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Craft & Cultural Revival: Creating a sustainable world for Indian artisans, craftsmen, and inspiring Community Action India Medhavi Gandhi
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Organization type: nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage: Start-Up Budget: $10,000 - $50,000 • Arts & culture • Citizen participation • Cultural preservation • Design • Economic development • Fair trade • Sustainable development PROJECT SUMMARY
Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences. Crafts have been a livelihood option in villages for decades now. Designers have worked with crafts,and so have government agencies.While other countries continue to recognize Indian art, we remain clueless about the same. Artisans themselves are limited to traditional designs,and do not have formal training in design or skill-development and therefore rely on external support reducing themselves to handicraft labourers. Our Project enables artisans to develop a sustainable livelihood through learning design, enhancing their skills and develop markets for themselves. Revival aims at recognizing each tribe's culture, art and spreading the same amidst masses. In time, we expect to strengthen the artisan's abilities to innovate, create their markets, and eliminate middlemen.
Problem: What problem is this project trying to address? We strongly believe that to spread the message of crafts and culture we need to engage both the rural and urban audiences. At the rural level, we work with artisans and women's groups. Majority of the artisans are subsistence farmers or work as daily wage labourers. With other livelihood opportunities available, and limited demand for handicrafts, pursuing their craft is not a lucrative livelihood option. We work in collaboration with the artisans and their communities to understand the intricacies of their lives, their cultural heritage and the challenges they face in practising their craft. Interacting with the communities helps us understand various social issues they face – like education for their children and health services. The approach we follow encourages artisans to incorporate their culture into the products they make for the urban market. This makes the products personal for them, and introduces the customer to the cultural narrative of their community. In urban areas, we collaborate with schools, colleges and other non-profit organizations to engage young people between the age group of 14-30 in traditional Indian crafts and culture. Our store is an active venue for workshops, film screenings and discussions, that bring together people from all walks of life. As people come forward to engage in these activities, they get involved on various levels – from volunteering with us, to connecting us to more people passionate about the issues we work on. While school and college students get motivated to volunteer with us, young professionals help us expand in their community and corporate networks. Based on our interaction with both rural and urban communities, we realize that there exists a curiosity in both to know about each other. Thought processes of both communities are hardly any different, but there is a need to create a platform to bridge the gap. It is this bridge that we seek to build through our activities, and interactive events.
Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific! Indian craftsmen have been using traditional designs for years now, leaving little space for innovation in crafts. In urban markets, these products do not find value for the limited utilitarian scope in them. Middlemen make the crafts expensive, and it ceases to be affordable for the masses. Many organizations work on Craft Preservation/Promotion, by offering design and marketing support to the craftsmen, however none have empowered the artisan to grow by himself, thus making them rely on the organization itself. Our project follows a unique approach to address this issue– •Our design intervention, skill building workshops EMPOWER artisans to develop their own business and promote the same through our channels. We encourage the artisan to learn how to design his product, assess quality, map the urban market and make art pieces more relevant and adaptable to the global environment. •Our website is the first of its kind, where each craftsman, representing a state, has his own little “store” or “dukaan”. Orders received are directly communicated to them. •We encourage the artisans to participate in corporate events and activities to showcase their skills. •We organize innovative workshops and events with all age groups to encourage engagement with arts. For e.g, Street painting workshops were organized to paint used bottles and reengineer them to make Lamps. •In an endeavour to promote dying crafts in urban areas, we have designed innovative products such as Card Games and Jigsaw Puzzles, that are based on traditional crafts and appeal to urban audiences.
