Ibu is a movement, and so we're all about moving. Moving forward. Moving women forward. Shaping ourselves not into an institution, but a force, an intensity, a wind rising behind the backs of women. Still, you need two strong feet on the ground to sprint into the next ten years. And, in some cases, four.
I want to share with you these four strong legs, so to speak—four pillars, or strategies—which ground our every move. Just so you know where we stand, where we're going.
Buying and selling women's artisanal product is one of the most effective tools to elevate women out of poverty and into a position of sovereignty over their lives. Because women, in my many traditional cultures, already posses brilliant skills of hand and eye, but only lack the market to offer their goods, and a partner to help fashion them for a larger world. With our artisan partners, our design team innovates, creating new product and demand. Our Marketplace, already solidly grounded in bricks and mortar retail, e-commerce, and traveling trunk shows, will expand in other ways, including corporate collaborations, social media sales, and major events introducing each new collection.
Strengthening the internal structure of artisan groups leads to their growth and success. Grant proposals from artisan leaders, those who know best the needs of their cooperative, are submitted to the Ibu Foundation. Some of the improvements include:
- new or improved workspace;
- effective or updated equipment;
- training to improve and expand craft techniques;
- training in business skills.
With a light by which to work her fine embroidery, a roof to knit her community together, a mobile phone to access her income, a woman assumes power, autonomy, choice. Her work—and her life—flourishes.
Think of an artisanal product made by a man in Italy, and you think… expensive. Think of an artisanal product made by a woman in the developing world, and you think… cheap.
We're out to change that. One of the most valuable contributions of the Ibu Movement is the positioning of women's artisanal work, dismantling that perception with a message of dignity, respect, and deep appreciation for the often overlooked skills handed down by women for generations. We do this through our weekly mailers, of course, but consider the power of a book about the movement and artisans, a biannual periodical, increased use of video and social media, podcasts, speaking opportunities to tell the story, and the continued outreach of our ambassadors. We want to educate our own population about this remarkable resource in the world. Women.
Many of you want, more than anything, direct access to the artisans. You've told us so, and we understand. People yearn for the authentic experience of knowing and learning from women living in worlds profoundly different from their own—and weaving a connection with them.
Ways we plan to cultivate this strategy include:
- establishing Ibu Adventures which help sustain our mission through a philanthropic donation, as well as providing personal contact with artisans in their home setting;
- hosting events which bring artisans to the US, and through speaking, events, demonstrations, and workshops, inspire personal connections for more people;
- connecting donors directly to a project they are funding through zoom calls with the leaders and visits to the site;
- connecting buyers/retailers/corporate groups to artisan leaders for potential design collaborations;
- offering, through social media, brief interviews with artisan leaders, short videos of the craft being made, or visits to their workshops.
By bridging the gulf between cultures, woman to woman, many prejudices are broken open, relationships are established, and the world is one step closer to a lived experience of equity.
Ibu, in each of these pillars, believes in the dignity of the artisans, respects the complexity of their craft, and seeks to elevate both the goods and the women making them. We seek no pity for our partners but applause for their incomparable skills. It is the women behind the craft that we serve, and do so on these four strong legs, running into this next decade with them, with you.
All the best,