Worker Well Being

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Worker Well Being: From Jobs to Sustainable Livlihoods

New York, United StatesOuanaminthe, Haiti
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
Project Stage:
$100,000 - $250,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

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

Jobs are necessary but insufficient. Workers’ families need light, clean water and vision solutions, savings and investment know-how and tools to build better futures. We empower local change agents and leverage the platform of the textile industry to co-create innovations that solve these needs.

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

What if a textile factory was the center to create concentric circles of community impact co created by a coalition of factory leadership, financiers, suppliers, social innovators, local organizations, and local entrepreneurs?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

In spite of their earnings factory workers and their families have no access to vision service, clean water and electricity in their homes. They have to buy candles and water. They want to learn how to save and invest but have never had the opportunity to learn. They need vegetable seeds and tools for their family gardens. Unfortunately, the list doesn’t end there. There is little to no access to the solutions they need to build better lives.

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

Community Enterprise Solutions has been leading social innovation and impact working hand-in-hand with the leadership of Grupo M/Codevi, Levi Strauss Foundation and the IFC to build sustainable livelihoods with and for garment workers in Haiti since 2012. We leverage the textile factory platform and organizations and small businesses in the Ouanaminthe, Haiti community to build sustainable change. Using the factory as a foundation for change, not just wages, workers, their family members, and the community at large now has access to savings, energy, healthcare, agriculture and income earning solutions that were previously non-existent. We believe the textile industry is only as sustainable as the lives of the workers who make it possible.


First Place: 2014 Levi Strauss & Co Employees Community Vote Competition
Impact: How does it Work

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

We are building an ecosystem of change for workers and communities simultaneously. SolKomYo is the local social enterprise that is now leading change with Community Enterprise Solutions. The team provides low-cost, high-quality technologies to workers and community members by creating payment plan mechanisms. We empower local women entrepreneurs to sell technologies in the community. We help workers learn to save through financial literacy programs. We help community members save and invest through the creation of self-financed community banks. We are supporting the implementation of innovative agricultural solutions in the community. We will provide best practices about these solutions to the workers. And help youth become change leaders.

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

A local social enterprise has been created that is owned and led by community members. Over 8,000 technologies have been purchased by workers and community members which directly impacted over 37,000 people and generated over US$1 million in direct economic impact. In an independent study demonstrated that 96% of the purchasers see tangible benefits including cutting costs, saving energy, and improving health. 1,200+ workers have voluntarily participated in hands-on financial literacy training which included an incentive system that could be spent immediately or saved. Over 98% of workers decided to save for the future indicated the value of the program. 95% of participants were confident that they would have no or less debt in six months. Youth groups have been formed to solve school challenges. Local entrepreneurs have been empowered to offer technology solutions to community members.

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

We believe we can create a model that puts the textile factory at focal point to build concentric circles of community impact co created by a coalition of factory leadership, financiers, suppliers, social innovators, local organizations, and local entrepreneurs. We can leverage this coalition to co create social innovation teams to solve energy, health, financial, water, agricultural and income generation problems. We can put a locally-owned social enterprises at the heart of this. We have achieved this and it continues to grow. We hope to disseminate a model to replicate this all worldwide.

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

We created an ecosystem of change with local organizations, institutions, businesses and social entrepreneurs from around the world. Our local hub is where workers and the community can access products, receives information and training. IFC believes at the snowball effect the hub has and decided to invest in our food security initiative. Furthermore every time we sell a product we save the revenue in a sustainability fund for the local org.

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

There are unfortunately currently no other organizations focused on addressing the issues in a comprehensive and sustainable way. There are only one off and short lived projects.

Founding Story

In 2011 Co Founder Greg Van Kirk was invited by Ashoka and IFC to diagnose worker and community needs in Ouanaminthe. He saw the myriad critical needs that existed in spite of all of the funding and attention that Haiti had received. In short, he became pissed off and inspired to do something about it with his colleagues. He and his worked closely with Ashoka, IFC, factory leadership and local organizations to identify priority problems and apply and adapt proven social innovations to address them. An ecosystem of change was created that continues to grow and innovate.


The team includes advisors from IFC and Ashoka Senior team members. The initiative is led by Greg Van Kirk is CES Co-Founder and President, Ashoka Lemelson Fellow, Ashoka Globalizer and was recently recognized as Schwab Foundation “Social Entrepreneur of the Year for 2012 (Latin America)” at the World Economic Forum. The team includes an ambitious team of social innovators working together with the local social enterprise team. In the long term Solkomyo will lead and implement all the programs.
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]

Non-profit Staff.

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

Factory Workers.

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

Access to Essential Services (i.e. Healthcare and Education), Access to Finance.

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

Capacity Building, Certification, Organizing, Training.

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

A Job is Not Enough: Low-Income Workers Cannot Secure Long-Term Well-Being.

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

Unite More than Voice: Tap into Community Capital and Collective Resources, 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?

We work to empower first time local women entrepreneurs through the Micro Consignment Model. Youth teams through Youth Venture.

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

Ashoka, IFC and Levi Strauss Foundation together with Grupo M/CODEVI and local organizations had been critical for our work.