To Make the Global Apparel Industry More Sustainable, This Project Manager Traveled to Rural Cambodia to Empower Women #ExperteerSpotlight

Alexandra Nemeth

Senior Manager, Content Marketing & Storytelling at MovingWorlds

Think about the clothes that you’re wearing right now — do you know where they came from? Do you know the names of the people who made them? How you know if you purchase helped create local jobs (or perhaps displaced them)?

Not all apparel is created equal. Some ‘fast fashion’ options have terrible consequences for the environment and workers, while new and emerging ‘conscious brands’ have found ways to positively contribute to society across the design, production, and even distribution of their products.

Daniel Hammond, a project manager with over 20 years of apparel and product-development experience, joined MovingWorlds to find an impactful way to apply his skills to support a more sustainable global apparel industry. Having just completed a Master’s Degree in International Relations, Daniel was ready to put what he’d learned into practice, angling towards a more purposeful career centered around global development.

Through the MovingWorlds guided matching process, Daniel found an ideal match in Samatoa Lotus Textiles, a social enterprise on a mission to empower vulnerable women and their families in Cambodia by responsibly producing eco-fabrics from vegetal waste. Women artisans upcycle this organic waste by spinning and weaving it by hand according to traditional methods from the Khmer region of Cambodia. In the process, they create unique textiles that have been awarded the UNESCO Prize for handicraft excellence, and have recently attracted the growing interest of international ethical fashion designers in the high-luxury market.

Read on for our interview with Daniel to see how one person can make a difference by leveraging their impact as part of the MovingWorlds Global Experteer community.

What inspired you to “take the leap” and go Experteering?

I had worked internationally before, but I wanted an experience that focused specifically on non-profit and humanitarian initiatives. Experteering allowed me to apply the skills I’d developed throughout my 20+ years of professional experience in a new way, while gaining the social impact experience I was seeking. Working with Samatoa Lotus Textiles was a great opportunity for me to stretch and grow both personally and professionally because their activities and priorities were very different from those of the organizations I’d worked with before.

What were you doing before going Experteering?

I was finishing my Master’s of Science in International Relations at Northeastern University. I was eager to put what I’d been learning into practice, and during my experteering trip I was able to gain hands-on experience in my desired field while applying what I’d learned.

What did you do on your Experteering trip?

I served as a Financial Consultant for Samatoa Lotus Textiles. It is a textile upcycling social enterprise based in Siem Reap, Cambodia that employs local women artisans to transform organic waste into luxury textiles. The key responsibilities of my role were to work with the local team, and then research and write proposals that would help fund the expanding operations of the company, thereby increasing the scope of its impact. Along the way, I worked with the team to think ahead through scaling opportunities, and how the right processes would enable them to grow more effectively.

The purpose of the project was to provide support in developing a comprehensive strategic plan for expansion. This included conducting a financial evaluation of the project, drafting a core-business concept note and full proposal, and organizing potential fundraising and networking opportunities for further development, even after my particular project was completed.

Throughout the collaborative scoping process, we set both short-term and long-term goals and metrics to track outcomes. In the short-term, we sought to

a) Identify at least 3 Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for use in future concept notes

b) Create a core concept note that can be modified for future proposals and grant competitions

c) Develop a basic work-plan that can be used to monitor funding activities and capture evaluation data to guide future program development (including milestones and time and action calendar)

d) Identify at least 3 channels for strategic market growth and expansion

In the long-term, this project will directly support the development of new products that utilize up-cycling production, addressing ecological concerns that Cambodia faces in terms of waste management while concurrently lifting vulnerable women and families out of poverty. Our hope is that the successful implementation of this project can serve as a model for other communities throughout Asia. [Editor’s Note: We’d like to thank Daniel for exhibiting this best practice in Experteering — creating short-term goals for the project, yet focusing on long-term goals that the organization will accomplish after the Experteer leave results in more sustainable impact!]

Daniel with Samatoa Lotus Textiles Team
Daniel with the Samatoa Lotus Textiles Team

What was the highlight of your Experteering trip?

The highlight of the trip was visiting the Lotus’ farm and factory facilities in Battambang, Northern Cambodia, where some of the textile production was taking place. Getting out of the tourist areas and seeing the countryside was an unforgettable experience. Being able to visit with the local people and experience life as a local was really impactful, and not necessarily something I’d have had the chance to do had I gone only as a tourist.

What was one thing you wish you knew before volunteering overseas?

I think it’s a good idea to get as much information about the daily work routine as you can ahead of time. We had some long days during my visit, which worked out fine, but it was a lot to accomplish and I know that strategic time management helps ensure every bit counts. Every workplace culture is different so it’s good to find out what’s needed before you go so that you can prepare accordingly.

What advice do you have for people considering going Experteering themselves?

Plan as much as you can up front, but also be willing to tweak the plan as necessary instead of rigidly sticking to it if circumstances beyond your control happen to change. Try to remain flexible. Your perspective will change as you work through the project and learn more about the company from the inside, and you’ll want to enjoy it as you go along and remain agile to deliver the best possible results. [Editor’s note: To learn more about Daniel’s experiences in international development, you can check out his blog, Shared Purpose]

How did your Experteering trip expand your network and build your resume?

I’ve been able to add social enterprise business development to my resume and have made some good friends and business acquaintances in Cambodia. Between my local contacts and the access to the MovingWorlds experteer community, I feel that this experience really enhanced my global network and opened new doors career-wise.

What were the biggest takeaways from your trip, and how will that translate into your plans after Experteering?

I’m actually still working with the company and plan to continue assisting them virtually through the end of Fall 2018. At the conclusion of our project, I’m hoping this experience will strengthen my resume even more and demonstrate a diversity of professional experiences that will give me an edge as a candidate when I begin my job search.

What was the most rewarding part of your Experteering trip?

The most rewarding part of the trip was definitely meeting the team and getting a chance to work hands-on with the factory. It’s one thing to talk about strategies for international program development, but totally another to actually be there and see the operation in action.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I want to go back and do it again! [Editor’s note: You’re a model experteer, Daniel, and we’d be happy to facilitate your next match as well!]

We’re grateful to Daniel for sharing the story of his important work in Cambodia, and to Samatoa Lotus Textiles for the opportunity.

No matter what level you’re at in your career, there’s an organization out there that could benefit from your unique skill set to catalyze their impact. Apply to experteer to take the first step towards leveraging your skills to create social good that matters to you. Our team and global community will be there supporting you every step of the way!