This fictional speech was to be delivered by the head of the Inter-American Development Bank Cultural Center for the Georgetown MBA students.
The speech was written by Claudia Teixeira under the direction of Professor Mike Long for the Masters Public Relations/Corporate Communication program at Georgetown University.
Welcome and greetings
I want to thank and congratulate Dean David Thomas, and Professors Ricardo and Maximo. It is a great initiative to discuss socially relevant business cases here in the Georgetown McDonough MBA program.
It’s always a pleasure to come back here to Georgetown. It seams like what is said here travels fast around the world. Maybe it’s because of this exciting and eclectic community, or maybe it’s also because of the excellent quality of the online webcast transmission.
You see, I had a dear girlfriend that was a student here at Georgetown. It was a long time ago, but I still have the dearest memories from this campus. I would usually find her reading under that cherry tree next to cemetery and we would talk for hours about our plans to rule the world.
Introducing the topic
Today, I’m here to talk about a social innovation initiative in Haiti.
First I will tell you how fashion designer Donna Karan took an interest for Haitian handicrafts when she visited Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.
Second we will look at how some nonprofit organizations helped the Haitian Handicraft sector gain access to international finance and markets.
Finally, I’ll show you the first successful results of this long-term program.
Donna Karan and the Haitian Artisans
Let’s start by looking at how fashion designer Donna Karan took an interest for Haitian handicrafts when she visited Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.
The 2010 earthquake in Haiti was catastrophic. It affected the lives of approximately three million people, one third of the country population.
The capital and largest city, Port-au-Prince was devastated. Hundreds of thousands of people were left homeless and the death count reported by the government was estimated at 316,000.
Many countries responded to appeals for humanitarian aid but full recovery is yet to be achieved.
When Donna Karan arrived in Haiti for a humanitarian mission, the suffering of the people touched her. But she also saw that there was great market potential for Haitians handcrafted products.
Art has always been central to the lives of Haitians. Their artisans follow ancient traditions and develop beautiful products. These products can be made out of stone, metal, wood, paper and even bones. Their products have an ethnic design, very particular to their culture.
Back in the United States, Donna Karan commissioned her nonprofit organization called Urban Zen Foundation to work with the Haitian Artisans and develop a collection to be sold in New York. She also contacted the Clinton Foundation to be part of this social project.
Helping the Haitian Handicraft Sector Gain Access to International and Finance Markets
As our second point, we will look at how some nonprofit organizations helped the Haitian Handicraft sector gain access to international finance and markets.
The International Development Bank, that we call IDB, requested a market study to better understand the reality of the Haitian Handicraft sector.
The results of the study noted that the Haitian artisan sector did not have a problem of demand. There were several retailers and wholesalers interested in buying from Haitian artisans. The buyers said that they were interested in buying even more handicrafts from Haiti, because consumers valued their creativity and unique styles.
But the buyers also noted that they faced problems of supply. They routinely ran into problems such as: inconsistent pricing, uneven quality, unreliable deliveries and high shipping costs. There was also a shortage of capable intermediaries.
In order for the Haitian handicraft sector to succeed it was necessary to empower the artisans, but also their suppliers, transportation partners, finance institutions, and intermediaries.
The IDB has been financing projects in Haiti that are managed by Urban Zen and the Clinton Foundation. These projects aim at working with local artisan organizations to sharpen their business skills and help them gain financial literacy. It also assists artisans in product development, marketing and give them access to international markets.
The First Results of the Investment in the Haitian Artisan Sector
Lastly, I want to show you the first successful results of our investments in this long-term program in Haiti.
One of the beneficiaries of these projects is a woman named Magalie.
Magalie is a 35-year-old Haitian that runs an arts and crafts factory named Caribbean Craft. Her factory was completely destroyed by the 2010 earthquake. But now, with assistance and financing she has a profitable business again. Her factory employs 349 people and exports Haitian handicrafts. You can find their artwork at major American stores like: ABC Home, Macy’s, Anthopologie and West Elm.
Another successful result is the work of Donna Karan’s Urban Zen Foundation with Haitians artisans. This work resulted in a line of remarkable home decoration articles and fashion accessories. Some of these articles were displayed in an exhibition named “Discover Haiti.” The “Discover Haiti” exhibition was held at the Urban Zen Center in New York City, at the art gallery of the IDB Cultural Center in Washington D.C. and in London for the Summer Olympics.
In conclusion, we saw how fashion designer Donna Karan took an interest for Haitian handicrafts when she visited Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. Then we analyzed how some nonprofit organizations helped the Haitian Handicraft sector gain access to international finance and markets. Lastly I showed you the first successful results of this long-term program.
The first fruits of our investment in the Haitian handicraft sector are an encouragement for us to continue investing in creative business-oriented solutions to promote social development.
The Haitian handicraft sector is in its first stages of development. It is necessary to keep providing all the industry players with assistance and expertise to grow.
However, I am certain that Haitian artisans are artists in their own right. What they need is support to turn their art into a means of living. And this is where we, as a development institution, have an important role to play.