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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. 


The Launch of the Global Campaign for the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise

Natalie Deuschle

In September 2015, the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise and the U.S. Department of State launched the Global Campaign for the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise to promote the value of the global artisan sector. Events spanned three days, including a reception on the rooftop of PricewaterhouseCoopers, a forum at the U.S. Department of State, and an innovations workshop for Alliance members at the Aspen Institute. 

On September 9, 2015, guests from around the world gathered at sunset, overlooking the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial from the PricewaterhouseCoopers rooftop. Ambassador Cathy Russell of the Office of Global Women’s Issues and Alliance Director Peggy Clark opened the reception, introducing the Global Campaign and the extraordinary group of guests. Ambassador Melanne Verveer, Executive Director of Georgetown’s Institute for Women, Peace and Security, Verna Eggleston of Bloomberg Philanthropies, and Reema Nanavaty of SEWA each shared insightful remarks on value creating innovations for the artisan economy. Meanwhile, attendees from across the United States, India, Rwanda, Laos, Mexico, and others introduced themselves and set the stage for a groundbreaking forum at the U.S. Department of State.

On September 10, the U.S. Department of State opened its doors to artisans and artisan supporters from around the world for Artisan Enterprise: The New Startup Economy.  The event was hosted by the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise and the Office of Global Women’s Issues.

The program consisted of four major panels:

  1. The Economic Might of the Artisan Sector
  2. Country Innovations to Support the Artisan Economy
  3. Corporate Leadership for the Artisan Economy
  4. Bridging the Finance Gap: Innovations for Artisans

During these panels, industry leaders addressed how to best support the artisan economy. Panelists came from social enterprises, large corporations, artisan businesses, and federal bureaus. They encouraged collaboration, creativity, and transparency throughout the value chain. Panelists addressed the roles of technology, intermediaries, and governments.

Each panel was broken up by “spark talks,” brief 5-minute discussions supporting artisan enterprise and the creative economy:

  1. “Why Does the Creative Economy Matter?” by Franklin Leonard, The Black List
  2. “Artisan Entrepreneurs as Peacemakers,” by Joy Ndungutse, Gahaya Links
  3. “Tapping the Creative Economy as an Economic Growth Strategy,” by Marcelo Cabrol, IDB
  4. “From Design to the Hands of the Consumer,” by Judy Achar, Mitz Enterprise
  5. “Catalyzing Systemic Change: Building Inclusive Value Chains,” by Shalini Mehan, UNHCR

The Alliance was honored to welcome Secretary of State John Kerry as the event’s keynote speaker. He addressed the economy, the Sustainable Development Goals, and artisans:  

“If the creative economy, globally, were a country, it would already be equal to the fourth-largest economy in the world with the fourth-largest workforce and rank ninth in the value of exports,” and “The Alliance for Artisan Enterprise reflects exactly the kind of innovative thinking that we need to engage in if we’re going to expand this playing field as rapidly as we need to if we’re going to be able to implement our very ambitious post-2015 development goals and agenda.”

Watch Secretary Kerry’s complete address here.

Outside the auditorium, guests were invited to an exhibition hall to examine woven rugs from Guatemala, traditional beading from South Sudan, hand-printed textiles from Laos, videos of artisans at work, and more. Fifteen exhibits represented finalists of the Artisan Enterprise Multimedia Competition, a global call for artisans and artisan supporters to submit creative multimedia content capturing the value of the $34 billion artisan economy. Throughout the day, event attendees and supporters around the world voted online for their favorite multimedia exhibit to receive the People’s Choice Award.

Finally, Ambassador Russell and Peggy Clark honored the 2015 Alliance for Artisan Enterprise Artisan Hero and multimedia competition winners. Joy Ndungutse and Janet Nkubana, co-founders of Gahaya Links, received the prestigious Artisan Hero Award for their promotion of peace and women’s economic development in post-genocide Rwanda. Shivani Dhar of India was the multimedia competition’s People’s Choice Award winner. Tim Kerns of Sasa Designs by the Deaf was honored as the competition’s Grand Prize Winner. His video chronicling the story of deaf artisans in Kenya demonstrated the power and potential of artisan enterprise. Review all the multimedia finalists’ content here!

The launch of the Global Campaign for Artisan Enterprise was an extraordinary success. Secretary Kerry historically affirmed the economic value of the artisan sector. Guests asked questions, networked, and thought broadly about collaborative approaches to artisan enterprise. Panelists addressed innovative ways to advance artisan enterprise worldwide.

The Alliance invites artisans, supporters, innovators, and policymakers to continue the momentum of the Global Campaign for Artisan Enterprise. Together, we can raise awareness and further the power and potential of the global artisan sector. Start by joining the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise #ChooseArtisan Thunderclap, a social media campaign to share the value of artisan enterprise with 1 million people throughout the world. Learn more and sign up today!

See the full program agenda for the Global Campaign for the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise here, and learn more about our panelists and speakers here. Apply for Alliance membership, sign up for our newsletter, or email to get involved!