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To the Market: Empowering survivors around the world

During the ONE Women and Girls AYA Summit I attended in mid-October, I had the pleasure to meet Jane Mosbacher Morris, Founder and CEO of TO THE MARKET | Survivor-made Goods. Jane presented on her social enterprise TO THE MARKET | Survivor-made Goods (TTM) an amazing, creative organization that combines the powers of commerce and storytelling to empower the world’s most courageous survivor populations.

To the Market showcases handmade goods made exclusively by proud and passionate artisans who have overcome the perils of abuse, conflict, and disease. By assisting local partners around the world in bringing these goods “to the market,” TTM takes an active role in equipping the survivor’s they employ with economic independence, while raising awareness of the challenges that they face.

I was so impressed by Jane and the organization that she founded, that I invited her to do a guest post on my blog to introduce you to her work and To the Market. Here is her story.

This is taken in We are in the slums of Dehra Dun, India and shows Jane talking with a mother of a polio survivor.  Her son, the polio survivor, is able to work, allowing the family (including the mother pictured) to be supported.  Photo credit: Neil Ruskin

This is taken in the slums of Dehra Dun, India and shows Jane talking with a mother of a polio survivor. Her son, the polio survivor, is able to work, allowing the family (including the mother pictured) to be supported. Photo credit: Neil Ruskin

To the Market: How and Why it Began

Guest post by Jane Mosbacher Morris is the Founder and CEO of TO THE MARKET | Survivor-made Goods

Whether working domestically or abroad, I am consistently reminded of how crucial it is, especially for women, to have some form of economic independence. This economic independence helps to ensure that we are not left at the mercy of others when we unexpectedly find ourselves in a dire situation.

This point was hammered home to me during my time working for the U.S. State Department on women and security. I began studying the approach that many governments and non-profits were taking to provide assistance to vulnerable populations, many of whom were women. What I observed was a major focus on social service provision—administering things like medicine, housing, and pro-bono legal assistance.  Social services are extraordinarily important, particularly in emergency situations, but they are generally not available to the beneficiary for the duration of his or her life.  What seemed to be lacking was a plan to support those in need after they received the emergency assistance.

I wanted to see more opportunities for these persons to move away from a status of vulnerability towards a position of strength, power, and independence. A significant portion of these persons had also gone through some type of traumatic experience, whether abuse, conflict, or disease.   In my eyes, these survivors had already lost a degree of control over their life—what could be done to help them regain some of this control back, in a sustainable way?

Year after year, issue after issue, I continued to return to the answer of economic independence, through the form of earning an income. The dignity of work is not only restorative to one’s spirit, but it also helps to ensure that the survivors of abuse don’t return to their exploitative relationships; that survivors of conflict can forge a new life without relying on charity; and that survivors of disease could afford the care that they need.

I felt in my heart that I could help to provide an opportunity for vulnerable persons to access an income, but I struggled to identify how until almost a decade into my career. In the spring of 2013, after completing a MBA from Columbia Business School and moving on from working at the U.S. State Department, I was working as Director of Humanitarian Action for The McCain Institute for International Leadership.  I was lucky enough to get to accompany Mrs. Cindy McCain to Calcutta, India to learn about the current state of human trafficking. We visited red light districts and aftercare facilities, and at the end of the trip visited two social enterprises that were started for the purpose of providing employment to human trafficking survivors.

This photo captures a human trafficking survivor from Mumbai, India sewing a purse.  She still lives in the Red Light District to help other women through the Manna Prayer House.  TO THE MARKET buys from Manna Prayer House for our pop-up shops. Photo credit: Neil Ruskin.

This photo captures a human trafficking survivor from Mumbai, India sewing a purse. She still lives in the Red Light District to help other women through the Manna Prayer House. TO THE MARKET buys from Manna Prayer House for our pop-up shops. Photo credit: Neil Ruskin.

I was struck by the model—the concept of creating an organization for the purpose of serving a survivor population through employment rather than just social services—and became committed to learn more.  I soon discovered that hundreds of these organizations employing survivors had been started all over the world for different types of populations, including survivors of abuse, conflict, and disease. When interviewing the founders of these organizations, I heard overwhelmingly positive feedback, but also learned about the common difficulties of this model. Given the challenges, I examined my skill set to identify how, if at all, I could add value, and ultimately decided that I not only could, but also should.

