Kate Spade & Company has partnered with Akilah to support their new manufacturing partnership in Rwanda, on purpose. The on purpose line is a trade initiative through which Kate Spade & Company is teaching a group of 150 local artisans in Masoro, Rwanda to become a profitable supplier to the retailer’s brands: kate spade new york, Jack Spade, and Kate Spade Saturday. The luxury American retailer is leveraging its three brands’ presence online and around the world to sell the on purpose products made in a rural Rwandan community that lies about an hour’s drive from Akilah’s Kigali campus.
As part of the Akilah partnership, ten second-year students completed a community impact survey commissioned by Kate Spade & Company. The company wanted to ascertain the impact of employment on the artisans who worked at the supplier, a Rwandan-owned social enterprise. Additionally, they wanted to see how the trade initiative was impacting the broader community where the artisans — mostly women — live. For the Akilah students who were selected to conduct the survey, it was an enormous opportunity to conduct field research, learn about statistical methods, and practice project management. A prestigious and challenging project, the students were selected based on a combination of academic performance and financial need, because the compensation for their effort was one full year of school fees paid by Kate Spade & Company!
Director of Student Affairs Julian Nyagahima worked closely with students to make sure they understood how to accurately ask questions and report answers without subjective interpretations generated by the interviewer. She also stressed the utmost importance of confidentiality in conducting the survey, as the students were entering into the homes and private lives of very vulnerable women, a situation in which sensitivity and discretion were absolutely essential.
After conducting fieldwork, students were responsible for all data entry and crosschecking each other’s work. Many of the students remarked that it was an enlightening experience to find out what goes in their own country, and to compare their lives with those of women not unlike themselves. Josiane Nyiragasigwa, Hospitality Management Class of 2015, remarked that it was a privilege to be entrusted with field research, especially of such sensitive nature, because this was a learning tool she had never experienced before.
The students worked hard, and report feeling a sense of ownership over such a large project and pride at truly having earned their pay. They are already excited for the follow-up survey being conducted this month.