In the fall 2015, Creative Learning – Aid to Artisans (CL-ATA) has been involved in many new and exciting projects in the effort to support international artisans. CL-ATA implemented a series of its signature Market Readiness Program TM (MRP) workshops for the first time in both Morocco and China. These training sessions benefited about 60 artisans representing different parts of the craft sector.
China – Sichuan Market Development
In late October 2015, as part of the five-year Sichuan Market Development Activity (SMD), funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by Creative Associates, International, Aid to Artisans conducted for the first time in Chinese and Tibetan its Market Readiness Program to 28 Tibetan artisan entrepreneurs. The SMD Program focuses on working to improve sustainable livelihoods of ethnic Tibetans in China’s Sichuan province, providing these communities with the skills and knowledge to thrive in a growing market economy.
Implemented by ATA MRP Consultant Manager Carol MacNulty and ATA Product Development Consultant Sophie Sauzeat, the goal of the MRP in China was to provide them a focused opportunity to gain market knowledge, practice market relevant skills and to consider next steps towards a profitable enterprise in a competitive marketplace.
The 28 Tibetan artisan entrepreneurs among whom 50% were women represented 16 various businesses that shared the same objective: to build economic development opportunities for skilled artisans in the larger Tibetan community. Among the participants were teachers, shop owners, monks, painters, sewers, graphic designer, restaurant owner, and many more. The 3-day training including topics such as distribution channel, planning for quality control, costing and pricing, a market strategy exercises among others. Each afternoon also included a product design review for each participant. Overall the training was a great a success as it allowed them to “learn more about marketing strategies” writes one participant in her overall evaluation of the program.
A series of intense product development workshops were conducted by Sophie Sauzeat in Chengdu for 17 artisans representing 14 artisan businesses who participated in the MRP. Sophie spent half a day with each business providing them with designs concepts for a new product collection targeted to the tourist market. A total of about 140 new designs were given for felted bags, jewelry in recycle paper, horn, textile, Thankga, leather, felted toys, baby accessories, scarves etc.
This new product collection will be introduced in a marketing event organized by ATA and SMD scheduled for June 2016 in Chengdu.
Morocco – Promise Pathways
One such project, funded by the US Department of Labor, is currently being implemented in Morocco. In partnership with Creative Associates International, CL-ATA is introducing artisan trainings as part of the five-year “Promise Pathways” program that focuses on preventing child labor in the country by offering youth and households increased opportunities for access to demand driven training programs.
From September to November 2015, three MRP workshops were implemented in the Tensift-AlHaouz-Marrakech region by Frederic Alcantara, long time CL-ATA design consultant, and local partner Said Mirch. As in all of CL-ATA’s artisan trainings, the goal is to upgrade craft products so that they can respond to market demand, to strengthen business skills, and to link artisans to buyers.
From sewers to jewelry makers, and from weavers to leather workers, 30 artisans participated in the training among which 11 were women. The four-day trainings which were conducted in both French and Arabic included topics such as costing and pricing, color & designs, basic business skills and many more. The series of training were followed by intensive product development workshops aiming to develop new collections for the local and regional tourism market.
Some of the new products were even exhibited for the first time to test the market at the Marrakech Christmas Fair that took place in December 2015. Lots of great responses were received to prepare the artisans for future exhibitions this year.
During winter and spring 2016, some of the artisans will have the opportunity to link to international buyers through “Anou” e-platform, an innovative approach to internet sales via a cell phone application based on symbols. By means of this application, artisans with low literacy levels can execute the entire process of product photography, specifications, pricing and selling from their own cell phones from their remote rural regions.
Please note: Funding for this project was provided by the United States Department of Labor. This material does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the United States Department of Labor, nor does the mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the United States Government.