Seeking Social Change Through Artisanship

ICCI project (Training Creative and Cultural Entrepreneurs and their intermediaries on internationalisation) is a KA2 Strategic Partnership for Development of Innovation financed by European Commission under the Erasmus + program.


The project is focused on training creative and cultural industries’ operators (both entrepreneurs and business intermediaries) to get the skills and competences needed to internationalize their business or their cultural projects.

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Author: Dahlia Rodriguez

Handcrafted Textile Garments Crafts & Social Change Learning permaculture and connecting to nature

One thought on “Seeking Social Change Through Artisanship”

  1. Hello Dalia,

    I saw your publication on Linked In today about your new blog and request for comments. I normally do not make comments on these subjects but I perceive that you have a genuine interest in helping women through artisan work. I reviewed your blogsite as well. Congratulations for your ideas and passion.

    I have worked with artisan groups, mostly women over the course of the past 10 years between Central America and Peru. It is one of the most difficult and challenging areas to work in due to the constant confusion that many other projects inject into cultures and society. The NGO´s from around the world which have a focus in strengthening all-women artisan groups generally make the same mistakes over and over again. What mistakes do I see? They try to ¨save¨ all women, by organizing as many as possible in to associations/business organizations. Then the NGO tries to provide some capital, training and then brings these groups of women to a few local or regional trade fairs. This is the basic and general model, of course I know there are a endless number of workshops which cover a variety of topics from sexual abuse, women´s rights, self-esteem, etc.

    In the foundation of this help I have found that the women and men have one common priority and that priority is often times not well understood by those who try to help. The priority has little to do with cultural preservation and other romantic ideas that us foreigners have for most of these people. It has much more to do with creating a meaningful income, period. They want self-sustainable economic development. The people are happy to be able to conserve their cultural practices, etc. but without the income opportunity, the level of interest in artisan work would be near zero. It is so easy for people to come from the outside (other countries) and sell these ¨poor¨ people any concept. But if the idea of artisan work does not have a solid plan in terms of creating well organized associations/cooperatives including the enabling of the leaders to be true leaders in a ¨new world¨ fully equipped to act as managers and administrators and marketers; and do not assist these noble women to real and TRUE market access, everyone is just wasting their time.

    The other mistake that I see being made is that those who try to help, try to save everyone. You cannot ¨save¨ everyone, in this context. Their is literally not ¨enough¨ room on the ¨boat¨. What I mean is, if you step in to any artisan market in the world, especially, Latin America, what do you see? As a business asesor, in this case, I see hundreds of artisan crafters trying to compete to sell the same basic things to a very limited market base. There are only so many consumers and potential consumers for any given product. This is not a good model for creating sustainable income. The model has to look at other angles and unique strategies or else we only create a bunch of hope and dreams in people who later will find, ¨it did not work¨. In fact, they may come out even worse economically then better because now they have incurred new costs in their lives which they did not have before.

    I have been living between Nicaragua and Peru full time since 2008 and currently in Peru since 2012. One of my specialties, as you know, is working with all-women organizations: artisan and specialty foods. I was hired last year to do a study on 10 all-women artisan organizations in a region in North Central Peru, the Amazon. The study was to identify the current situation of these groups and their needs. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism contracted me for the work. It was obvious to me before I began, what works and what does not, but the Government needed more concrete data in order to assess the situation. In the end, it was clear to them that one has to focus on the groups that have the most potential in every sense of the word and to try to assist as many of those as possible as long as they models of assistance do not over-cross too much thereby creating market saturations. Additionally, the assistance must include very serious and long term capacity training in organizational skills. It does not matter how beautiful the crafts are if the people do not learn how to organize and manage their ¨business¨. To ignore this is to create a system which will likely fail in the short term.

    I could write so much more on this topic but will rest here. However before stopping, I will recommend for you to take a look at an organization which I helped a few times in Guatemala. It is called Didart. I think you will find this very interesting. For me it is an excellent model for helping artisan, all-women, organizations: If you wish to know more about Didart, just search the internet by their name and you will find many other sources of information.

    I wish you all the best and hope you find some of what I say to be helpful.



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