The Soapbox

Ideas to talk and think about. A little bit of craft/hobbywork, photography, ethical consumerism, travel and a few recipes here and there.

Reblog: Will Gen Z help the fashion industry clean up its act?

I found this article on the Guardian’s Fashion page, and found some of the points raised about the way we’re thinking about our fashion shopping very interesting. It’s encouraging to see the wave of new brands catering to ethical production of our clothes, and demonstrating that the slow fashion movement can match seasonal trends and styles.

Here’s my Evernote clip of the article, where I’ve highlighted important snippets of information.

I’m trialling this method of reblogging and sharing pieces from the internet, and hope it works. I’d love to hear your thoughts – on the piece and the idea that the younger generation, especially younger millennials, might be our greatest allies in pushing for ethical fashion.

https://www.evernote.com/shard/s36/sh/b2cffbd9-6466-4888-9389-d3aacfcd185b/0f1c248f35ce81364c1625d39a64f796

 

Reblog: How you can change the world by shopping!

I came across this post by Indego Africa, shared as a guest post on the One Campaign’s blog as well, so I thought I’d add to the shares! This is a great article about how and why what we buy matters, what we could consider when buying new things and how our consumerism can be a part of a strong activist movement.

This is something I’m deeply passionate about and have written a guest post about as well, for Hands Producing Hope. Read this and tell me what you think!

 

How You Can Change the World by Shopping!

This blog comes to us from our partner Indego Africa.

While many of us wish to make a positive difference in the world, it can be hard to figure out how to do it. As individuals, how can we drive change in our communities and around the globe? Where is a good place to start?

While many of us wish to make a positive difference in the world, it can be hard to figure out how to do it. As individuals, how can we drive change in our communities and around the globe? Where is a good place to start?

One answer – which may surprise you – is…shopping.

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Yes, that’s right – from the groceries we eat to the clothes we put on our backs, the decisions we make everyday about what and what not to buy can profoundly impact the world in which we live. This line of thinking – often called “conscious consumerism” – is on the rise as buyers are becoming increasingly invested in the way that products are made and the effects they have on people and the environment.

At Indego Africa, we believe deeply in the power of ethically made products that empower the people who create them. That’s why we partner with more than 800 female artisans across Rwanda, providing them with opportunities to earn fair-trade, sustainable income for their beautifully handcrafted products. We sell these pieces around the world, and pool 100% of the proceeds from sales, along with grants and donations, to fund education programs for the very same women.

While we are just one of a growing number of socially responsible brands, we want to share with you why we love what we do and hopefully inspire you to jump on the shopping-for-a-cause train too!

  1. Each product provides a woman with a real, living wage. We believe in paying our artisan partners fairly, honoring the incredible skill, patience, and creativity that goes into their work (some products, like our colorful plateau baskets, each take 2-3 days to make!)

    Making baskets. Imirasire, Rwanda

  1. With increased income, women are able to care for themselves and their families. Most of our artisan partners are mothers, and like all moms they want nothing more than to create beautiful lives for their children. We are deeply inspired by their determination and proud to see them earn enough not only to provide for their families’ basic needs – like food and housing – but also to invest in their children’s futures by sending them to school.

    Sewing. Ibyishimo, Rwanda.

  1. All proceeds go towards education. We believe that education is the key to empowerment. That’s why we provide our partners with a range of educational opportunities – both at our Leadership Academy and onsite at their workplaces – to help them develop the life-long knowledge and skills they need to thrive as confident businesswomen, creative entrepreneurs and powerful community leaders.

 

Block Printing

  1. There is something distinctly special about a product that is handmade.We love to shop products made with love and care – to feel the soul and craftsmanship in every stitch. It is a way of connecting with artisans around the world – of sharing in their culture and traditions and celebrating their remarkable crafts.

Making lovebirds. Ibyishimo, Rwanda.

As you can see, empowering women through artistry and education is a cause we are deeply passionate about. But now we want to turn it over to you: what causes are most important to you? What companies are out there fighting for them too?

As Olivia Wilde, actress and co-founder of Conscious Commerce, likes to say: “your dollar is your vote.” By choosing to direct the money we already spend towards products and companies we believe in, we can not only make a difference in the world but also send a powerful message to corporations that we will not support products that are harmful to humanity.

It may sound simple, but as consumers we have more power than we think. By introducing a little bit of passion and purpose into our purchases, we can make a whole lot of difference.

Dyeing cloth. Imirasire, Rwanda

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Navy Hanging Basket

Navy Hanging Basket

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Floral Panama Hat

Small horn vase

To see more of our products, made with love by women in Rwanda, please click here.

Reblog: Social Business Success and Staying True to Your Mission by Brittany Merrill Underwood

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Throughout history, there have been extraordinary men and women who have created movements and inspired social change in their time. We can call these people “social entrepreneurs.” What is different about the social entrepreneurs of today, however, is that they operate in a context where their scale and reach are literally unlimited. Because of the interconnectedness of our global society, social business movements in particular have emerged as one of the preferred paths toward addressing the great challenges of our world. And yet, too often, these movements lose their way.

While social entrepreneurs share many similarities with traditional business entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs differ in that their priority is not profit. The social business landscape is dynamic and diverse, but all social businesses have this quality in common: they are all driven by some cause greater than wealth creation.

Globalization has created unique opportunities for impoverished communities to participate actively in the world economy so that they can achieve sustainable growth and development. The explosion of American philanthropy and hybrid philanthropic developments (such as “impact investing”) have made it possible for social enterprises to scale more rapidly – and consumers pay attention. Informed shoppers (the beneficiaries) help drive and are responsible for proliferation of fair trade and social products in the marketplace. As a result, social businesses present unique opportunities for the economic development of the world’s poor.

But even as entrepreneurs begin to succeed in driving social change, they are met with new challenges. Ironically, success itself seems to cause the entrepreneur to become less effective at carrying out the organization’s’ core mission. Many lose focus on their social mission precisely because they grow. The demands of growth and competition of greater – and more profitable – markets can cause social businesses to make compromises that affect the impact of their core social mission. Over time, many social businesses lose focus on their social mission altogether, abandoning the very people who they initially set out to serve.

My belief is that this shift in focus signals the end of the social business movement. While quality products, operational excellence, and profitability (and even margin) are important aspects of a social business, the social mission must remain paramount. As the social business movement grows, higher standards for impact must evolve. If the business aspect grows, the social mission has to scale at the same pace. Without this commitment to the social mission, the movement will not last.

Today’s social businesses have a unique niche. They operate in an enlightened market environment where success is measured not by financial returns alone but by improvements to the quality of people’s lives. The critical distinction between entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship lies in the value proposition. The social entrepreneur’s value proposition is positioned to serve a highly disadvantaged population that lacks the financial means to obtain benefits on their own.

Economic and social change cannot be imposed from without.  But they also cannot be arrived at by doing business the “same old way”. Doing social business the right way means a long-term commitment to a social mission.

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