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My dabble with social entrepreneurship

10 October 2007

Bag woven out of used magazinesI recently wrapped up my fellowship/ internship with a social enterprise in Malaysia called eHomemakers (although I’m still putting some final touches on a case study for the UNDP).

The experience was rather interesting. It was more frustrating than educational, but I think in all it has taught me some valuable lessons which I hope will make themselves apparent in the future. Initially, I was meant to work with them to market their eco-baskets which are made by disadvantaged women from their homes. I thought, ‘pretty cool’… the organization handles transactions via text messaging as the women live in low-income housing and the women (who are single mothers, disabled or a patient with chronic illness) can then earn some income from home, which they otherwise could not due to their circumstances. So, my task was to develop an international market and figure out hot to secure some retailers.

Well– turned out that what I had been told was not quite what it looked like on the ground. I thought there were 100 weavers (thats how many they trained), there were less than 10 left. Then I discovered that they was no pricing system, that they were running at a huge loss, they had no budget, no stable internal operational methods. Basically, a nice big mess that would completely undermine sustainability if it was not taken care of immediately. Thus, the following 5 months were spent collecting information and taking the first steps to formulating some sort of a plan. Sprinkle a little proposal writing and you have my fellowship in a nutshell (it is considered a fellowship but I felt more like an intern doing some grunt work).

Anyways, more to come.

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