Reciprocity exercised: positively impacting people and communities

Give and take. It is a simple concept, but putting it into practice is another thing. Products often end up in different countries than where they are produced. What can we give the production countries back for their space and labor? Positively impacting the people and communities in the production countries is what the GSRD Foundation, a corporate foundation, from Dutch denim brand G-Star Raw does.

Focus on vocational education, entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial skills

The GSRD Foundation is currently active in Bangladesh, China, India, Peru and Vietnam. This week, they will come to China after having started there 10 years ago with their first projects. On October 11th, the GSRD Foundation will meet with their Chinese partners at the Netherlands Embassy.

Ms. Frouke Bruinsma, CR Director at G-Star Raw and secretary of the GSRD Foundation, says that “we yearly travel to a country with the GSRD Foundation board members and secretariat. We take a look at the status of projects and learn and understand more about our projects abroad. Vocational education, entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial skills are our main focus areas.”

During the visit to China, there will be several project visits. In Yunnan province the Foundation is cooperating with Save the Children, a not-for-profit, international development agency. The supported project is called: Empowering children – vocational skills from secondary to vocational schools. Its specific objective was to help 6.000 children aged 11 to 18 from two counties in Yunnan learn specific soft and hard skills to become more employable on the job market.

Another project to be visited is the Economic Citizenship Education, which is a partnership with Shanghai Better Education Development Center (Be Better) since 2009. The project is focused on economic citizenship education by setting up specific curricula for children and youth. The last project is called: Empowering Migrant Women as Entrepreneurs in China to improve the livelihoods and socio-economic well-being of Chinese migrant women. This project consists of entrepreneurship trainings for migrant women and short-term apprenticeships amongst others. The local partner in this case is the non-profit international development organization The Asia Foundation.

Challenges combined with positive developments

Ms. Bruinsma notices that there are difficulties in China, but also positive developments. “The laws and regulations have become much stricter in recent years. This proves to be a challenge for many international organizations. At the same time, we also see that Chinese organizations are actively starting or participating in these kinds of projects.”

Local involvement and independence is the ultimate goal for all the projects that the GSRD Foundation supports. “We are only a fund, so we do not initiate projects ourselves and it is our aim for every project to become either independent or being continued locally. This can for example mean that a Chinese local organization continues with our work, or a curriculum is also used in other educational institutes”, ms. Bruinsma explains.

Although there are some cultural differences, ms. Bruinsma mentions the language barrier and specific behaviors, but overall cooperation is smooth and successful. “Most of the projects we find out about through international partners. They often have China offices with local staff which helps. Although we have only been in China for 10 years, we are very happy with the results so far. All projects are on schedule and quite some have reached their goals.”

Ms. Bruinsma is looking forward to her visit. “During these visits, we take stock of the work on the different projects. It is very important to visit the countries once in a while. If you see things actually happen, you understand much more than only reading or hearing about them.”