Since its beginning in 2008, NOC has focused on empowering communities through education, healthcare, and workforce development. Through centralized efforts in an “inside-out” transformation, NOC has innovated the way both its supporters and community members see aid and development. The organization has spent the past five years deliberating the most effective ways to reach families and has had enormous success emphasizing the value of education in the low income communities where it works. Over the past months, an enormous need for a sense of economic security within these neighborhoods has been identified. As many of our neighbors are either trapped in the cycle of poverty or unable to find steady work due to their lack of education or legal status, the need has and will continue to present itself in these neighborhoods. NOC’s goal through its existence has been to develop stronger neighborhoods and combat poverty through approaches that empower, not enable. Although children are showing great signs of progress in academic achievement in math and language arts, true change must begin at home. Utilizing the social capital that exists in low income neighborhoods in terms of skills, knowledge, and talents is an effective way to generate employment and income in order to improve quality of life for these people.
The Las Mujeres En Acción (MEA) Project is an attempt at sustainable economic development that fights poverty from the ground up. Las Mujeres En Acción, a grassroots business enterprise, includes an ambitious group of 12 women from the Oaks neighborhood in Hilton Head Island, working to create beautiful, high quality, and fashionable jewelry to create employment and augment their household income. They strive to produce fairly traded, environmentally friendly, and ethically sourced pieces that tell a story from producer to customer. Their aim is to learn from each other; their hope is that each of the partners will eventually be knowledgeable and empowered to start her own private enterprise. But until then, these women hope to capitalize on a collective effort based on their unparalleled ethics, their superb workmanship, and the stories they each have to tell.
Project Goal and Objectives
The goal of the project is to help women in a low-income neighborhood use their talents and skills to generate employment and income through social entrepreneurship and micro-business enterprise. The objectives of the project will be to:
- Establish stable regular weekly employment and income for the women through production of products that utilize local skills and knowledge.
- Create a sustainable system of work, production system, and marketing and compensation centered around community empowerment as a whole.
- Manufacture fairly traded and eco-friendly products that people want to buy.
- Use the true stories of the neighborhoods to appeal to customers.
- Focus on stories that are uplifting and hopeful but also true to the nature of the communities
NOC will be responsible for project implementation. The project will be managed by NOC’s Social Entrepreneurship Coordinator under the direction of the chair of NOC’s Board of Directors who has more than 30 years of experience in development, including micro-finance and small credit throughout the world. Start-up work has already begun with this pilot project. The project will include an orientation session and three training workshops to be conducted at NOC’s Program Center at Oaks. Technical support will be provided on a regular basis to develop a business and marketing (including pricing) plan, a framework for the business, including operational, financing, and accounting arrangements and obligations. Technical support will also be provided on product quality and pricing. Participants will operate as a craft group to produce jewelry (developed at home) to be sold in an online marketplace. Due to the cooperative nature of the set up, they will collectively have control over each element of the business (including the group name, which they will decide democratically). Each week, they will be assigned a new design for an item and will be paid per piece based on the quality of their work. Their ability to comply with expectations and create products that sell in an online market will determine the future of the organization. MEA will function to supplement family incomes through sustainable work, not charity. Like all NOC programs, the profits will funnel directly back into the programs NOC manages in the community.
Training workshops (3)
Seed capital to cover raw material/tools,
Setting of online retail facility
- The project will have a financial rate of return of at least 10%.
- 12 women will augment their income by $1200 annually.
- 12 women will be employed 10 to 15 hours per week.