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Friday, January 28, 2011

Microfinance week: Nest

The final installment of this week is an organization called Nest; "a nonprofit organization that empowers female artists and artisans around the world. Using a unique combination of interest-free microfinance loans, mentoring from established designers, as well as a market in which to sell their crafts, Nest helps its loan recipients create successful small businesses. Nest instills pride of ownership, preserves ancient artistic traditions and successfully moves women from poverty to self-sufficiency." A important aspect of their model is their interest-free loans, which is different from many microloaning operations which charge exorbitant rates on their loans that I disapprove of and try not to support those organizations.

It helps preserve the traditions of handmade products from women worldwide and uses a system of bartering to repay their loans. This idea connects microfinance with fair trade practices. Their approach allows them to "act as a collaborators with women artisans rather than simply consumers or importers. By knowing where our product comes from and supporting those who create it we are able to use the arts as an avenue to reduce poverty."

In addition to the funding for the women's businesses, Nest also teaches the "loan recipients basic business skills, product development, financial literacy, marketing, appealing to a Western consumer, environmentally-sensitive production, professional presentation and pricing—all essential skills for craft-specific businesses." They help them with the merchandising of their products and work to create a marketplace and contacts for them to sell their crafts out of. I like their focus on creating connections for their loan recipients to be able to wholesale their products.

And even if you do not support them with a donation, you can still support their work by shopping in their store. They have one store of the artisans work and another store of US based designers selling their work. Purchases at either help support Nest's work with Guatemalan women.

Nest Overview from Nest on Vimeo.

This week I was running a contest, the microfinance organization whose post received the most comments will receive $25. If you like the microbartering system of Nest, then comment below. Originally, I was going to close voting Saturday at noon PST, but I think that some people were waiting to vote until they read all the options. Voting is extended through Saturday and I will announce the winner Sunday morning. So get to voting and we shall see who the winner is. :-)

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