The Nest Artisan Advancement Project

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The Nest Artisan Advancement Project: Visibility, Viability and Value for Global Artisan Businesses

New York, United States
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$1 million - $5 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

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

A cross-sector initiative to create reliable assessment and remediation tools for artisan supply chains in the unregulated informal sector. Universally accepted standards and programming will ensure ethical and economically viable sourcing partnerships for retail brands and artisan producers.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if the artisan craft sector reaped the benefits of transparency and visibility, utilizing assessment and remediation to improve the conditions and livelihoods of the women and men maintaining craft traditions in emerging economies?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Artisan craft is the second largest employer of women in developing economies, behind only agriculture. But craft is also part of the informal cash economy, making artisans invisible and their working conditions unregulated. Estimates suggest that 20-60% of garment production occurs in the home, not inside the four-wall factory. No reliable means of monitoring homework currently exists. Nest is committed to empowering through transparency.

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

In collaboration with artisans, brands like West Elm, and potential partners Eileen Fisher, Ann, Inc. and more, Nest will develop a set of open-source ethical compliance standards, mapped to traditional factory audits but adapted to the context of homework and decentralized artisan production models. Not a pass/fail system, the assessment results inform design and implementation of programming plans to improve both the economic and social viability of artisan businesses. Compliance issues being addressed range from Fair Compensation and Transparent Record-Keeping to Child Advocacy and Artisan Rights and Wellbeing. Market Readiness programming ranges from business and communication training to design mentorship and facility upgrades.


Voss Foundation’s Women Helping Women, PBS Change Maker, CNN’s Young Person Who Rocks, Cordes Fellowship, GLG Social Impact Fellowship, Clinton Global Initiative comp. membership, White House Top 100 Entrepreneurial Enterprises led by a young person
Impact: How does it Work

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

Nest’s West Java project exemplifies the impact possible through the Nest Artisan Advancement Project: In Indonesia, Nest worked with a traditional batik business employing 350 women. In a country known for the repression of women, Nest workshops for artisans have generated new employment opportunities, increasing artisan employment by 10% in one year. In addition, the business is demonstrating the viability of being profitable while still paying beyond living wages to artisans, who are typically paid well below minimum wage by informal sector employers. With Nest’s help, the business has implemented a payment model by which artisans earn 65% more than the national average, setting a strong example for other batik businesses as well.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Since its inception, Nest programming has contributed to the employment of 84,000 people within global artisan supply chains. In terms of the Artisan Advancement Project specifically, Nest has piloted the newly developed standards and assessment tools with 4 different artisan businesses across 3 continents, providing increased transparency to more than 5,000 people. Nest is currently in the process of piloting remediation programming with these groups, which will commence in early 2016. Nest is in the process of establishing a steering committee of key retail brands who will pilot the Advancement Project with their artisan suppliers over 2016. Once the model is fully developed, it will be publicly launched with open source standards and the ability to utilize Nest services via a fee-for-service model. Nest anticipates reaching a minimum of 25,000 artisans in year one alone.

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

The initial adopters of the tools will be the six steering committee brands, who will show proof of concept. Once publicly launched, it is expected that there will be wide interest in the implementation of programming -- Nest anticipates serving over 200,000 artisans by 2020, once the program is launched to the public. In order to have far-reaching impact, Nest will seek partnership with leading auditing firms such as Bureau Veritas, as well as alignment with certification bodies such as Fair Trade USA.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

The project incorporates a fee-for-service model by which retail brands (or artisan businesses themselves) support the work of advancing artisans. Combined with philanthropic support, this diversified revenue stream enables Nest to continuing tackling untouched, universal issues that all artisan business face. Other such initiatives include wastewater management solutions and established living wage models for piece-rate production.

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

The Nest approach is unique within the craft sector for its intense focus on artisan self-sufficiency. Rather than act as a middleman within the supply-chain, Nest remains an independent, third-party working on behalf of the artisan. As relates specifically the Advancement Project, across competitive analysis of more than 30 auditing services, Nest's model stands out in that it is not a pass-fail certification, assessments map to programming, there is no reliance on self-reporting, and Nest is the only model working towards industry-wide standardization.

Founding Story

Rebecca van Bergen formed the idea of Nest the same year Muhammad Yunus won the Nobel Prize for his work in microfinance. With a degree in social work, she concerned herself with the universal challenges of women in developing economies, and recognized craft as an underutilized resource available to women to strengthen their families and communities. Rebecca believed that loans could only be part of the equation in growing sustainable businesses. They must be combined with training, business acumen, and market forces, in order to effect change that would could be deemed sustainable. Long before artisan was a buzzword, Rebecca recognized artisans as forces for positive global change.


The Nest family is a small team comprised of a wide array of experiences and expertise. With 6 full-time and 3 part-time employees, as well as in-country program managers, Nest's skills range from global development to social work to retail design and marketing. In addition, Nest is supported by a large network of industry experts, who are deployed to address very specific needs facing artisan partners - from design mentorship to business plan development to assessment of production efficiency. In the past three years alone, Nest has incorporated over 80 fellowship positions into its programming efforts. Nest is also supported by a powerful Board of Trustees and Advisory Board, which includes heads for major retail brands, significant philanthropists, and leaders in the fields of, business, design, and architecture.
Value Chain: Where does your work fit into the apparel value chain? [check all that apply]


Your Role: What is your relationship to the apparel industry? [check all that apply]

Advocate/Organizer, Auditor, Non-profit Staff, Researcher, Sourcing Manager / Supply Chain Manager.

Target Population: What stakeholder groups do you engage or empower in your work? [check all that apply]

Auditors, Brands, Children, Consumers, Corporations, Designers, Factory Owners, Policymakers, Researchers, Retailers - Department Store, Retailers - Specialty Store, Retailers - Mass-merchandise Chain, Sourcing Manager / Supply Chain Manager, Supplier - contractor, Supplier - subcontractor, Women, Youth.

● Intervention Focus: What are you trying to achieve / influence? [check all that apply]

Accountability, Conscious Consumerism, Labor Rights (i.e. Collective Bargaining, etc.), Gender Equality, Physical Working Conditions, Transparency.

Lever for Change: Select up to 3 ways your work is helping to transform the industry.

Capacity Building, Standards, Training.

Is your project targeted at solving any of the following key barriers?

Hidden from View: Conditions in Forests, Farms, and Factories are Only Visible to a Select Few, Sustainability is Not Yet in the DNA: Fast Fashion’s Current Model Disincentivizes Value-Driven Economies.

Does your project utilize any of the innovative design principles below?

Disrupt Business as Usual: Target Key Players Who Can Influence the Bottom Line, Transform the Chain into a Web: Link Unlikely Sectors that Open New Pathways to Sustainability.

Innovation Inspiration: When you first conceived of your project, did you think of it as applicable to the apparel industry?


If you answered "no" to the previous question, which industry was your project originally aimed at transforming?

● Replicating in the Apparel Industry: If your project didn't initially target the apparel industry, how are you specifically tailoring it to do so now?
Are you nurturing or inspiring others to be changemakers? If so, how?

Nest runs 2 active programs for young professionals interested in creating a sustainable and ethical fashion industry.

● Tell us about the partnerships that enhance your approach. How have you collaborated with others in the industry to increase your impact?

Nest has deep partnerships with leading retail brands, in addition to partnerships with experts in auditing and certification.

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