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Helping craftworkers around the world feather their Nests

Special Interest Programme / Partner story

Photo credit: 1212 Design (Provided by Nest)

For centuries, craftspeople and handworkers worldwide have played critical roles in reviving and sustaining local creative economies, often working from informal settings like their homes or small workshops. Their work ranges from skilled, heritage craftsmanship to simple handwork tasks like sewing soles on shoes or stringing beads onto apparel.

“There are some 300 million women primarily doing home-based hand work around the world, yet this sector has been cast as niche and non-scalable,” says Rebecca van Bergen, founder and executive director of our not-for-profit partner Nest, which works to provide women entrepreneurs support through resources and the market access opportunities they need to thrive. “We see this as one of the most significant gender inequities in the world today, and it’s our mission to right that imbalance,” says Rebecca. Moreover, when women work, they invest more than 90 per cent of their earnings back into their families.

The global handcrafts market is estimated to be valued at USD 984 billion by 2023. Yet, despite the scale and potential for impact, craft remains a largely invisible sector. Nest has been working with artisans for over 15 years, connecting their handmade creations with markets and businesses that can pay them what they’re worth, while providing the training and support needed to succeed. Through programmes like Makers United, the Nest Artisan & Maker Guild, and the complementary Fellowship programme, Nest is building a world of greater gender equity and economic inclusion.

Nest Artisan & Maker Guild and Fellowships

The Nest Guild is a global community of more than 1,800 craft-based micro, small to medium-sized enterprises located across 120 countries. Since 2015, the size of the Guild has steadily grown by an average of more than 250 businesses per year. In recent years, the Guild has increased by more than 98 per cent, impacting 1.2 million people around the world.

Makers United

Makers United aims to connect and strengthen the vast diversity of makers and craft-based businesses across the US to build a vibrant and inclusive maker community. These services helped artisan business founders like Tracey Kennedy who said, “Nest helped me gain the self-confidence I needed to accelerate my company towards a path of success!  I’m so thankful to have been part of such an incredible programme to help small businesses grow!”

Nest’s Makers United programme engages 1,019 businesses in the United States, and the network has grown by more than 189 per cent in the last three years.

Another example of this impact is Nest’s work with the Gee’s Bend Quilters (Alabama) and Gullah weavers (South Carolina), two heritage craft communities. With support from Etsy, Nest brought these talented craftspeople online for the first time. Gee’s Bend quilter, Mary Margaret Pettway said of her experience, “Owning my own Etsy shop has allowed me to build my very own house. A house I own free and clear with no mortgage. Thank you, Nest, for sharing this opportunity with our community.”

As the world realises the power of remote work, particularly in the wake of Covid-19, consumers and peer companies are recognising that it’s not just a matter of convenience, but a productive and resilient approach to work that could inform international development efforts and community revitalisation. Nest is leading the charge by bringing attention to the millions of individuals who have been working from their homes long before the pandemic, and advocating for the social and economic equality of women around the world.

To find out more about Nest, check out its website here. This grant falls under our Special Interest Progamme (SIP), which reflects the Trustees’ interests in making dynamic, diverse, large, innovative, and challenging grants. You can read more about the programme by clicking here.