Today is the one year anniversary of the devastating Haitian earthquake. I have been very fortunate to know a local physician who organized and raised money to send multiple medical teams and supplies to Haiti in the weeks and months afterwards. (Check his work out here.)
Recently, and this is quite the departure for me, I came across an opportunity to spread the word about another way to help Haiti. One one hand, I'm cautious about the commercial approach. On the other hand, it's intriguing.
As a designer and a business person, I have to admit that this approach has it's merits, so let's take a look. As has been shown in other studies, economic improvements are sometimes greater when the aid is not a direct donation.
KickStart , for example, is a foot pump for use in irrigating fields for crops in Africa (generally speaking). I attended a presentation on this system, and the organization's philosophy regarding economic improvement. Their idea, is that economic opportunity, as a small, personal business is more sustainable and successful than direct charity. In the example of water pumps, even though community members value donated wells, over time, without any specific ownership, wells fall into dis-repair and become non functioning. On the other hand, small businesses are sustaining, and add to general economic growth in the area.
This project is very much a direct retail project, but it is connecting Haitian artisans with Macy's (forgiving for a moment Marshall Fields) - as a sales channel for their work. The art looks beautiful to me, and it is made out of locally available materials, such as steel drums. It's interesting and worth a look: