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We For Talent

Empowering Colombian artisans to become passionate entrepreneurs for change, by setting up startups on innovative crafts & cultural heritage

Photo of Hendrikje Meyvis
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Colombia has known conflict for 52 years, one of the longest conflicts in history. Since the peace agreement in 2016, the country realizes how much damage it has done to its population.

When the Victims Unit released its report ( it indicated that the number of victims of Colombia’s civil war surpassed 7 million in a country of around 50 million citizens. This number represents all the people that have been killed, disappeared or displaced since 1956.

But Colombia is not only know for its conflict. The country has a rich indeginous history that is represented by its artesanias' or artisan crafts, such as colored bowls and vases, ceramics, werregue baskets, hammocks...

Each individual or each community has a story. From this story and in collaboration with partners, experts and artisans we analyze their passions and experiences as well as their environments to gather new ideas in order to create sustainable projects that tackle issues of the individual or the community and that ensure that the cultural heritage remains intact. We aim to empower (young) artisans to become leaders who can pave a way of their own and to work on 21st century skills (entrepreneurial, cross cultural, creative and digital).

Explain your idea

With this idea we want to co-innovate ideas and projects with artisans in Colombia to tackle the challenges they are facing in a post-conflict country. PHASE 1. THE OTHER MARKET During the first phase we make interventions to research the environment at one side and find the passions and talents of the artisans we work with on the other side. We listen to the stories, what people really want to do and what really has to change in their surroundings. We question them positivly and make sure every talent is visible. The result of this first phase is an overview of the talents and passions within the cultural heritage of a certain community in Colombia and an overview of the challenges and needs the community is facing. PHASE 2. PROTOTYPING During the second phase, we set up creative labs to brainstorm ideas and design labs to develop and test ideas. The groups consists of a mix of people of the community and experts in the field of design, research and strategy/business development (both in real life and online). In co-creation ideas are developed into projects, brands, start-ups. We work as lean as possible: rather than talking and thinking for a very long time, we prototype, test, adjust, test, … The experts assist on both the services/tools/product development and on the development of a sustainable businessplan to make the project into a solid and sustainable brand/company/… PHASE 3. COMPLETION and ACCES TO MARKET During the third phase, we support projects to complete their project phase and assure to set up some start ups that are born out of the ideas. Experts advice the participants who really want to acces the market in the areas of administration, organization, project management, communication, finance, … Once the projects are up and rolling, we invite them to give workshops in Belgium to future entrepreneurs, designers, ... to tell about their experience and to increase cross-cultural learning. The aim of this concept is: 1. To empower Colombian artisans living in a post-conflict area: by setting up start ups based on their crafts and talents, new opportunities are created to develop a prosperous local economy and they are able to show their potential of creativity to the world. Besides that, we also empower them to set up a sustainable start up, by coaching and supporting them in the business development. 2. To show another side of Colombia: Colombia is quite often seen as a dangerous country in conflict. With this project we aim to sensitize people in Europe about Colombia: by showing the beauty in the cultural crafts, we tell a positive story that shows a different perspective of Colombia. 3. To sell and buy fair: we live in a connected world, where trade has become more and more international. With this project, we want to encourage people worldwide to buy fair trade. Some inspiration: fair design brand using authentic crafts to transform the beloved wardrobe of the clients into carpets.

Who Benefits?

The first beneficiaries are artisans in Colombia - mainly in the rural areas around Bogota. Most of the beneficiaries will be women. A side effect will be that the local economy of the areas where we work will benefit: a financial injection through the artisans can help the local economy flourish. Another side effect will be that the cultural heritage will remain and will be known broader over the world. The communities of artisans with whom we work will be able to show the talent of the community and the outcome of the projects. How will they benefit? The artisans will receive a fair loan, will be empowered, will pave their own path through entrepreneurship and will be able to work from a talent and a passion they have to face their challenges.

How is your idea unique?

First of all, we believe in collaboration. This project is a collaboration between a !DROPS, a Belgian npo and Value4Chain, a Colombian company. Through this collaboration, we want to create a unique project, as we combine different expertises. Both of the organisations work in innovation and entrepreneurship. !DROPS npo is specialised in working in innovation and human centered design and Value 4 chain knows the landscape and have experience in innovation and entrepreneurship in Colombia. Second, we want to combine crafts from the cultural heritage of Colombia with innovative designs and technologies to ensure we co-create innovative products. By working user and human centered, we know that the products that will be developed tackle different issues the users (both the artisans and the clients of the start ups) faces: for the artisans: a fair income, preserving their cultural heritage, economical prosperity, ... For the clients: being able to buy fair products with a story.

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Prototyping: I have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing my idea.

Tell us more about you

!DROPS npo is a Belgian social innovation office. The world is changing rapidly. For some people, these changes can be seen as overwhelming or threatening. For us it’s a breeding ground for new opportunities. We co-create with users and stakeholders as we know that ideas become better when working together and problems are best solved with those who experience it. As facilitator of this process we release creativity, push to innovate and together come to solutions no one thought of at the start. In contrast to rule-bound, top-down approaches, our approach puts people at the heart of the design. Having multiple perspectives of a social issue ensures that we can identify new angles to solve a problem. We develop and co-create innovative projects, we facilitate workshops and events and we use our tools to harvest results. This project is a collaboration with Value4Chain (V4C), a Colombian company. V4C works on innovation and entrepreneurship in a post-conflict country. V4C believes that entrepreneurial activities and the use of technology and innovation become an alternative for the economic reactivation and focus on the development of territories affected by violence and social gaps. V4C focuses on social inclusion, intra- and entrepreneurship, rurality, technology and peace building. !DROPS will be the main facilitator of this project: project management, developing the workshop and process flow, assuring the sustainability. Value4Chain will be the main connector of this project: connecting with the artisans, Colombian experts, ...

Expertise in sector

  • 5-7 years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.


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Photo of Alishia Sergi

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