Albert Einstein said, “Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them.” At Artistri Sud, we are always looking for ways to deepen our impact with the women we work with, which begins with the question: how can we leverage this moment for transformational learning and change?
What’s New with our Artistri Sud Social Entrepreneurship Training (ASSET)?
For several years now, partners and beneficiaries in the field have expressed a need for entrepreneurship training that applies to products and services outside the craft sector. Most women in rural contexts are engaged with agriculture, usually through subsistence farming to feed their families, as well as ‘craft’, production of household objects such as clothing, blankets, floor coverings, and other essential items. To meet the needs of diverse cohorts, our program team is innovating the content of our Artistri Sud Social Entrepreneurship Training (ASSET). This new program will be implemented in Vietnam occurring this fall. It includes new and exciting content on branding, positioning, adding value to goods, product differentiation, and much more.
Our work in Vietnam over the past three years has brought us in contact with women from 4 different Vietnamese provinces, nearly a dozen marginalized minority groups, and countless partner organizations. Not surprisingly, there is a wide range of entrepreneurial activities that women are doing to make ends meet. Our participants cultivate and sell spices such as cardamom, create ancestral Red Dao herbal bath blends, grow and sell rice and vegetables, sell their services as local guides to domestic tourists, and run small homestays in the mountains. The heterogeneity of their needs prompted us to look at how we can bring value to women who are working in a variety of areas. Our
previous focus on textiles has always been very useful for the many women who are in that field, and broadening our focus is positioning Artistri Sud to also have a big impact.
Another reason we’re modifying our program is so it can have a larger impact on Vietnamese women engaged in agriculture. 41.11% of women are involved in the agricultural sector, showing there’s substantial demand for these changes. We’ve also come across participants who would benefit from a program that can be more easily applied to agricultural entrepreneurship. Quy, an ASSET graduate of the Hmong ethnic group in Vietnam, struggled to sell her embroidered wall hangings due to her difficulty speaking both Vietnamese and English. Although she made beautiful products, this language barrier pushed her to experiment with business alternatives. She decided to expand her tiny garden plot and convert more of her land to areas where she could grow vegetables to sell. Although her land is on a seventy-degree angle, making farming a huge challenge, that didn’t stop her: Quy found huge success with selling vegetables. Our new program can help agriculturalists like Quy, and teach them entrepreneurship skills specific to their products.
Our Goal Of Continuous Improvement
Our mission at Artistri Sud is to empower women around the world by developing women’s capacity to leverage their existing assets for income generation. Tailoring our program to the needs of our participants is essential to doing this. We use continuous improvement processes to deliver ever more value to the women we work with.
How do we know what to change? Each training team member is required to take notes and record their observations as experts during the 5-day boot camp. Then, they each submit a “post-mortem” report that provides details on aspects of the training that worked well and those which didn’t work as well. Team members are trained in advance so they know what to look for; they are generally watching for any moment of heightened excitement or participant engagement, both positive or negative. They note any “aha” moments when participants
have important realizations, emotional exchanges and struggles to comprehend content, and raise these for discussion at the end of each day. Individual team member insights are summarized in their report, as are any suggestions for improvements. These reports are then reviewed by the program development team, who look for opportunities to increase impact, streamline learning, and incorporate other improvements.
Also included in these reports is the feedback obtained from the “Daily Debrief” conducted on-site during the training program by the team. The lead trainer selects five women each day to participate in a focus group discussion where their feedback on the day’s learning activities is elicited. Shy participants in particular are targeted so the team can understand any obstacles and encourage enhanced participation. “The best way to know what makes a difference for participants is to ask them,” said Artistri Sud founder Jennifer Lonergan. “This daily feedback gives us a chance to adapt on the spot, and also food for thought for how we might improve things for future iterations. The content truly comes from participants.”
Our goal of continuous improvement and the procedures that go along with it are what inspired us to update our ASSET program. We took into account the needs of participants, thought critically about how we can make a bigger impact, and decided it was time to hold entrepreneurship trainings that apply to products and services outside the craft sector.
Our Hopes for A New Program
Although our new ASSET program is a big help to agriculture entrepreneurs, we want to do more. We are working on an agriculture-specific initiative that uses the same principles and entrepreneurial strategies as our previous programs but is more targeted to agricultural products. Developing this program is a great way to expand our reach, value, and impact.
This initiative needs funding and volunteers with expertise in agriculture. If you would like to work with us and help empower agriculture entrepreneurs, please contact us at email@example.com.
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