Ifrane in Frame

: A Spotlight on the Trade+Impact Inaugural Summit+Trade Expo in 2016 :
Written by: Lydia Nylander

When you picture Morocco what comes to mind – Incredible desert vistas, winding medinas, vibrant colors and tagine!

But there is a different side – an unorthodox side – a place called Ifrane which looks like a scene from the Sound of Music – with temperate weather, Swiss-style architecture and ski chalets and in the autumn months – SNOW!  

Ifrane was to be my first experience of Morocco and Trade+Impact and I think that this break with convention was a clear sign of how unorthodox my time with the T+I Community would turn out to be.

Being part of the first wave of women leaders to gather for T+I was significant to me. As the Director of Social Impact for Shea Radiance, my role requires me to look at what Trade +Impact ultimately equates to - how business can be a spring board to global economic prosperity. Understanding the challenges and opportunities that woman in a specific value chain (in our case shea) face allows us to grow and scale together ensuring lasting sustainability to the craft, textiles and natural cosmetic sectors.

In a sentence: Trade+Impact magnified my thoughts on what is possible, what partnership with social impact investors can look like and what needs to happen - now.

From the opening ceremony to our parting words to each other, the three days were filled with many lightning bolts and ah-ha moments. Being surrounded by peers and fellow women who approach this work with the same sense of palpable vigor and determination is always special, however Trade+Impact was different in its call to action with tangible ways to connect and engage. The following became my three major takeaways as I work to infuse the tenets instilled during the Trade+Impact Summit into my work.

The right to do things differently

As we engage in the important work of harnessing social impact in the craft and natural cosmetic sector, we as practitioners must be reminded of the need to support the inherent right to be an individual. With the zeal to be organized and strategic, coalitions and trade association groups are a natural and positive development, however every session, every panel discussion and every conversation I had with social entrepreneurs all over Africa and the Middle East highlighted that everyone has an individual story, a specific point of view and an instinctive understanding of what works for them. The danger of monolithic thinking and giving into assumptions has real consequences as we seek to understand the challenges around access to finance, developing trade linkages and ensuring sustainability of the sector.  Panels on the realities and sometimes competing priorities of buyers and sellers in the market place allowed the T+ I community access into a different world view based in the spirit of partnership not patronage.

True inspiration has no expiry date

Working as a social entrepreneur can be daunting. It can be hard to align the impact you know is possible with the resources, time and people needed to operate and scale a business-centered around artisan products. T+I was an important reminder that despite fallbacks uncertainty and frustration, inspiration has no expiry date.  Our fears, failures, and experience are often the fuel we need to approach this work strategically but authentically. Workshops were designed to ground-truth investment your companies investment readiness with a candor that acknowledged the need to trust your vision, understand your audience and most importantly know when and where to seek help.

Follow the Yellow Brick Road

T+I panel discussions and working sessions were the perfect marriage of the theoretical and anecdotal. I along with fellow participants felt the imperative to create the self-imposed matching orders to identify new audiences and stakeholders with which to engage and partner. I left Ifrane and my new T+I community encouraged, doggedly tenacious and appreciative of the opportunity to take brave, new steps together. Following the yellow brick road to expanding opportunity for all those in the sector is now a tangible commitment for all those who participated. I want to thank all those responsible for putting together a stellar inaugural T+I Summit!

 

 

Ms. Lydia Nylander is the Director of Sustainability and Impact at Shea Radiance which creates natural and effective hair and body care products with shea butter for the eclectic, savvy and luxury focused woman.