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Summer Archives

Michaela Kirvan

Bethesda, Maryland - Awamaki

Sacred Valley Impact Evaluation Awamaki is a women’s economic empowerment non-profit in Ollantaytambo, Peru, that mobilizes indigenous women via cooperatives focused on artisanship and sustainable tourism. Women’s weaving cooperatives already exist in Andean communities, but have limited access to local and global markets, business development training and financial resources for sustainable success. Awamaki serves as a catalyst to mobilize and connect cooperatives to larger markets and to transform their craftsmanship into a stable source of income, enhancing quality of life. Starting my project in the midst of a global health crisis and following the death of George Floyd certainly made focusing on Awamaki’s mission more difficult. While missing the invaluable aspects of the cultural exchange and personal development, my “centered” project turned into three smaller endeavors that better met the needs of the organization during this time. During my first weeks, I dove into research on Women’s Economic Empowerment (WEE) best practices to create an updated resource guide and literature review. I collected information on methods for overcoming language barriers in financial literacy training, navigating indigenous norms in a business setting, implicit bias training for staff, domestic violence patterns, household responsibilities and key characteristics for a wholistic empowerment program. I connected these general best practice protocols to the specific framework of indigenous women in Peru’s economy to produce an applicable written guideline for Awamaki to pursue in future stages of their service. Following this introductory project which familiarized me with the inner workings of WEE, I kickstarted my intended impact evaluation. Due to the nature of being physically distanced, I was not able conduct quality of life interviews as planned. Instead, I relied on raw data to design an income analysis for Awamaki. With limited technological resources, Awamaki’s data was bounded with incorrect formulas and dependency errors. After combing through tedious data for all 17 cooperatives, I aggregated the figures into an income report with a year-over-year analysis, inter-cooperative analysis and comparative analysis to the Peruvian poverty and living wage lines. This essential document revealed areas of growth and improvement in Awamaki’s programming and was showcased in grant applications that required positive data-supported outcomes. In a sustainable spirit, I re-programmed the excel sheets with correct formulas so that future Awamaki employees and volunteers can more uniformly measure, track, record and analyze critical data figures and indicators to better serve the cooperative community. In my final weeks, I designed a workshop series focused on goal-setting, time management and self-care. Pulling from my curriculum development experience with Unlocked in Nashville, I drafted a three-part series to be piloted this fall in Awamaki’s cooperatives. This felt gratifying and powerful, as these workshops will most directly affect the sustainability of Awamaki’s mission. Although not adhering to my original plan, I feel confident that my contributions over the summer to Awamaki’s mission will have lasting impact on the organization and ultimately, the lives of the women it serves.