The Alliance for Artisan Enterprise was launched by Hillary Clinton in 2012 to “break down barriers commonly faced in the artisan sector.” This past spring AAE launched a program utilizing an, “Artisan Value Chain Toolkit” in two pilot countries, Rwanda and the Philippines. The toolkit uses visual symbols (the artisans do not need to be literate to participate) to map the flow of partners, suppliers, producers and traders involved. Its aim is to create a visual and shared language for all of the components of this value chain/supply chain in order to work in a more cohesive manner. AAE is collecting empirical evidence and will study the artisan industry, break down its components and determine how best to assist artisans and promote the handcraft sector.
It was noted that in Rwanda, the participants came up with ideas and changes for each area of their value chain toolkit, designing, sourcing, making and selling. AAE discovered that the toolkit was most helpful for the groups who work with the women artisan cooperatives. Indego Africa took part in this exercise and noted that it helped them to think about long-term planning and partnerships and to work on the “chokepoints” along the chain. They said they planned to use the kit in their women’s leadership training program. Another participant, Gahaya Links said they expect the toolkit will help them “…be better strategic thinkers and planners.”
The artisan sector is the second largest employer in the developing world after agriculture yet it is rarely seen as a driver of economic development (USAID, 2006: “Global Market Assessment for Handicrafts). Two of the AAE’s core goals are to help artisans with little resources to realize their economic potential and to quantify the need to include artisan enterprises in each country’s growth strategy. To accomplish these goals they have partnered with Kiva to help finance women in this sector and will leverage their research’s findings to affect legislation and policy.
GWA will keep a watchful eye for further Alliance for Artisan Enterprise efforts to assist and promote women artisans and we will be certain to pass along what we learn. Stay tuned…