IMPACT: HOW DOES IT WORK
Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities. The Revival project includes workshops at both urban and rural levels - skill building, design education and entrepreneurship development in villages and art workshops and installations in urban spaces. While craft conservation includes documentation of a traditional craft, its significance and history, the revival of it is through creative and product development workshops followed up with marketing, pricing, branding, micro-finance, etc, workshops with villagers. In urban spaces, art and traditional craft sessions are held for the masses to spread awareness about the nuances of folk art. These workshops are hosted by the rural artists, and so, dialogue is encouraged between the two representations of society. Film screenings, festivals, exhibitions are also held to initiate traditional art-awareness programs in schools and colleges. Our annual activity 'Green Room' initiates collaborations between the artist and urban designers/brands to explore opportunities together and learn from each other. Through these kind of initiatives and activities, we leverage the various art and craft forms to find place in the dynamic art culture of the world. Where pop and contemporary art have always called shots, we try to create space for handmade, folk art rich with stories about an India we still do not know.
Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches? Our key partners include cultural-centres, universities, art galleries and artist groups, other Craft research and academic bodies. Corporates with CSR wings focusing on art, culture, youth; and most importantly, effective partnerships with artisans, and Self-Help Groups in rural areas. We would also be scaling our partnerships in the retail market both online, and offline. We already share excellent relations with the American and British Council, and are working towards a lasting partnership with Alliance Francais. These partners would help us in the education and promotion of artists amidst different target audiences.
Organization: Happy Hands Foundation ABOUT YOU
First Name Medhavi Last Name Gandhi Twitter http://twitter.com/#!/HappyHandsF Facebook Profile http://www.facebook.com/happyhandsf
ABOUT YOUR ORGANIZATION
Organization Name Happy Hands Foundation Organization Country , DL Country where this project is creating social impact , DL How long has your organization been operating? 15 years Is the project that you are entering related to this organization? Yes
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What stage is your project in? Operating for 15 years Share the story of the founder and what inspired the founder to start this project My first exposure and in-depth understanding of crafts happened when I worked on a UNESCO-Crafts Council project while pursuing my MBA in Communication Management. The project gave me the opportunity to interact with artisans and understand their struggles first-hand. All around me I saw a culture rich with traditional values and crafts, but no takers around. With livelihood opportunities through craft slowly dwindling, artisans were moving to alternative sources of income generation – like agriculture and daily wage labour,I realized that what was needed desperately was to revive the art forms and spread awareness about them in the urban spaces and ensure that the artisans made a decent living through crafts. The idea was to have a world where the 'handmade' is given the respect it deserves, and the artisan is recognized for his efforts. It is important for the artisan to understand Fair Trade, and participate in the same, with an all round understanding of the pros and cons, profits and losses involved in the global market. For arts and crafts to remain alive, they must interact with consumers. Happy Hands therefore started as an idea with some four artisans who were willing to be a part of the “handmade revolution”. As I travelled from village to village, I realized that the story of crafts was a never-ending story, which the world needed to hear. With my previous experience of communication and brand related projects, I strived to explain the concept of markets and brands to villagers, and today, they understand the concepts of pricing, and packaging too.
Please describe how your project has been successful and how that success is measured •The project has been a great success in the last two years. In the first year itself, we were active in four states of India, and planned to expand to eight states in the next year. However, we exceeded our own expectations by leaps and bounds – we are now active in twelve states in India! •The number of artisan families we impact, has therefore, grown significantly. In two years we have impacted the lives of more than 500 artisan families. •Various craft forms have got a tremendous boost – warli art was used for Coke’s ad campaign, HCL has spread the story of dhokra metal craft to the US and various countries across Europe, including UK and Germany. Our artists also participated in exhibitions held in France. Madhubani, the art form is recently being used in the SBI ad campaign, and a Delhi Celebration project. •In our first year, we held one local festival, and several workshops. In the second year, we grew to do art installations, multi-city projects and workshops and partnered with several organizations to take arts to a different level. In the coming year, we have international collaborations planned, needing to be put into effect. •Our income generation activity with underprivileged women in Delhi has expanded significantly. The women are now run training centres where they train 30 women each. Their income in most cases have gone up by 70-100%. They are better equipped to send children to school, and set up small businesses.The project has also seen a rise in the business of women who were previously sex workers. They now are a group of 150 women practicing crochet craft, and dealing with customers in Italy to export the same, directly. •Our artisans are establishing training centres as well, to involve the locals in crafts to create livelihoods for them. •The standard of living for most artisans has gone up. Through effective partnerships and collaborations, we have assisted in the Education and Health system of the villages as well. How many people have been impacted by your project? 1,001- 10,000 How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years? More than 10,000 How will your project evolve over the next three years? In the next three years, our project will aim to evolve through Expanding our Reach, Entering New Partnerships, and Involving in Art Advocacy. a)Expand our reach: -to remote villages and impact more families, and the community life. -to national/international markets -to various schools/colleges/universities for volunteer participation b)Enter New Partnerships -Through effective collaborations and partnerships, encourage rural volunteering and internships -Village Hospitality Services:During these visits, people would be exposed to the culture of the village, and participate in community activities. c)Involvement in Art Advocacy: -Use traditional art/craft forms to address various social issues/for communication -Art-Culture based research -Publish stories based on Folklore.
