Archives for category: Employment

The P@SHA Fund for Social Innovation recently announced its first round of winners. In the coming weeks, TC-P will be highlighting these innovative projects which aim to use technology to meet social needs in education, culture, medicine, environmental or any other community problem. This week TC-P sits down with Waqas Ali, the brains behind Hometown Shoes, an online store that connects local artisans directly to consumers.

A native of Lahore, Waqas first came up with the idea of Homemade Shoes during a conversation with M. Hussain in his village, Basirpur in Okara District. Hussain had a small business of handmade leather shoes, and would sell his product to big brand shoe stores. Unfortunately while the large chains would make a high profit margin, Hussain would make very little. “I asked him why don’t we sell using the internet and offered my help” says Waqas, “But we couldn’t get started right away because not having seed funding, and recently we finally made it through the P@SHA Social Fund.”

Hometown Shoes will currently be targeting consumers in Lahore only but hope to expand to Punjab and then, the rest of the country. Currently, the Hometown Shoes team is busy with production and fine-tuning their website. Towards the end of March, they will be organizing an exhibition of handmade crafts in Lahore. Don’t miss it!

When asked how he sees Hometown Shoes expanding, Waqas responds, “We are reaching out to other local artisans to add a variety of handmade leather products like handbags, wallets and belts. So there is a lot that is still to be found and work on. We are very excited about what is ahead for us”.

To follow Hometown Shoes progress, subscribe to their blog. You can also follow them on twitter and like them on Facebook. If you missed TC-P’s original post on the P@SHA Fund for social innovation, check it out here.

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Happy new year dear readers! Here’s our round-up of some of our favorite #socent updates:

  • If you haven’t already, read this great article on Express Tribune about Ego, a clothing retailer that invests in entrepreneurial employees.
  • Alex Gregor from Acumen Fund writes a thoughtful post about the ‘Other Side of Pakistan‘.
  • Read this quick but important op-ed on how to start executing your business plans.
  • All aspiring social entrepreneurs should check out this exhaustive list of how to fund your social venture
  • In the process of setting up your own start-up? 3 young advocates in Lahore have set up the Altair Initiative, which specializes in working with new entrepreneurs to ensure their businesses achieve maximum legal security.
  • Teach For Pakistan’s fellowship application for 2012 is now live, go check it out! 
  • Acumen Fund is hiring a Pakistan Fellows Program Manager, apply!
  • Tomorrow is the last day to participate in our Pakistan’s to social enterprises of 2011 survey. If you haven’t already, please help us support their work and vote for the social enterprise that speaks to you the most.
  • Interested in writing for us? E-mail us at thinkchangepakistan@gmail.com and let us know!

I have a confession. I like to window shop. Often, said window shopping (i.e., staring wistfully at clothing I want in theory) turns into browsing (i.e., sifting wistfully through clothing I want in theory), sometimes leading to impulse purchases.

Window shopping = gateway drug? But I digress.

This past weekend, I was “browsing” in a designer store called Kate Spade when I came across this display table:

Since 2005, Women for Women International, an international non-profit organization, has partnered with Kate Spade New York to promote micro-enterprises for women in countries like Bosnia, Kosovo, and Rwanda, creating jobs and teaching embroidery, weaving and bead-work. The finished products are then sold in Kate Spade New York stores (the above bracelets, crafted by women in Rwanda, were part of the Hand in Hand partnership and were sold in celebration of International Women’s Day this week).

This recent discovery caused me to think not only about the social impact of partnerships between the fashion industry and development organizations but also how we can and should think about bringing goods to market. Many organizations engage women in low-income countries in skill-building opportunities  – teaching embroidery, sewing, tailoring and other skills that can lead to job creation, income generation, and ultimately, female empowerment. But if these women are taught these skills in a vacuum and not also given the resources to put these finished products on the market (fair trade, local or otherwise), are they ultimately creating sustainable livelihoods, or maximizing the potential of their businesses?

It’s an interesting question. Leticia Jauregui is the co-founder and executive director of CREA, which serves Mexican female-led micro enterprises, focusing primarily on the manufacturing sector of food, handmade products and accessories. She noted,

For any producer, the main challenge is bringing the product to market. In the case of micro and small producers [of goods], the challenge is even bigger because of the asymmetric information and other barriers they face, such as a lack of business skills and networks as well as risk aversion. If the products don’t get to market, then the business fails.

