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Guiding Principles
Main image
Liang Xiaoying learns the intricacies of indigo wax batik from her uncle, Yang Wenbin, an artisan in Guiyang, China, who is committed to documenting and promoting Miao textile arts. Photo by Josh Eli Cogan, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives

Local Partners

Cultural sustainability is most successful when driven by community needs and embraced by local partners who will carry the work forward long after our project ends. SAI leaves a small footprint, bringing in international expertise only when necessary and ensuring that all activities are building the capacity of local counterparts—whether in documentation and research, product development and design, training, or access to markets.

We accomplish this by building strong partnerships with communities and local organizations. Our SAI activities are meant to provide these partners with the specific tools necessary to accomplish their cultural sustainability goals.

Youth Engagement

Transmission is one of the biggest challenges facing the sustainability of artisan practices around the world. Today’s master-apprentice relationship is easily ruptured by currents of globalization and urbanization, which disconnect artisans from their markets and introduce a new range of mass-produced merchandise.

While access to education is improving worldwide, cultural practices are rarely included in curricula. SAI aims to restore this connection by engaging youth in the artisan sector. This engagement can take many forms: using technology to promote cultural practices, pairing young designers with elder artisans to design product lines, or working with local urban brands to include handmade elements in their product lines.

As craft can easily be lost within one generation, we understand how important it is for the new generation to value artisans and their processes and take part in their preservation (through documentation) and evolution (through collaborative design and creativity).

Appropriate Market Access

International markets are attractive for artisans, especially as consumers in their local markets turn to cheaper foreign-made or mass-produced goods. The global market for handmade goods is expanding rapidly, with large brands turning to artisan producers to identify unique product lines. Global trends change rapidly, and by targeting international markets, artisans can be dramatically impacted by this change.

We recognize the tremendous potential of international market access while taking a balanced approach to product design, assisting artisans in product enhancements that will also improve and expand their existing local markets.

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