Entrepreneurship, and Design (DEED) at the Parsons School and is also the Associate Provost at The New School. Her vision is to create more equitable artisan enterprises, blurring the line between “artisan” and “designer”. Her session explored methods to support artisans in emerging economies, run collaborations between university students and artisans, and create outside-of-the-classroom learning opportunities for scholars. The group discussed questions such as “Should I give the artisans my designs or let them only use their own designs?” and “How do you define a new vs old tradition?”

Artisan Enterprises: Challenges and Pathways to Scale, Karen Grossman

Karen was the former vice president of Social Innovation at Mercy Corps. Her sessions discussed the different ways to scale artisan businesses, in social impact, in sustainability, and in production increases. Karen and the group discussed examples of ways to achieve scale- through product scale-upm organization scale-up, and scale impacts at the industry level. Led by Karen, the group discussed the different meanings of scale and shared their own meaning of change. 

 The Faces of Trade: Designing a Communications Campaign to Make Trade Policy Work for Artisan Businesses, Shari Berenbach & Lyndon Haviland

 Shari is the President and CEO of US-Africa Development Foundation. Lyndon is the on the Global Health and Development Board at the Aspen Institute and runs Haviland consulting. Their session explored ways to strategically tackle the African Opportunity for Growth & Opportunity Act (AGOA)  re-authorization on behalf of artisans and how to develop a public education campaign that would help to make the case for AGOA support of artisan businesses. 

In the afternoon, a plenary panel discussion on “The Challenge of Scaling Up to Meet the Global Marketplace: True Stories of Sourcing, Marketing, and Everything in Between” was featured. Peggy moderated the panel featuring Jackie Duff from the Coca-Cola Company, Gina Lopez from Walmart, and Amanda North from Artisan Connect. Jackie Duff introduced Coca Cola’s 5by20 campaign and explained how artisans are an important part of the company’s value chain. Next, Gina Lopez shared Walmart’s Women’s Economic Empowerment initiatives. Lopez stated the question and goal that Walmart is pursuing “How can we create access to global markets for small women owned businesses?” Lastly on this panel, Amanda North shared her background and inception of her company, Artisan Connect. Amanda revealed the challenges she has seen in connecting artisans with the global marketplace as a startup web platform.

 Emily Green of Green Design Link asked Gina Lopez “How do you deal with the logistics issues when dealing with artisans? Walmart is known for being strict.” Gina responded that Walmart has a team working on logistics and is creating community centers that empower women and that can pass Walmart’s regulations for a safe working environment. Megan Macdonald of Sasa Designs by the Deaf shared that for her, sourcing, rather than finding buyers, is her biggest challenge. In response to this statement, Gina disclosed that Walmart has a supplier academy that provides training. Further, the company has started an accelerator program that is hosting a one week intensive program that invites artisans to come to Arkansas to learn how to work with Walmart. She also informed the audience that Walmart has mentoring programs and an internal women owned businesses advisory council.  Jackie Duff responded that Coca Cola has many training programs and training materials are available for all women that 5by20 works with, especially in areas with illiteracy. 

The day drew to a close with a reception and an impromptu outdoor market in the courtyard under the trees. Our team had the honor of presenting the 2014 Alliance Hero Award to Nilda Callañaupa Alvarez, Founder of the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco (CTTC). Nilda shares with her guild of 650 weavers in the Peruvian highlands the skill of using natural, non-synthetic pigments to dye their wool. Together, CTTC works to revive weaving techniques near extinction and keep the long tradition of weaving alive and thriving in their communities.

Day Two

The second day began with a plenary session featuring three innovators: Amy Hall from EILEEN FISHER, Nina Smith from Goodweave, and Natalie Mundy from Sahalandy. The topic was “Where Values Meet Markets”.

 Amy Hall spoke on the mission of EILEEN FISHER. She mentioned manufacturing, social, and environmental challenges that artisans must work together on to overcome. Their current initiatives involve projects in India, Peru and Ethiopia to provide women-owned business grants. She informed the audience that only 3% of global clothing production is made in the USA and that Eileen Fisher produces 22% of its clothing in the USA.

Nina Smith is the Executive Director of Goodweave, a non-profit organization that aims to stop child labor in the carpet industry. Nina spoke about promoting decent working conditions, wages, working hours, safety, and humane treatment. Goodweave provides rehabilitation facilities and educational centers along with health clinics and daycares.