What barriers might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them? There are many profit-based art galleries that have cropped up across cities in India. These galleries showcase the work of urban art enthusiasts practising traditional art forms. Most of their work is sold for high prices to the upper class urban audience. While this does help preserve and promote the craft form, it also takes away a potential chunk of income from the struggling rural artisan. This challenge can be overcome by collaborating with such art galleries and artists to raise funds for various art forms. We can partner with them and encourage them to share a part of their sales revenue with the Happy hands Foundation and/or artisan clusters across the country. •The second potential barrier is the digitization of art forms by kitsch groups which print the same on products and manufacture them on a large scale. While there is no straight forward way to overcome this challenge, and we cannot stop groups from digitizing and manufacturing the art form on a large scale, we can encourage them to make handcrafted limited edition ranges of their products with traditional artisans which could benefit the artisan and give him an exposure into the urban scenario. Apart from these, a major barrier is the middle-men and organizations that seek to "promote indian craft". These organizations buy from artisans and sell at higher rates, thereby making the craft unaffordable. For this purpose, our Project strives to incorporate adequate marketing channels for the craftsmen, so they can sell directly, and encourage them to be educated about such practices. Tell us about your partnerships • Pepsico-Frito Lays – Partners for our fundraiser Purple Street. They sponsored the festival where we had stalls of different crafts, workshops and folk performances. In exchange we sampled Desi Beats for them at the festival extensively. • Pepsicos-Nimbooz – They sponsored the Graphic Kite Festival, during which graphic artists learnt how to make kites and etched contemporary designs on them. Our kite-maker was much recognized at this event for his kitemaking skills in different shapes and sizes. He too learnt about the art element that could be added to a simple kite to make it more appealing. • American Center – Film festivals and workshops have been held in the past with their audiences. • Pearl Academy of Fashion – They have been our partners for the last two years on the development programme, Green Room. They sponsor artisan travel and stay so the students can learn from the artisan and the artisan can learn contemporary skills from the students. • DLF Malls – Active partners and sponsors for workshops with artisans and urban dwellers. • Vidya (micro-finance unit) – Enable the women entrepreneurs we work with to apply for loans to set up small businesses. • HCL – They have been a corporate gifting partner since the year 2010. • Gramshree (Gujarat based crafts organization) – We offer marketing support to the craftsmen the organization supports, and hope to do collaborative events in future. • Lok Mitra (village-development organization in Dheduki, Gujarat) – We partner with them to promote craft based income generation activities with women in a village called Daare. •Our retail partners include: The Orange Bicycle, Either OR, Maalgadi, Masala Chai, etc. They help our artisans spread the crafts on a wider scale. Explain your selections The project has been supported by reputed for-profit businesses, which strive to complete a social responsibility or are interested in a project to merge a business idea with a social message. We have previously worked with CocaCola India to promote the tribal art of warli, through their festive advertisement campaign. We conducted a workshop with over 100 students and our artisans where the students learnt how to weave their own warli story, and the artisans understood how their art could be moulded into a contemporary format. Pepsico brand, Nimbooz, supported our Kite Festival where we created Kites with images, talking about a concept. HCL Technologies has been a gifting partner with us for a year. Brands such as these, and organizations such as the American Consulate and DLF Real Estate frequently help us in hosting workshops or event-fundraisers and reach out to a variety of supporters. Our craft products are retailed to cities such as Bangalore and Pune and this helps us in creating a larger base for Indian crafts and increasing the interaction of these forms with the audiences. When things are so widely available, there is bound to be some association with people over it. Our Customer base usually supports us during festive times with not just donations but also by setting up Craft kiosks within offices to spread awareness about the cause. How do you plan to strengthen your project in the next three years? Over