CREA therefore provides these business owners with guidance and support to bring their products to market, ensuring their businesses can grow and provide sustainable and real income and employment opportunities. Jauregui emphasized, “These micro and small businesses are critical to the development and eradication of poverty in developing countries, not only because of the resulting investments that women can make in health and education of their children, but also because these businesses have huge potential that hasn’t yet been achieved.”

The process, however, is complex. According to Jauregui, with the enterprises CREA works with, they need to focus on three things: “(1) making sure they have the production capacity to keep up with potential demand and growth derived from new market opportunities; (2) making sure they have the necessary quality standards in place; and, (3) making sure the products comply with regulations and sanitary requirements.” Once that is solved, she noted, “the main issue is finding appropriate channels and distributors who understand the difference between micro and small producers who compete on quality, not quantity, and who are willing to partner and absorb part of the inherent risk. ” Finally, building a portfolio of diverse and “in-demand” products is the final challenge to ensure success.

In Pakistan, there are a number of organizations providing skill-building opportunities for women in low-income communities, including bag-making and bead-work. Few (if any) are currently placing these finished products on the market in a sustainable manner. However, while Saba Gul, the inspirational founder of Business and Life Skills School (BLISS) [and author of this ThinkChange Pakistan post], noted her organization does not currently bring finished bags to market due to low volume, (a valid point), she added this is something they are considering down the road. Value chains in the creation of products like hand bags are often long, and production capacity must be built in the long term in order to keep up with potential market demand and opportunity.

While CREA focuses its work on female-owned microenterprises in Mexico, Jauregui noted their model can apply to other countries like Pakistan in their approach “in putting together a portfolio of products made by different microenterprises and marketing it via an umbrella brand.” Partnerships with design companies like Kate Spade are other potential ways to bring products to market, or engaging fair trade marketplaces like eBay’s WorldofGood.com.

Ultimately, if we are empowering women in low-income communities to become entrepreneurs and business owners by teaching them skills, we should also be helping them learn how their finished products can be sellable, and how they can engage market supply and demand to maximize this potential.

As the number of  TEDx (Technology, Entertainment, Design) talks in Pakistan grow, it’s a great time to start actively thinking about how technology and development can overlap to bring about lasting social change.

Thanks to International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX), I was thrown into the conversation last Thursday during a panel discussion on the interplay between youth and cutting edge social media. I was wowed by two of the panelists, Jorge Soto of CitiVox fame and Peter Corbett, CEO of iStrategy labs and co-founder of DCweek.

The next day, Benjamin Berkowitz (@benberkowitz) also visited IREX to present on his wonderfully handy tool, SeeClickFix and how it can be used internationally to encourage citizens to report non-emergency issues and become active citizens in their municipality (FYI, you can report various maintenance issues in your neighborhood in Pakistan and sign up your local district official, provided he has an e-mail address, to receive the notification. I’ll definitely encourage you to play around with it).

On the home front, thanks to my friend, Madeeha Ansari at Empowerment thru Creative Integration (ECI), co-founder of the ‘Development Dhaba’, I was excited to learn that there has been a push towards ICT4Dev in Pakistan as well.

The ‘Development Dhaba’ is a knowledge-sharing platform hosted by ECI to promote dialogue among development stakeholders on different themes. In January, ECI hosted a dhaba on “Technology and Innovation for Effective Development”, which comprised of formal presentations alongside information kiosks through which different presenters shared communication material with the attendees.

Considering the fact that I’ve been hearing a lot about what’s going on in this sphere in the US, a conversation with Madeeha and a look at Development Dhaba’s agenda helped me get up to speed (to some extent) with some interesting initiatives taking place in Pakistan.

For starters, I finally learned about UNESCO and Mobilink Foundation’s mobile-based literacy initiative that aims to address literary problems among female youth through SMS. Also on the lines of mobile technology, Pakistan Urban Link and Support (PULS), an emerging social enterprise will create a “Linkedin” for the mobile to tap the market at the bottom of the pyramid.  The Holy Family Hospital also presented at the event, showing how it’s using its Telemedicine Rural Support Program to provide health care to the rural community.

In the area of communications, White Rice Communications which uses animation to tackle sensitive issues received great feedback at the event.  The company presented selected modules of “Aflatoun”, a 14 episode animated series that blended educational content and information in an engaging manner. At this point, I could not help but think of Gawaahi.com again and its use of “digital stories” to bring to light suppressed or ignored narratives.

Although the technology and innovation space here is still constrained due to limited financing opportunities, low internet penetration and poor literacy levels, it’s exciting to see how a motivated group of innovators have taken the first step to make the space work for Pakistan.

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