Natalie Mundy is the Founder and Director of Finance & Operations at Sahalandy. She presented a New School report that researched and assessed the value and worth of a certification model.

Following that presentation, Alliance consultant Simon Ellis presented his research findings on the scope and impact of the artisan sector – a project funded by the Alliance. Simon asserted that the common belief that no country has craft statistics is misleading. He strongly advocated for acquiring data and evidence that crafts can change lives, and presented preliminary data on the scope of the sector. To view this report, please login here using password alliance2012.

During lunch the second day, participants were organized into several small “cluster conversations” in which participants could converse with each other on topics they had expressed interest in. The conversation titled “Social Impact Compliance” was led by Kaylynn Jordan for ESNet, who mentioned that the group decided to move forward using the social impact compliance work already started by Nina Smith of Goodweave and Emily West of The West Foundation. They concluded that the first step would be to create a declaration or statement that establishes ethical standards specific to artisans and also matches with global marketplace expectations. This group has continued working together on this initiative since the meeting.

In another cluster conversation, Carlos Pierre, of Kiva, guided a group called “Kiva and Artisans”. He said there were three take-away messages from this exchange that tapped into larger business issues:

  1. Create a Hackathon to meet the need of the artisan sector for solving basic IT problems. If there was an App which would allow artisans to bundle shipments from a similar area going to a similar destination, there could be massive cost savings, but communication between artisan organizations in the same region is limited.
  2. Partnerships with large shipping countries. For example, getting space on Walmart containers and then getting Fedex or UPS to help with the last mile distribution in the US. Aggregation of Artisan Alliance members efforts should allow for at least preferential rates. 
  3. Developing a Code of Conduct - while not mandatory, it would help clarify to some what it means to be an Artisan Alliance member. Using on-line tools (google docs and google forms) to source feedback from members and develop some core principles that everybody can agree to.

Lastly, the final plenary session of the conference, “Vision and Values: Building Artisan Businesses that Make a Difference” featured Joy Ndungutse of Gahaya Links, Monica Garry from The Bridge Fund, and Alycia Kellman from Grassroots Business Fund.

Joy spoke on her experience as a woman in the Rwanda genocide and the profound healing that occurred as a result of the community producing artisan work together. Monica shared the vision of The Bridge Fund, an organization that supports over 300,000 Tibetans in China. The Bridge Fund has established two Tibetan nomad cooperatives to provide a platform for economic development and works to preserve cultural tradition and identity. Alycia discussed the work of the Grassroots Business Fund in growing viable businesses in Africa, Asian, and Latin America. One of its clients, Jaipur Rugs, is one of the largest manufacturers of hand-made carpets in the world. GBF has reached over 40,000 people working in this social enterprise in India and witnessed over 26% growth in revenue over the past four years.

In closing, Peggy invited select participants to share “6 Great Ideas” from their perspective of the conference. Six Alliance Members answered the question “What is one great idea you are taking away from the conference?”

  1.  Bring university students to the artisan field and pay artisans a university salary to teach the students. – Nina Weissberg, Weissberg Foundation
  2. Leverage contacts at the Aspen Institute and use that network and brand for good. – Catherine Shimony, Global Goods Partners
  3. Create a communications and public education campaign to support the work of artisans, “The Enchantment of Being Uniquely Human”. – Shari Berenbach, United States African Development Foundation
  4. Network strategically to combat the inaccessible and expensive nature of shipping. – Nilda Callanaupa, Center of Traditional Textiles of Cusco  
  5. Continue to host gatherings for artisans to share best practices, understand collective struggles, and take pride in who we are and what we do. – Rangina Hamidi, Kandahar Treasures
  6. Celebrate diversity and use it to our strength, each diverse approach presents its own difficulties. We can use these different approaches for our collective strength in this new economy. – Kythzia Barria, Innovando la Tradicion/Colectivo 1050

What a wonderful two days! We walked in with expectant ears and excited voices, and came out with a better understanding of the shared struggles and triumphs of elevating the artisan sector. The conference may be over, but the discussion is not. Comment below to let us know what you think, and what you would like to see next year!  Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram and Twitter @allianceartisan