Although ME to WE was created to fund the life-changing development and educational work of WE Charity, the creation of its socially responsible products and experiences has a significant impact that is fully separate from the donations.
Every ME to WE project is ﬁltered through two lenses. It must make money to fund charitable projects, and—just as importantly—it must do good in the world in and of itself. This takes a wide variety of forms, from the 1,800 women artisans creating beautiful beadwork pieces, to the more than 350 jobs created in partner communities to host ME to WE Trips, to hundreds of farmers receiving empowering wages as they produce ME to WE consumable products. Many of these positions are highly skilled, including architects, engineers, chefs, interpreters and guides.
This is just a small glimpse of ME to WE’s closed loop system, wherein profits from the purchase of socially concious products made in partner communities return to those same communities. The most celebrated example of the closed loop system is the ME to WE Artisans program, which partners with more than 1,500 women in Kenya and Ecuador, empowering each woman to build a brighter future for herself, her family and her community.
Beginning in 2010 with a group of just 20 women, ME to WE Artisans has grown exponentially. Women who once spent their days fetching water, farming and doing whatever they could to survive and support their families are now able to follow their dreams as entrepreneurs and artists, working as leaders in their communities.
ME to WE Artisans is a line of original accessories handcrafted by artisans in WE Charity’s partner communities across the globe. It started with a vision: to not only create a way for talented artisans to earn the income they deserve, but to foster a collective of women empowering one another globally. To date, ME to WE Artisans partners with more than 1,800 women in Kenya and Ecuador, empowering each woman to build a brighter future for herself, her family and her community.
Today, the women taking part in ME to WE Artisans are able to earn twice as much as what is considered a fair wage in their country—without giving up their traditional way of life. The program has also expanded past the original beaded Rafiki products. Today, socially conscious consumers can choose from a wide variety of offerings, including Fairtrade chocolate and coffee that supports Ecuadorian farmers.
ME to WE retail products, including ME to WE Artisans, also offer a Track Your Impact code to show consumers what their purchase provided to WE Charity. Through this model, consumers can see exactly what their dollars provided, and where the donation was delivered. For example, the purchase of a ME to WE bracelet might fund education for a child in Kenya for one year.
Aside from steady employment, ME to WE Artisans also offers small-business training for extremely marginalized women to further develop a source of income to support their families. To complete the closed loop, partial proceeds from the purchase of Artisans goods support development programs such as schools and clean water systems in the very regions where the women live and work.
This is not a system of aid, but a co-operative partnership where artisans receive a wage for their work. Every decision, both in the ME to WE Artisans program and in building infrastructure around trips, is made through a lens of empowerment. As Mission Measurement reports:
“The WE Villages model approaches development from a rights-based perspective that seeks to empower individuals through the creation of institutions that effectively improve access, change behavior and change the short, mid, and long-term transformative outcomes within each pillar. Pairing the development model with the ME to WE Trips operations model further fuels and accelerates the economic empowerment in each community through job creation, skills-based service, contributions to sustainable development projects, funds raised, and capital committed by visitors following their experience.”
ME to WE also has a positive impact on consumers. People who purchase products such as Rafikis or ME to WE chocolate are empowered by the option to choose socially conscious products rather than ones that damage the environment or exploit workers.
An independent review by Mission Measurement found that ME to WE Trips have a lasting effect on travelers. They captured this impact under the umbrella of three separate outcomes, observing that young people who travel with WE are:
Outcome #1: Civically Engaged Citizens.
• 7x more likely to be agents of positive change in their local and global communities • 2.9x more likely to actively look for ways to improve their communities • 87% agree they can make a positive impact on society
Outcome #2: Academically Successful Students.
• 1.6x more confident to discuss complex topics with educators and peers • 82% agree that they value their education more than prior to their ME to WE experience
Outcome #3: Skilled Professional Leaders.
• 2.5x more likely to actively look for opportunities to lead others • 2.0x more likely to bring people together to solve problems • 2.3x more confident when speaking in a public setting • 95% agree that their future employer reacted positively to their involvement
Having accumulated this data, Mission Measurement concluded that: “ME to WE Trips meet and exceed industry standards in their ability to provide a unique opportunity for participants to not only have the opportunity to contribute to the sustainable development of communities abroad, but also contribute to their own personal development through service and leadership-based programming.”
ME to WE Trips employs 350 people from the countries it works in, providing an added layer of support to partner communities. ME to WE Artisans employs more than 1,500 women in the creation of closed-loop products like Rafiki or Minga Bracelets. You can find a powerful example of these success stories here.
You can find further information on ME to WE’s social impact here.