By Subir Ghosh
The Fabric of Change initiative of Ashoka and the C&A Foundation is set for a scale-up with the two organisations launching a new €250,000 Scaling Impact Fund as part of their joint venture supporting social innovation in the apparel industry. The announcement came in the run-up to the Fabric of Change Globalizer Summit organised in Bengaluru on Friday.
"The awards will focus on the newly crafted strategies and the way forward rather than past achievements. This is an exploratory process that will lead to new lessons and insights about successfully implementing scaling strategies and facing inevitable barriers in doing so," the organisations said at the launch.
The summit was co-organised with leading global management consulting firm AT Kearney, and was marked the end of a flurry of events over the week in the city that focused on sustainability in the global textile and apparel industries. The two high-profile events held earlier were the annual convention of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and MCL News & Media’s Planet Textiles 2017.
The prizes that will be available to participating Ashoka Fellows include the Impact Award for €100,000, the Gender Justice Award for €30,000, two Peer Awards for €25,000 each, and seven Strategy Spark Awards for €10,000 each. These awards will focus on the newly crafted strategies and the way forward rather than past achievements.
Nadine Freeman, co-director of Ashoka’s Globalizer Programme, explained the context: “Once a clear and robust scaling strategy is defined, one of the biggest remaining barriers is typically funding or investment to support strategy roll-out. Social entrepreneurs sometimes struggle to make the first steps towards implementation and find investors for system-level strategies which may delay their plans or force them to re-prioritise their programmes.”
The head of gender and justice at C&A Foundation, Brandee Butler, continued: “C&A Foundation is deeply inspired by the creativity, ingenuity and tenacity of these Fellows. Through the Fabric of Change partnership, and the Globalizer Programme, C&A Foundation is proud to support their work and to enable access to the expertise, networks and resources they need to refine and scale their innovations.”
Among those who spoke at the event was Neelesh Hundekari, partner and head, lifestyle and specialty retail for APAC at AT Kearney. Hundekari set the context by looking at the global textile value chain which stands at $1.9 trillion at the retail consumption level, with apparel accounting for close to 80 per cent of the market.
Hundekari highlighted a number of trends shaping the industry including emergence of fast fashion driving apparel as a disposable item; increasing consumer concern with health, well-being fuelling growth of sportswear and fitnesswear; rising preference for eco-friendly and sustainable products; and an emerging trend for personalised/customised products, among others. He said the impact of these trends is being increasingly felt across the value chain.
The event included a marathon "breakout" session where participants looked at barriers to a sustainable apparel chain, and then identified the reasons leading to these barriers, and finally worked out design solutions to the problems. This was in tune with the initiative's vision of a fair and sustainable apparel industry in which all stakeholders are empowered to ensure that people and planet are respected. The underlying factor for all solutions was social innovation.
The Fabric of Change initiative is a three-year programme that focuses on: a deep dive research into the roadblocks to industry-wide change; crowdsourcing new solutions to industry challenges; selecting and supporting leading social innovators; accelerating the adoption of their solutions; and, spotting and sharing key insights emerging from these social innovators.
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