- Microfinance with Mapuche-Tehuelche Artisans
For eight weeks, I worked remotely with INPADES to help design and implement a financial literacy curriculum for indigenous Mapuche-Tehuelche artisans ahead of a new microcredit fund. INPADES, which stands for Instituto Patagónico de Desarrollo Social (Patagonian Institute of Social Development) is an NGO based in Trelew, Argentina that strives to strengthen socioeconomic initiatives that, regardless of profit, prioritize the needs of the people.
Our collaboration aimed to prepare artisans from the INPADES Lideres en Artesanías workshops for a microcredit program. The artisans span three distinct crafts: cerámica (pottery), tejido (textiles), and mural de mosaico (mosaic murals). Prior to my project start date, we had discussed doing surveys to
determine each artisan’s specific needs. For example, we needed to know the costs of their main tools and supplies and whether they owned or borrowed them to determine loan amount. Additionally, some of the artisans might prefer to share costs (and credits) by forming groups, which would factor into our program design. The first step of my project was helping create and conduct a survey with the artisans to answer those crucial questions. We accomplished this through Zoom meetings with each group, based on geography and craft type, where we discussed their stories and the survey so they could submit it to us via WhatsApp. I learned a lot through those conversations and made strides in craft-related Spanish vocabulary.
As survey results came in, I synthesized “artisan profiles” that relate the stories of each woman along with the key information about their businesses. I did this in English in hopes of reaching an international audience to attract donors. Aided by the survey, I created a basic bookkeeping template in Google Sheets and a presentation on how to use it and why it is important, using example materials, products, and costs informed by the artisans. For the e-commerce course, I explained how to use Mercado Libre and Facebook to market and sell handmade goods online. For the final portion of my project, I conducted the classes with a group of artisans and made recordings to share with those who could not make it. If all goes to plan, the artisans should be left with the tools to improve their financial literacy and reach larger audiences through the internet ahead of the microcredit fund.