the next few years, we would like to expand our reach in different areas – from artisans we work with, to the markets we are active in, as well as the organizations we collaborate with. Increase in our artisan base helps build credibility, which in turn increases an individual artisan's trust in us. With a larger artisan base, we have better opportunities to expand to national/international markets which reflect in the revenue. Currently, 77% of our revenue comes from Sales and the rest through Corporate collaborations and finally, individual donations/fundraisers. In the next three years, we hope to channel 90% of our revenue through Sales to sustain the project and its artisans while fundraisers, and corporate involvements along with Art advocacy would sustain the the development activities in numerous clusters we work in. We have worked with Corporates on Art advocacy, but non-profits we work with would have to be offered a membership criterion to avail of our services. Through this, we plan to strengthen the regular nature of advocacy work and sustain it by itself. In the years to come, as we build on our partnership base with universities and corporates, we would be encouraging rural tourism/retreats which could in turn help the development of the village, and the participation fee for the same would be used for the activities under the project. Through streamlining our ideas for growth, we would open newer revenue channels thus making the project fully sustainable.
Which barriers to employment does your innovation address? Please select up to three in order of relevancy to your project. PRIMARY Restricted access to new markets SECONDARY Lack of access to information and networks TERTIARY Lack of visibility and investment Please describe how your innovation specifically tackles the barriers listed above. We provide markets to artisans in different cities amongst a variety of audiences. Our exhibits are targeted at masses, corporate groups, students and young adults.Apart from events and fairs, we also have a website, marketed fairly well to give the artisans a platform where the user can get to know him directly. Information about new trends, market evolution, better production techniques and tools are dispersed through seminars and information exchange workshops facilitated through experience sharing methods. Through community/urban projects and art installations,we portray the arts in spaces with wide audience reach. This spreads visibility and awareness of the product and art form,and subsequently creates demand amidst consumers and corporates alike who invest in these ideas. Are you trying to scale your organization or initiative? If yes, please check up to three potential pathways in order of relevancy to you. PRIMARY Influenced other organizations and institutions through the spread of best practices SECONDARY
TERTIARY Enhanced existing impact through addition of complementary services Please describe which of your growth activities are current or planned for the immediate future. We collaborate with various organizations to use the arts to further their cause/business. For the beneficiaries of our non-profit partners working for Disabilities/Education/Women we conduct skill development workshops in several art forms which provide them with sustainable livelihood options.We now plan to work closely with Corporates to develop programs to encourage employees to volunteer at these organizations by learning the art form in training. We have conducted multi-city campaigns, and retail in about 6 cities across India. Our skill development workshops take place in 12-13 states and are expected to impact 20 states in the future. To develop our clusters further, advocacy/micro-finance based organizations we partner with, will be encouraged to conduct interventions. Do you collaborate with any of the following: (Check all that apply) NGOs/Nonprofits, For profit companies, Academia/universities. If yes, how have these collaborations helped your innovation to succeed? Without the support of collaborations, success of any innovation is not possible. NGOs and non-profits have assisted in bringing together resources, mobilizing people and volunteers, overcoming language barriers,etc. As we partner with more nonprofits, the impact on their beneficiaries, adds to our project's growth. For-profit companies have been an essential part of our financial sustainability. They have also assisted in providing human and media resources, which have contributed in making our events successful on a large scale.Collaborations with schools and universities have been monumental partners in reaching our project to larger audiences. We have been able to encourage a lot young, motivated students to join us as volunteers for various activities and enabled us to work better.
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