Head and hands in the cloud: cooperative models for global trade to be found in traditional crafts

Australia Africa

Abstract: Until recent times, the standard globalization model has been to maximize profit by moving manufacture to locations where wages are low, and there are fewer obstacles, such as environmental standards. This model has been supported by a form of branding which elides the means of production, separating consumer from producer.

The emergence of online trading platforms promises to bridge this gap. Both eBay and Amazon have recently created virtual stores for connecting ethical consumers with poor craft producers. Meanwhile, alternative platforms seek a similar connection in a cooperative framework, such as a Non-Government Organization (NGO), Just Change, in Bangalore.

This paper compares the corporate and the cooperative models for ethical trade. From this review, it proposes a model emerging from the three-year Sangam Project that seeks to give market value to the relational practices involved in the design, production and sale of handmade craft products. The aim is to find a place for traditional craft practices otherwise displaced by globalization and urbanization. The platform presumes a three–way partnership between craftspersons, designers and consumers. Though limited primarily to gift products, it is proposed as a model for other trading practices.

This paper was presented at People and the Planet 2013 at RMIT in July 2013

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