Graduate Student Carolyn Jenkinson examining an Ecuadoran blouse from the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection with visiting artisans Monica Morales, Flora Yepez and Inez Bonilla from La Calera, Ecuador.

Global Artisans Initiative

Our Project

The Wellbeing through Design and Microenterprise Project seeks to support community and family well-being through economic empowerment. The project connects the work and lives of artisans to the educational experiences of our students. Through the collaboration, these artisans increase their capacity to create desirable products, command fair prices in the marketplace, and bring much needed resources into their families and communities. Through experiential learning in the classroom, internships, and ongoing exchange with artisan partners, students strengthen their expertise as well as gain a genuine and global perspective on their chosen careers. The Microenterprise Project currently works with women from Ecuador, Mexico, India and Nepal. The project has also supported the expansion of market opportunities for these groups in their local settings, a permanent retail outlet at the Robin’s Nest Badger Market in the School of Human Ecology and, product sales on campus and venues throughout Madison.

The Design and Microenterprise Program was successfully launched in the spring of 2015 with a generous gift from Sue Bakke, a three year award from the Ira and Ineva Reilly Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment, support from the Global Health Institute, and additional funding through small grants from the Business School, the International Internships Program, and the Latin American, Caribbean and Iberian Studies Program at UW-Madison. This program has included faculty site visits, student internships in Mexico and Ecuador, and a vibrant 10-day Ecuadorian artisans exchange program in Wisconsin in April, 2015.

Progress has been made in establishing a store front at the Robin’s Nest Café in partnership with the Wisconsin Union. As we look forward to the second year of the Design and Microenterprise Program, we seek to deepen the projects already started, institutionalize the educational innovations that have been tested during the 2014/15 grant period, and work with current artisans as well as new artisans to help them establish themselves as independent business women.

Tatted and beaded lace scarf made by artisans in Presa de Barajas, Jalisco, Mexico which are sold through Wisconsin Without Borders Marketplace.

Tatted and beaded lace scarf made by artisans in Presa de Barajas, Jalisco, Mexico which are sold through Wisconsin Without
Borders Marketplace.

Class: Global Artisans and Radical Collaborations

In the Fall 2014 semester, the Design and Microenterprise program offered the undergraduate course at the
University of Wisconsin-Madison called “Global Artisans and Radical Collaborations.” Students from design, art, business and global health, focused on developing presentation materials for sales and product development. These projects included a logo, graphic identity, storytelling materials to support sales, re-design of the Wisconsin Without Borders sales booth, and an interactive online tool where customers can see photos of the artisans, the process and the villages. Students developed new designs for all program sites (Ecuador and Mexico), and refined existing products by focusing on findings, closures and materials.

The Radical Collaborations lecture series brought in a wide range of retail, fair trade, and indigenous artisan speakers, including a visit by an embroidery artisan from Mexico. Skype lectures/conversations were held with a branding expert in Minneapolis and a sales director of two fair trade indigenous women’s cooperatives in Mexico.


The Design and Microenterprise team worked closely with the International Internships Program (IIP) at UW-Madison to set up a robust internship experience for two students at three microenterprise sites in Ecuador this summer. One intern will focus on business development, the other on product development and design.

Additional Information

Additional information about Wisconsin Without Borders Marketplace, including upcoming sales, can be found on their website.