Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Getting Down to Business

Finally the real work has begun! Last night, we had our first weekly Skype call with Rebecca and Kathleen from Nest to discuss our upcoming projects. We discussed a few of the concerns that may come up as we work through the production guide. For example, Darcy and I noticed in the inventories we’ve been going through that sometimes the same products (for example, scarves) produced by one cooperative have huge price variances, of which we have yet to determine the cause. In some situations, it may be that the pattern is more complicated or the particular artisan is less experienced, but when Nest makes a custom order, consistency in both pricing and quality are critical, so this is one of the issues that we are seeking to address with our production guide. 

This morning was our first OB staff meeting, which Darcy and I will be attending and participating in weekly. The meeting started with brief announcements, followed by “informes,” where each of the community facilitators gave a short presentation on the work that they’ve done in the communities over the past week, and ended with “puntas varias” (any other random items or points of business. The meeting was conducted all in Spanish so it was hard to follow at some points, especially as I’m still familiarizing myself with OB and its work, but I’m sure that as the weeks go on and I have more time both practice my Spanish and to work with OB, I’ll be able to be more involved. Most importantly, the meeting demonstrated the solidarity and cohesion of the women who work at OB, and I was able to see just how much OB and its work means to them as well as to the women that they work with in the communities. After the meeting, we had a small birthday celebration for Andrea, complete with delicious chocolate cake, candles, flowers, and songs, followed by an all-staff lunch (held weekly after staff meetings).  

For the rest of today, Darcy and I began doing some background research for the production guide. Using the list of inventory from OB’s fair trade store, we compiled a list of the different products that each cooperative produces so we know what to include in our guide. Then, we made a questionnaire which we will use to interview one woman per product at each cooperative, including questions regarding the significance of the color and design, the raw materials used, the names of women producing the product, the price (and how the price is determined), and most importantly, specifics on how the product is produced from start to finished. We also put together a spreadsheet which we will use to compile all of this information, along with plenty of pictures of the cooperatives, the artisans, and the products themselves (in multiple stages of production, if possible). Tomorrow, we will meet with Andrea and Lety (one of the community facilitators) to discuss logistics and scheduling our visits to each of the communities. We have been warned that the artisans are incredibly busy and it may be difficult for us to contact and meet with representatives from each community, so we’re definitely going to need patience and flexibility to complete the project, but we’re already off to a great start!

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