Shops and online stores are increasingly full of products that aim to support philanthropic causes: buy a t-shirt and plant a tree and water will be given to children in a poor community. Or you can buy a pair of shoes and a dress and a child in need will get one too. Although these gestures are generous, they only really make a lasting difference if you can be sure that the organization you work with on the ground can plant that tree and keep it alive or disburse the water efficiently. As for the shoes and the dress - the effect is very little if it does not produce and create jobs in the place where it is intended to do good.
From over a decade of working in development abroad, I have seen first-hand how a lasting impact only happens by adding value directly in communities. The crafts industry is the second largest employer - after agriculture - in most developing economies. It represents an opportunity for thousands - millions even - to earn a living and own their own business. Moreover, crafts are often made by women, who rank among the most vulnerable in many of these societies. At Far & Wide Collective, we try to do exactly that by working with artisans and small craft businesses in emerging economies to help them connect with buyers here. This way consumers not only get a beautiful and unique product, they also invest in a small business, help create employment and support production and entrepreneurship in a place where it is badly needed.
That's how you can really make a difference.