In early 2014, I founded TO THE MARKET | Survivor-made Goods (TTM) to promote goods made by and stories told by survivors of abuse, conflict, and disease.  TTM aims to combine an understanding of business and the market with my experience of working with survivor populations on the ground. With a team of volunteers and consultants, we developed a three-pronged social enterprise model aimed at mitigating the challenges of employing survivors.

Part one of TTM’s mission is to promote survivor-made goods for purchase. We do this through multiple distribution channels, including pop-up shops, custom sourcing, retail partnerships, and our online marketplace.  A second core TTM focus is creating platforms for survivors and their champions to share their stories with a new, larger audience of ears and hearts, including through TTM’s Stories and Huffington Post blogs.  Lastly, TTM provides tailored services to our partners employing survivors to help them improve their production and organizational management. Our Partner Portal provides basic mental health resources reflective of the common mental health dynamics experienced by survivors as well as trend forecasting to encourage more market driven decision-making.

This is a photo of one of To the Market's survivor-made products.  All of those products are available on the site. Photo credit: Emily Johnston

This is a photo of one of To the Market’s survivor-made products. All of those products are available on the site. Photo credit: Emily Johnston

The result is a unique benefit designed to increase sales and allow for these social enterprises to expand and employ more survivors over time. As we move forward, we hope to continue to expand the services we bring to our local partners. Our team dreams of deepening our mental health resources, and providing more in-depth production assistance. We also envision expanding TO THE MARKET’s network, assisting more survivors by empowering the organizations that employ them. We know that resilience is more powerful than suffering and look forward to giving the survivors with whom we partner the opportunity to prove this to the world.

To visit To the Market and view their Survivor-Made Goods, click here. Be sure to check out all the amazing stories involving the survivors who make the products. You can also learn more about each organization that TTM supports by checking out “local partners”. It is very impressive!

 About Jane

Jane

Jane Mosbacher Morris

Jane Mosbacher Morris is the Founder and CEO of TO THE MARKET | Survivor-made Goods, a social enterprise focused on the promotion of goods made by and stories told by survivors of conflict, abuse, and disease. She previously served as the Director of Humanitarian Action for the McCain Institute for International Leadership, where she managed the Institute’s human trafficking. Prior to joining the Institute, she worked in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Counterterrorism and in the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues.

She has also worked at the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and has served as an investment consultant to Barbara Corcoran of ABC’s Shark Tank.  She has traveled, spoken, and written broadly on peace and security. She regularly blogs for the Huffington Post.

Mosbacher Morris has received numerous awards from the Department of State, as well as has been named one of the “Top 99 Under 33 Most Influential Young Professionals” by The Diplomatic Courier in 2011. She serves on the Advisory Boards of the; Afghanistan’s ARZU: Studio of Hope; 360 DEGREES Vanishing, and wH20: The Journal on Gender and Water. She serves on the Boards of Women LEAD and USA Cares. She is a proud mentor at the University of Kentucky’s Gatton School of Business’s Women Business Leaders. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service from Georgetown University and a MBA from Columbia Business School. She is proud to be married to fellow entrepreneur, Nate Morris of Kentucky.

25 comments

    • Thanks Sally! I will never need to shop for gifts at a store any longer after compiling my list of gifts that give back! I keep hearing and learning about more and more organizations so I’m excited to up date it soon! 🙂

  1. What an inspiring story. The empowerment of women who have survived such horrible events in their lives, is a desperately needed social change. This young woman is changing the world one woman at a time. Brava!

    • You’re welcome Maya! It is a great organization and I look forward to helping survivors out through my purchases. I love being able to give a gift to someone that helps someone else. It is amazing.

  2. Wow, I am delighted to learn about this organization and the good that it’s doing! I will try to buy something and also mention this organization in my blog’s next “Causes I Support” post.

    • So glad you enjoyed. I love this entire concept and I can’t think of a better way to give a gift than to also help someone in need! It is a brilliant way to give back. 🙂

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