Launched by Jane Mosbacher Morris at the end of 2014, To The Market (TTM) is a platform for promoting and selling handmade items created by artisans and entrepreneurs who have faced abuse, conflict and disease. TTM’s primary objective is to help these survivors achieve financial independence, a key to breaking the cycle of poverty, through entrepreneurship. They also want to raise awareness of the hardships they’ve faced. TTM operates through its online marketplace, pop-up shops and retail partnerships. Survivors also have the opportunity to share their stories on TTM’s Stories page and on Huffington Post blogs.

TTM connects with retailers or local partners who already employ survivors and sell their products. Next, they make sure these local partners operate according to their guiding principles, such as prohibiting child labor, providing a safe, secure and hospitable workplace and paying fair wages. They also must permit employees to join labor unions and address valid employee concerns. Overall, these local partners must prove themselves to be good corporate citizens that engage in fair business practices that benefit their workers. TTM then extends benefits to their partners, like trend forecasting and mental health resources for employed survivors, and promotes their products on a larger scale.

TTM assists survivors of abuse, survivors of conflict and survivors of disease. This could include survivors of domestic or sexual violence, war widows, refugees, persons living in conflict or post-conflict zones, or people living with HIV/AIDS, leprosy or physical disabilities. Consumers can use the website to support victims of a specific issue, such as human trafficking or orphanhood, using the “shop by cause” option. They can also choose to support citizens of certain countries, from Nepal to Vietnam to Burundi, by using the “shop by country” option. Furthermore, consumers can find all products from TTM’s local partners on their website and shop exclusively from these partners. Examples include Mamafrica, the first Fair Trade Federation Member clothing company working with displaced women in Eastern Congo, and Starfish Project, a jewelry business that supports exploited women in Asia.

Currently, TTM sells items ranging from apparel to home goods to wedding gifts. Their twenty local partners support citizens from eighteen countries. Consumers can also submit custom requests for specific goods, providing business to those who truly need it. By giving a platform to these local partners, TTM aims to provide survivors with more business, help them expand their operations and economically empower those who are struggling.

Jane Harkness

Sources: Mamafrica, Social Justice Solutions, Starfish Project, To The Market 1, To The Market 2, To The Market 3, To The Market 4
Photo: Flickr

Alleviating global poverty is a task that must grow from the bottom-up, states Concern America, an international development and refugee aid organization, maintains as it aims to provide long-term, community-based development to developing countries around the world.

While also accepting the validity of helping developing countries through direct monetary aid and governmental initiatives, Concern America chooses to focus on how individuals, rather than corporations, can play a key role in societal change.

Thus, the small team of 19 aid-workers at Concern America trains community members in impoverished countries in health, education, construction and more so that they can become better-functioning members of a productive society. With this, the organization hopes to instill momentum and hope in a society that can help assure economic stability and basic human rights that would otherwise be absent.

Some of Concern America’s projects include its Marketplace of Fair Trade Crafts, which gives families in need access to fair prices and dependable markets while also preserving traditional culture. Additionally, Concern America promotes various field programs that instruct community members in skills such as midwifery that can improve women’s health quality while decreasing infant mortality rates.

In a world where well-meaning developmental aid can get lost in corruption schemes and bribery at high levels of society, Concern America prides itself in investing in individuals on the ground.

Concern America’s initiatives show that, while giving materials and money to those in need is beneficial, giving knowledge and opportunities can more often bring a society out of poverty.

– Alexandra Bruschi

Source: Concern America, OC Register
Photo: Ohio Fair Trade Marketplace