The Challenge


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How can we use design, skills and resources across countries and cultures to design better products (& lifestyles), while creating a better life for those in developing countries by helping them preserve their culture and traditions in craftsmanship, yet pushing it in new ways?
EKOBO is a bamboo product company based out of France, run by Bruno (the French businessman) and Boo (the American [graphic] designer/wife), with artisans based in South East Asia. Their design ethos is explained on the site from which I've summarized this cross-cultural exchange below:
 * DIRECT: Ekobo trades directly with bamboo villages and small workshops to cut down the intermediaries (which often puts pressure on the artisan to drive down their selling price) and allows the artisans to receive higher wages, along with more efficient production planning and better communication.
* CONSISTENT: Production is funded 50% at the onset of production which helps to balance the workload and provide consistent production/work throughout the year. Ekobo also provides financial assistance to help empower artisans who wish to build their own workshops and acquire the skills they need to do so.
* COLLABORATIVE: There is an exchange of expertise and innovate design between Ekobo and exceptional craftsmanship and know-how of the artisans, which together adds value to both in the market place.
* EMPOWERED: The local team works to ensure good working conditions within the cultural and social systems and provide workshops to increase awareness in certain issues such as banning child labor and recycling.

How can we create other collaborations that help preserve craft and unique skill sets and develop them (many times a dying art) in new ways? The products of Ekobo use traditional methods to create a fresh an innovative product line, which can also stimulate the artisans as they strive to use their know-how and apply it in new ways. At the same time, a better working environment is created, which minimizes the need to move to find work, better preserving the family unit. As a final note, bamboo is one of earth's most renewable resources, establishing Ekobo as a green/sustainable company.


Join the conversation and post a comment.

Anne Ditmeyer

November 21, 2010, 22:01PM
thanks for that, Sydney! Here's the link for others wanting to learn more: there is even an eBay component

Sydney Malawer

November 15, 2010, 13:07PM
There is a company called World of Good that goes to many developing countries and connects with local artisans to create a relationship with them so that they can then sell their products in the international marketplace. I know it's not related to bamboo, but it demonstrates the concept of humanizing the producer by creating a direct relationship with them. I believe ideas can be extrapolated by all companies and organizations like this to find common "seeds" of innovation that can then be applied to any and all industrial and commercial sectors.

WL Wong

November 14, 2010, 12:49PM
I was discussing a different angle about bamboo for Open Planet Ideas that renewable resources like bamboo could be used as alternate to platics. I think it is a versatile product so I do hope someone or some company would create an alternate to plastic packaging.

Samantha Morshed

November 14, 2010, 08:59AM
This is great Anne.
Here's a couple more bamboo businesses you might like:
Bamboo coffins:
Bamboo bicycles:
Fair trade, sustainable, renewable resource, employment creation in the developing world for consumers in the West. It's all about valuing what we buy so much more and ditching the mass produced throw away culture that's become the norm.


November 14, 2010, 07:12AM
Great summary Anne! We like that it acknowledges the expertise that exists with the *artisans* as well as Ekobo. This way innovation can flow from top-down and bottom-up with mutual benefits at both ends. And we're loving that it's centered on a renewable resource!
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