Craft Beauty staff are in no doubt about the impact four Australian volunteer assignments have had on their organisation. From the use of Photoshop, to more focus on team-work, to the use of the design cycle for planning and improvement, the staff can list many significant changes which have been prompted by the volunteers the organisation has hosted.

Craft Beauty is an independent NGO based in Hanoi, Vietnam which creates Vietnamese handicraft products under fair-trade conditions. It gives disadvantaged women the support and the opportunity to improve their standard of living by providing financial security and self-confidence through secure work, training and safe-conditions.

When first contacted in 2013, Craft Beauty management wanted to improve its efficiency as well as the quality and diversity of their handmade products. They also wanted a better understanding of international market trends and a marketing strategy. To address these needs a number of short-term volunteer assignments were developed and implemented under the Australian Volunteers for International Development program. One assignment undertaken by Australian volunteer Steven D’Elia in 2013 focused on marketing and business management, while the remaining three were delivered by Trish Hodgson in 2014 and 2016 and focused on the design and production process.

Steven built staff capacity in marketing and developed new marketing strategies which are still in use. Three years later Craft Beauty staff also note how he inspired the organisation to be less hierarchical and to work as a team, and encouraged the establishment of company yoga sessions. In the words of the Vice Director Ms Hoai “With Steven teaching us the foundations of teamwork, we have learnt how to work effectively as a team.”

Trish’s earlier assignments focused on transferring technical skills such as using Photoshop in the design process. Her third assignment buttressed these skills with higher level theoretical design knowledge and skills, such as of the design cycle. According to Ms Hoai, having multiple short-term assignments helped the Craft Beauty team learn. “We think that short assignments are really efficient because we can concentrate and focus to learn from the training. Then we will practice and do ourselves. We put into practice what we have learnt.”

Ms Hoai is also clear about the value the volunteers have provided to the organisation. “The biggest changes for our organisation are that we have reduced the cost of the sample process, and we can now make our own designs, and also the image of the company is more professional.”

In the last several years Craft Beauty has maintained growth at around 5%. For Ms Hoai this is to a considerable degree due to the efficiencies generated because of the volunteers’ support. She considers 5% average growth to be a very good result when other similar organisations in Vietnam have been failing over the last several years. It is clear then that Trish and Steven have made an impact. By contributing to Craft Beauty’s efficiency they have helped maintain the 45 women that Craft Beauty employs in sustainable, secure, and safe employment.

The Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID) program is an Australian Government initiative. Steven and Trish’s assignments were developed by Australian Business Volunteers who are working in consortium with Scope Global, a delivery partner of the AVID program.

Australian Business Volunteers