Bangladesh has enjoyed considerable economic growth over the past few decades, however its employment driven opportunities have been sluggish. Such proliferation of 'jobless growth' is a result of inadequate opportunities for the large wave of young people who are prepared to enter the workforce but cannot seem to do so.
There is finally a system that favours those who toil endlessly to fulfill the nutritional needs of the nation. It ensures that farmers feel confident about the price they are receiving instead of feeling manipulated.
Northwestern Bangladesh - Par Bhangura, a little known village within Bhangura, a sub-district of Pabna, is home to some of the most enterprising people in the country. Many are unaware of the fact that Par Bhangura also happens to be the birthplace of the first Bangladeshi Ambassador to the United States, M Hossain Ali.
Five of us from the MBA programme of University of Cambridge’s Judge Business School, volunteered to join BRAC for an academic consulting project this April. We were fortunate to work on the Integrated Land Services Office (ILSO), an initiative of the organisation’sHuman Rights and Legal Aid Services (HRLS). The four-week immersive visit allowed us to participate and draw lessons from the amazing work they do and the social impact they create at scale.
The world’s most famous brands reach their consumers through ad campaigns with supermodels and celebrity endorsements. Their glamorous photoshoots are raised on billboards, magazine covers, and in store displays. They run special offers through newspapers and direct mailers, or email you a coupon code you can use on their website. They have 50,000 square feet retail stores with large window displays and products visually merchandised to awe the customer. So what does a brand such as Aarong, who sells handicraft goods, do to market their products? The exact same thing.
Aarong, one of BRAC’s social enterprises employs 65,000 artisans, 85 per cent of whom are women. These artisans find an extensive support system through the Ayesha Abed Foundation, Aarong’s network of production hubs which are spread all over Bangladesh.
In the minds of global consumers, reading labels on products originating from the global South trigger images of sweatshops, child labour, and the unscrupulous owners poorly paying their workers. In the past decade, the global backlash has forced major brands to reconsider the ethical practices of their sourcing. The fair trade movement has long advocated for certain principles, successfully placing a new form of branding on products that carry its label. Often, consumers simply equate fair trade to payment of fair wages. However it goes far beyond a few extra dollars in the pockets of producers to ensure their sustainability.
In the changing landscape of development, long standing boundaries between non-profit and for profit models are merging while social enterprises are emerging. Even the most generous aid models are not enough to provide basic services to the 1.2 billion poor people living in middle income countries. In this context, the third Frugal Innovation Forum hosted by the BRAC Social Innovation Lab explored how we can serve millions in a sustainable manner. Under the theme ‘pushing the boundaries of development’, several speakers from the development sector, multinational corporations and social enterprises expressed that we need frugal innovations that can create more impact with less resources and institutions that can scale sustainably.
As customers enter Aarong retail stores, they are met by fine textiles and handicrafts that the brand strives to preserve. But what goes on behind the retail front and how do these iconic products come into being?
Did you know that last year 80 people died in northern Bangladesh from the cold? It is unacceptable that people are dying from the cold when in some cases warmer clothes and blankets could make the difference between life and death.