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Ten Thousand Villages decides whether or not to buy from artisan groups, countries or regions within a framework of considerations that balance human need, product marketability and the long-term sustainability of the relationship between the group and Ten Thousand Villages. Most countries have a percentage of their population living below the poverty level, making it necessary for us to evaluate other factors as well when deciding where our purchasing dollars can be spent most wisely.
The United Nations Human Development Index (HDI) is a composite of three dimensions of development: living a long and healthy life, being educated and having a decent standard of living. It factors in per capita income, but also factors in indicators such as life expectancy, adult literacy and educational enrollment. A country's HDI is one of the factors Ten Thousand Villages considers when evaluating whether we should buy in a country, and if so, how much we should spend.
In countries where the HDI may indicate conditions are moderately good, it is important to also critique the distribution of income. We reference the Gini coefficient, which is a measure of income inequality and is designed to measure if monetary resources and well being are the benefit of a few people or of the broader population. It is another factor Ten Thousand Villages uses in determining an appropriate level of buying in a country.
People living below the poverty level have varying degrees of market access and face different barriers in reaching market. Ten Thousand Villages prefers to work with groups most disconnected from North American markets. Artisans may face barriers related to geographic distance, transportation difficulties, social inequalities and organizational challenges.
North American customers buy products they need and want to enrich their lives. An ongoing selling relationship with customers is only sustainable if Ten Thousand Villages sells products that meet their needs. Despite all of the other factors we consider in establishing buying relationships, Ten Thousand Villages can only buy from groups that are producing products our customers will buy.
Ten Thousand Villages begins and maintains buying relationships that we believe to be sustainable for at least several years, in the interest of providing economic security for artisan groups. Increased economic security is directly related to an artisan group's confidence that they not only have work for today, but will also have work in the future. An expectation of future income allows them to invest in their businesses, and to plan and initiate long-term changes in their lives and their communities.
Ten Thousand Villages staff regularly visit artisan groups on location to collaborate on problem solving, as well as product design and development. Responsible use of Ten Thousand Villages resources forces us to balance the number of products we are buying in a country with the cost of servicing the relationship. Extenuating circumstances are necessary for Ten Thousand Villages to buy from just one group or to buy just a few products from one country or region.
Ten Thousand Villages strives to offer our customers quality, handmade products that uniquely merge our North American world and the world of artisans. Each product sold by Ten Thousand Villages must communicate our brand in order to build market presence, increase sales and provide a sustainable marketing channel for artisans.