Calvin, one of the five students setting up the project, shares what the Cotton Sense team have been doing so far:
For the past 9 months we’ve been working with our partners Pave to launch our own social enterprise, named Cotton Sense. Through our project partners we’d identified a cotton farming community in Wardha, India, who encounter a range of issues; from crop failure, dependence on genetically modified seeds, financial difficulties and mental and physical health issues. Our idea is to help them use waste from the cotton farming and processing industries to manufacture hand-made products to use as gifts in order to raise much needed funds.
The first day
Once we arrived on Monday, we met Apu from No Nasties, an ethical clothing brand, and one of our partners on this project. We reflected on the work we’ve done with Pave and set some objectives that we wanted to achieve across the next three days. We decided to focus on what we wanted to achieve, who we’d target, and what our message would be. We all took some time to reflect, and then came together later on that evening to discuss and refine our ideas.
Focusing on our audience
Yesterday, we focused on our audience – who do we want to target our social enterprise at? As a group, we agreed on targeting ethically conscious consumers, university students, and children at school. We then profiled each group, thinking about their consumer, social and charitable habits, and analysing what they look for in social enterprises and products. This really helped to refine our ideas, and think about how we’d progress. On reflection, we decided our priority would be to target university students around the UK, and to also use the existing networks that our partners Pave, No Nasties and Chetana Vikas have in India to also build support.
We’ve had some interesting conversations about our message, and how we can get it across in the simplest way. We’ve been working on how to convey the variety and extend of the issues faced by the community we’re supporting in Wardha clearly, especially thinking about how we can do this in an uplifting and positive way which will encourage others to engage and spread the Cotton Sense cause – keep an eye out for blogs over the next two weeks to find out how we solve this.
We then moved on to brainstorm ideas for our brand – how do we want our social enterprise to be seen, and how will people recognise it? We’ve been looking at using clouds, which share a name with raw cotton in Hindi, and that bring the moisture that brings prosperity to the farmers. Every cloud has a silver lining – we feel this really gets across the impact we’re trying to achieve. We then brainstormed products that the cloud motif could be embedded into, which you’ll see more of as we prototype in the coming days.
The temperature jump from London to India is huge – it’s taken everyone a while to adjust. Especially as tomorrow we’ll be heading to Nagpur, near to Wardha, where the temperature will jump another 10 degrees to around 45 degrees Celsius. Before we go, we need to finalise our pitch to our partners there, Chetana Vikas, an organic farming co-operative with links in Wardha. We’ll be finalising our messaging, the finances behind the project, and how it will work logistically. It is vital that we get this right – the success of the project will depend on Chetna Vikas’ support, as they’ll be doing the work in the community once we return to Britain.
The next steps
This project is personal to me – I have Indian heritage and I feel that Cotton Sense has the potential to make a difference to the community in Wardha. I’ve really enjoyed getting around the table with our partners and bringing to life the work we’ve done back in the UK. We’re not naïve enough to think that 5 students from the UK can do this on their own – we’re grateful for the support and guidance of our partners, and are all looking forward to meeting the community we’ll be working with in the next few days.