Conference Spotlight: Ten Thousand Villages

Courtney Lang August 24, 2011

With a compassionate mission and unique business model, Ten Thousand Villages has been providing opportunities for artisans in developing countries to earn income for more than 65 years.

As one of the world’s oldest and largest fair trade organizations, we adhere to values that put artisans first.

Rajana Associates of Cambodia

  • Artisans receive up to 50 percent in cash advances when an order is placed, and payment in full when an order is shipped, allowing artisan groups to purchase equipment and raw materials without taking out loans with high interest rates.
  • Artisans and Ten Thousand Villages agree on a fair price that covers the cost of labor and materials and enables artisans to earn fair compensation for their work.
  • Long-term relationships and consistent orders give them asustainable source of income that enables them to plan for the future—investing in technology and skills training in order to reach their full business potential.
  • Our designers and buyers work with artisans to integrate trend information, new product suggestions and traditional crafts.  Artisan partners thrive with the opportunity refine their skills and expand their creative vision in the creation of new art.
  • We encourage our staff and artisan partners to employ sustainable practices and to use recycled and natural materials when possible.  Many artisans recycle materials such as newspaper, post-consumer magazines and glass to create innovative and functional products.

As a retailer, we choose beautiful, handcrafted products—gifts, home décor and personal accessories—that are environmentally sustainable and reflect cultural traditions.  Our purchases of these products help artisans who would otherwise be unemployed or underemployed pay for food, education, healthcare and housing.

As a nonprofit, we use our net revenues to increase craft purchases and expand our distribution channels.  We also educate customers about our artisans, their crafts and cultures, and fair trade.  Fair Trade Towns is an effective partner in this awareness effort, building local interest in the global impact of fair trade. The manager of our Media, Pennsylvania store, Lisa McSain, served on the original Fair Trade Town committee for the country’s first Fair Trade Town. Ten Thousand Villages stores are located in eight of the 23 Fair Trade Towns in the U.S., and in most of these cases, a Ten Thousand Villages representative was involved in the organizing committee.  Currently, 11 of our stores are involved in a Fair Trade Town steering committee in places like Chapel Hill, Alexandria, and Pasadena. Each new fair trade shopper helps to generate income and jobs for artisans and producers, alleviating poverty with every purchase.

We're all in this together: Ten Thousand Villages, artisans and consumers can some together to create an equal global environment.

The inspiration for our name came from Mahatma Gandhi, who said, “…India is not to be found in its few cities but in the 700,000 villages…we have hardly ever paused to inquire if these folks get sufficient to eat and clothe themselves with.”

To us, each village in the world represents a unique, distinctive people, offering extraordinary products born of their rich cultures and traditions.

And to us, each town in the United States is an opportunity— to expand fair trade, to generate employment and income for jobs and artisans, to educate and empower millions of people in developing countries.

We look forward to gathering with other fair traders at the National Conference, sharing stories, experiences and strategies, and meeting the future leaders of the movement, who will carry the good work of fair trade from our towns to villages everywhere.

Conference Registration:

The Fair Trade Towns & Universities National Conference is less than 2 weeks away and there is a VERY limited number of tickets left.  Follow this link for more details and to register now:

Discount Hotel Block:

A limited number of rooms are on block for the conference at the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown.  Reserve a room online here or call 1-800-228-9290 and reference the Fair Trade Towns & Universities Conference.

Travel Stipend Application:

We’re pleased to be able to offer limited financial assistance for the Fair Trade Towns & Universities National Conference to allow leaders, organizers and volunteers to offset travel, meals and accommodations.  It’s easy to apply!  Once you have registered for the conference, fill out the Travel Stipend Application and e-mail of fax it to the address provided in the application.


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Courtney Lang, National Organizer | Fair Trade Campaigns

Courtney Lang brings over 5 years of community organizing to Fair Trade Towns USA, building both the Local Food and Fair Trade networks in Vermont. As Local Food Coordinator with City Market/Onion River Cooperative, Courtney worked with local producers, institutions and consumers to grow the local food system and organize a strategic model for community engagement through farm tours, workshops, and local food challenges. Like many in the Fair Trade industry, Courtney was inspired to take action in Fair Trade when she witnessed child-labor first hand in Costa Rica. As a founding member of Fair Trade Burlington, she has worked with economic development organizations, businesses, and consumers to build awareness of Fair Trade among Vermonters. She also worked with a Fair Trade USA licensee, Vermont Coffee Company, as Friend Ambassador where she united the story of Fair Trade to every purchase of coffee.