Author Archives: Marisa Barnett

Permalink to Congratulations to July’s Graduates!

Congratulations to July’s Graduates!

A few months ago they were strangers; full of hesitation, good intentions and fumbling words.


Five months later they stand together as friends; full of joy, proud of the fruits of their labor with affirmation flowing freely from their lips.


We are so proud of all of the entrepreneurs that have worked so hard to graduate from the Paradigm Shift program this month and of the volunteers that have poured so much love, time and effort into the program.


Here are some snapshots of July’s graduates.


Permalink to Washing Machines: Part of Community Development

Washing Machines: Part of Community Development

“This made me think about the assumptions we often make about people and their needs, especially those we mean to “benefit” with development assistance”

Miguel Zamora, Director of Coffee Innovation & Producer Relations at Fair Trade USA, drives home an important point in the article below. Original article



“When I first heard about the washing machines, I thought, “Really?” I’m so used to hearing Fair Trade farmers tell me about how they invested their community development premiums in things like healthcare programs, scholarships for kids and environmental programs. That’s why I was truly surprised when a group of flower farm workers in Cotopaxi, Ecuador, presented me with a piece of magic machinery that gives people their Sundays back.

Fair Trade Certified flowers in Ecuador ready to come to the U.S.


During my visit to the farm, I asked a worker, Elsa Vasquez, why her community decided to spend their premium funds on something as simple as a washing machine. Her statement was very clear:


“I used to spend my Sundays, every single one, from 8am to 1pm down in the river washing my family’s clothes by hand.  Now I spend it with my family.  We go to church together.  I take my children to see their grandparents.  We have lunch together.  I got my Sundays back!”

One of the “magic” washing machines purchased with Fair Trade premiums that gave the flower farmers their Sundays back.


This made me think about the assumptions we often make about people and their needs, especially those we mean to “benefit” with development assistance, and even through Fair Trade.  In this case, it was profoundly clear that nobody knew better about what the workers on this farm needed than the farm workers themselves. They simply wanted their Sundays back.



Those workers, most of them women, not only bought washing machines with the Fair Trade premiums, some of them also bought computers, paid for English classes for their kids, and spoke about their dreams of one day buying a house for their families.


Because of the opportunities and benefits of Fair Trade, it turns out that reality was not so far off. The workers soon met together and decided to dream big.  They chose, against the well-intentioned advice from the farm manager, to invest in a plot of land where they’ll soon begin constructing houses for each and every farm worker. The manager told me:

Models of the homes the workers are building with the help of Fair Trade.


“I guess I am more conservative than the workers.  I thought to myself: houses for everyone? That’s impossible.  But now that I see how much progress they’ve made and how enthusiastic they are with the project, I’m glad they made the decision.”


Workers are now negotiating a subsidized loan from the Ecuadorian government to begin the building process. The Fair Trade premium will help with many of the expenses to get the land ready, and to begin building the foundation of the place they will raise their families and plant the seeds of a brighter future. I suppose it really was a magic washing machine after all.


The farm workers told me that they will rely on future sales of Fair Trade Certified flowers in order to receive the Fair Trade community development premium and continue building their homes. Farm workers and management now share a common goal: increase Fair Trade sales.


As somebody who knows many people with professional degrees in Ecuador who themselves do not own homes, I am very inspired by the example these workers have set.


Everything we’ve learned from the farm workers in Ecuador is helping us to create similar impact for farm workers in coffee through our Fair Trade for All initiative.  The challenges are similar, but there are significant differences.  For example, migrant workers are a lot more common in coffee, and figuring out how Fair Trade could help in a way that makes sense to them will be a difficult but inspiring task.


It may be a challenging road ahead, but I believe now more than ever that if Fair Trade can help Ecuadorian flower farmers get their Sundays back, it can do so, so much more. ”


Too often, we assume that we know what people need, particularly when it comes to the materially poor. In reality, they are the ones who know what their community really needs and what is and isn’t going to work. Instead of doing things for the materially poor, we should work with them and together come up with solutions to the problems facing their communities.



Permalink to Give a child a fish…

Give a child a fish…

Give a child a fish, and feed him for a day. Train his parents how to fish and you’ll feed him for a lifetime.


The most vulnerable members of a society are its children. There are so many wonderful organizations that feed, clothe and educate children and the impact that these initiatives have is far reaching.


At Paradigm Shift we believe that one form of protecting and providing for children is to equip and empower their parents.




If a parent can receive the necessary skills and empowerment to run a successful business, they are able to feed their children and send them to school. Not only that, but they model their initiative and hard work to their children.


Which is the better gift? To give a parent food to feed their children or to train and empower them so that the parent is able to put feed on their own table every day?


By empowering and equipping the parent to be the breadwinner, the child is able to see the parent as the provider and protector, instead of relying on another source.


Unemployment leaves many parents feeling ashamed that they are unable to provide for their family. Lets restore their dignity. And in doing so, we will see children protected and provided for.





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Willow Creek Association

"The untapped resource of business men and women in our churches is a powerful force. Once engaged, it has the potential to create a massive impact among local entrepreneurs working themselves out of poverty."
— Gerry Couchman, CEO
WCA South Africa

Chief Economist

"The Paradigm Shift approach to economic development is one of the only truly empowering, sustainable and effective approaches I have come across. I’m convinced that if the Paradigm Shift framework were implemented in every urban poor community in the country, we’d see a profound, positive transformation of our economy and society."
— Russell Lamberti, ETM Analytics

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