James Dirksen and Dorothy Taft meet with potential marketplace collaborators and care organizations in Chicago, IL.

No more pity products. We have all seen the bracelets, picture frames, and blankets accompanied by pictures of women and children in the developing world. While there’s no doubt that these products can help financially support these families, they largely rely on emotional support to generate sales. We want to do things differently.

One of The Market Project’s aims is to create supply-chain businesses that produce beautiful, high quality products that can, in a sense, sell themselves. Integrating these businesses into local, regional, and global markets will help create self-sustaining livelihoods for individuals that don’t rely on men and women’s personal stories to create sales.

Piece & Co., a Chicago-based company, has a similar philosophy. The founder and owner Kathleen Wright started the business in order to market well-made, handcrafted items produced by vulnerable populations (of mostly women) from around the world. Kathleen procures these items and then sells them in the US on behalf of the craftspeople. To illustrate the success of Piece & Co.’s model, one of their main corporate partners is Nordstrom. While Dorothy and James were in Chicago, they were able to dialogue with Kathleen and lay the groundwork for what could be a partnership between a TMP enterprise in Uganda and Piece & Co.

Dorothy and James also met with The Cara Program. The Cara Program is another Chicago-based organization that works with men and women coming out of jail, homeless, and former addicts. In addition to providing job training, they have developed programs with a variety of partner organizations and companies to provide inspirational talks, accountability, vocational training, and job placement. The Cara Program has worked with several companies all throughout Chicago in order to help find a self-sustaining and dignified future for those who have participated in their program.

Although we look forward to the day when we are able to partner in a concrete way with these organizations in Chicago and others like them, this trip was fundamentally one of learning. One of the most important values to us here at The Market Project is humility. We understand that our organization and specific approach is new and that we have much to learn from those who have gone before us. Although our projects won’t look exactly like Piece & Co. or The Cara Program, we recognize that there are valuable lessons to be learned about their experience working toward holistic livelihoods for men and women.

We are always willing to learn from others about what works and doesn’t work and adapt what other organizations have done to our own mission and vision. We envision The Market Project as a continuation of all those who have gone before us.

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