The Romano ButiQ Cooperatives

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The Romano ButiQ Cooperatives: A network of social economy enterprises aiming to revalue traditional Roma craftsmanship.

Bucharest, RomaniaBucharest
Project Stage:
Growth
Budget: 
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Imagine preserving a part of a population’s cultural heritage, creating up to 300 new jobs and bringing on the market new beautiful quality products, all the while respecting the principles of sustainable development, fair trade and inclusive supply chain.
Through “The Romano ButiQ Cooperatives” we’re bringing together Roma craftsmen, designers, activists and business experts and we’re doing exactly that. Successfully.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

The main problem we are tackling is the high unemployment rate in poor Roma craftsmen communities from the rural environment. Because of this the level of poverty is growing fast and the employment opportunities for the youth are becoming more and more limited. The main causes of this situation are the following: 1. Traditional had-made objects (which used to represent the main income of Roma craftsmen) are no longer viable on the market due to lack of competitiveness and low level of utility. 2. Most Roma living in the rural environment don’t own agricultural lands. 3. Number of new jobs available is very low. As a consequence, traditional craftsmanship is slowly dying because the young are no longer interested in learning any crafts.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Our solution is based on 3 interconnected elements. 1. Establishing a national-wide network of craftsmen cooperatives acting as small production workshops, where craftsmen work together with different types of materials to produce a large variety of objects. They use the traditional types of manufacture for most stages of production, making each product authentic and unique. 2. Building a european wide brand (umbrella) for handcrafted objects under which we sell the cooperatives’ products. We invest in developing a clean and inclusive supply chain, making sure most of the income is going back into the communities. 3. Working with designers to develop new products with a high added value, desirability and competitiveness level.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

The best way is to give a specific example. We started about 2 years ago in a community called Peris with 2 families struggling economically. Together we created a wood-working cooperative, manufacturing mostly wooden spoons. Since the work started we managed to build a new workshop, equipped with modern machinery that bring a huge improvement to the first steps of the manufacturing process (for ex, turning the big logs into small pieces of wood). We developed new products, such as toys and different types of wooden plateaus. Currently, 5 people are earning their existence from this cooperative and sometimes they are even unable to fulfill all orders coming their way because they lack the necessary man-power, so expansion is needed.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

The next step is to scale the development process used with the first cooperatives to the others. That means creating new products, empowering craftsmen to take full control of their cooperatives and equip the remaining 22 cooperatives. The best part about this process is the fact that each cooperative can access a local market, based on their geographic positioning. That means that it is a totally scalable solution to all craftsmen in Romania and Europe. Once we create a clear development system, it can be used everywhere, regardless of the location and raw materials used. So far the scalability of the model has proved successful as we managed to replicate it from a wood-working cooperative (the first one established) to a rattan weaving cooperative (for example), 450 km away. Another important step is boosting our sales by expanding our market reach to other European countries.
Sustainability

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

So far the only other initiatives addressing this problem in Romania propose 2 solutions, both different from what we proposed. One is to make the traditional products of the craftsmen more visible. We feel that this is not a suitable option because it doesn’t really bring a realistic improvement to the cause. There is a reason why traditional hand-made objects disappeared from the market and that wasn’t lack of promotion but more the lack of competitiveness. By developing new products, manufactured from the same materials and using the same methods, we are bringing new value to the traditional craftsmanship. The other solution is to re qualify the craftsman in order to access new jobs. This is not viable as the job market is already over-stretched, with insufficient jobs. Plus, in this way you are practically giving up the traditional craftsmanship.
Team

Team

The team is very mixed, having people from all domains of activity. Also, on a personal level, the team is very mixed, half of the people being Roma and the other half of other ethnicities. The Association offers a perfect mix of Roma activists and social workers, motivated to bring change into society. They have positive experience in community work and growing vulnerable communities. The company provides marketing and communication experts, able to manage the business side of the initiative. The cooperatives are formed of craftsmen of all ages. This mixture guarantees a very creative environment, perfect for such a challenging project. And to top it off, the project's vision and objectives, to create jobs, bring new products to the market trough an inclusive supply chain and saving the traditional craftsmanship, are perfectly aligned with the visions of both organizations.
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