In 2006, Bangladeshi social entrepreneur Muhammad Yunus was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for pioneering microcredit and microfinance. These series of small loans benefit borrowers who typically don’t have a steady employment or established credit. This inspired Rebecca van Bergen who had recently received her master’s degree in social work. Eager to build off of Yunus’ ideas, she wanted to create opportunities for women, without strapping them with debt that they couldn’t pay back. This lead to the creation of Nest.
Nest connects artisans from over 52 countries with public and private sector collaborators/retailers. Their “new handworker economy” creates a harmony between craftspeople, brands, and consumers. It also strengthens women’s economic wellbeing all around the world, while preserving their honored cultural traditions.
Their mission is executed through a series of programs that offer aid to artisans worldwide. One of these is their Professional Fellowship Program, which provides onsite mentorship as well as remote consulting. Another, Nest Connect, directly matches craftspeople and designers, eliminating a potentially unethical middleman. Their most recent program is a series of standards called Compliance For Homes And Small Workshops. Launched in December 2017, it ensures compliancy for operations taking place outside of a factory setting, giving crafters even more workplace options.
Partnering with brands like EILEEN FISHER, Patagonia, PVH and Target, Nest has a presence in many different industries. They even collaborated with ethical luxury fashion brand Maiyet to build a safe, updated workspace for a Kenyan couple, whose responsible for making the brand's beautiful brass bangles. Today their business is thriving and they've taken on new clients.
They also have plenty of outlets for those who want to help support their efforts. Their aforementioned fellowship program relies on volunteers to give remote or onsite instruction. Their co-op program offers discounts, networking opportunities and other perks for members who donate monthly. They also host events to help spread their message and highlight the talented individuals they advocate for. More info and ways to get involved can be found on their website.