Empowering Survivor Communities Through Commerce

2015-06-28-1435466548-7483243-ttm.jpg Photo by Neil Ruskin

Economic empowerment is a commonly used term these days. Programs upon programs are developed and implemented with the hopes of providing disadvantaged populations with the necessary tools, skills, and resources that will allow them to improve their economic conditions. Such programs are worthy of praise and often have a transformational impact on entire communities. The ability of every person to improve theirs and their families livelihood is not only a laudable goal but also imperative.

So what happens next after you've taught the person to catch the proverbial fish? Without the ability to market and distribute the fruits of their labor this person has yet to improve their livelihood. People may argue for hours as to whether a tree that falls in the forest makes a sound. Metaphorically speaking, when it comes to entrepreurship, without customers there is undoubtedly no sound. In fact, without the ability to reach their intended market; after expending valuable time and resources developing and creating their new product, the entrepreneur may actually be worse off than before launching their venture.

Building upon work done by organizations and economic development professionals, tothemarket.com (TTM), takes the concept of economic empowerment one step further by, as the name suggests, providing market access to budding entrepreneurs. Focusing namely on goods produced by survivors of abuse, conflict, and disease TTM provides some of the world's most vulnerable entrepreneurs with a platform to not only showcase their skills but reach the global market.

Influenced by her work with some of the world's most disadvantaged populations, TTM's founder, Jane Mosbacher Morris, a former State Department official and renowned anti-human trafficking expert, sought to combine commerce and technology to harness the power of globalization to positively impact the lives of entire communities.

Thanks to the work of TTM, entrepreneurs from survivor communities are able to directly access a number of markets. TTM's online platform provides entrepreneurs with a conduit to reach millions of costumers and effectively market and develop their brand. Beyond cyberspace, TTM is instrumental in creating opportunities for such entrepreneurs to display their products in physical locations, either through the creation of temporary "pop-up" shops or the creation of longer term retail partnerships. TTM even plays a supporting role to survivor entrepreneurs, often providing much needed trend forecasting, basic mental health resources, and management and production advice.

Besides directly empowering entire survivor communities to access markets, TTM has an even more lasting and profound impact. Thanks to TTM's work, entire communities are witnessing their friends and family improve their daily lives through the power of commerce. Not only does the success of TTM's local partners serve as an inspiration to others in similar circumstances, but neighbors, friends, and families are able to directly learn step-by-step from loved ones how they too can take control of their economic livelihood.

Social enterprise has been hailed for its ability to harness the power of commerce to uplift entire populations. In providing the world's most vulnerable communities with a key with which to unlock a better future for themselves and their families TTM's efforts are undoubtedly changing people's lives for the better. Unlike the falling tree in the forest, it is hard to argue such efforts are not making a loud and beautiful sound.