Paul Myers: Facilitating Economic Growth Project (FEG)

Facilitating Economic Growth Project (FEG)
  • Story Snapshot

  • Country: Sri Lanka
  • VEGA Lead Member: International Executive Service Corps (IESC)
  • Objective: To work with the Sri Lankan Export Development Board and nine handicraft companies to provide guidance on achieving international fair trade certification.

paulPaul Myers
Former President and CEO, Ten Thousand Villages
Career Summary: From 1989 to 2006, Paul was CEO of Ten Thousand Villages, one of the largest and oldest Fair Trade retail networks, spanning the USA and Canada. In 2007, he was elected President of the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO).
Area(s) of Expertise: Fair trade, handicrafts, sustainable production, social impact investment
Language(s) Spoken: English

Name of project: Facilitating Economic Growth Project (FEG)
Volunteer Assignment and Impact: Paul volunteered for one in a series of projects to assist the Sri Lankan Export Development Board (EDB) increase fair trade certification for Sri Lankan businesses. The EDB estimates fair trade certification could increase incomes of handicraft producers by 35 percent and could impact 15,000 households nationwide, while also strengthening exports and bringing attention to Sri Lanka’s diverse craft traditions.

Drawing on his experience in fair trade and as a CEO, Paul advised nine Sri Lankan companies in achieving fair trade certification, including advice on design, marketing and business management. While in country, he helped the businesses complete their applications for fair trade certification from the WFTO, and advised on additional steps needed to be certified. Paul also advised the EDB on how it could offer new services to assist handicraft producers in order to lower the barriers to achieving fair craft certification, which would result in reducing the cost of the application by a third. Paul’s volunteer assignment did not end when he departed Sri Lanka, as he briefed the WFTO on the handicrafts in Sri Lanka and continued to advise the EDB remotely.

“I was there to observe, listen, and ask a few questions because I was getting inside these companies.” He did not immediately offer suggestions for improvement, but waited until the businesses asked. By developing rapport and credibility with his local clients, they were more likely to listen to what he had to say. “It wouldn’t have worked as well if the process was reversed,” Myers notes.

“There are brilliant, creative visionaries here who could easily work for someone else making lots of money,” Myers said. “But to feel, see, and observe a number of social entrepreneurs doing meaningful work: that was inspirational.”