What you will learn in this module
Understand the benefits of networking
Explore the possibility of networking among groups
Discussion on networking in groups
1 hour 30 min
Rural women's group businesses can draw several benefits by networking with one another.
Small enterprises face many difficulties and rural women's groups face similar problems (see handout for details).
Ask the participants about difficulties that rural women's groups face in networking.
Write these on the board and discuss examples given by participants.
Initiate a discussion on how networking can help to solve some of these problems.
Ask participants to give examples of networks they know about in Thailand in the micro and small sector as well as in the cooperative sector.
Ask them if they know any networks of rural women's groups.
Ask them if they have tried networking and what experiences they have had.
The participants may want to share negative experiences they may have had. Let other participants analyse and suggest why the problem could have come up and how it can be prevented the next time.
List some common needs of rural women's groups such as credit for fixed and working capital, improvement of product, access to markets and better packaging.
Generate ideas on how groups can network to improve their ability to get these services.
Use handouts as needed to give examples of different networks in Thailand.
Use the TBIRD case study as an example of networking between the private sector and an NGO.
Use the case study of establishing a marketing network through the post office as an example of good horizontal networking among women's groups.
Motivate participants to network with other groups to meet common needs and address common problems. They can buy products from each other, learn production techniques, market products together, share resource persons, contacts, collaborators, etc. List several ways in which they may network to mutual advantage.
Handout 1: case study on private sector partnerships for development
A leading Thai non-governmental organization (NGO), Population and Community Development Association (PDA) pioneered the Thai Business Initiative for Rural Development (TBIRD) in the early 1990s with the aim of using private sector business skills to build the capacities of the poor people of Thailand to become small-scale entrepreneurs.
The basic premise was that while government and NGOs have expertise in social development, it is business houses who know how to do business best.
While several business companies were keen to join the initiative, most business houses preferred to contribute money rather than work directly with the rural poor. They did not understand rural development and trusted the NGO to do this best. However, this was not acceptable to PDA, which was looking for field-level collaboration with the business houses and not just their money. As PDA founder Khun Meechai told the business houses: "We do not want to have your money, we want to have your brains".
One of the first successful collaborations was one with the multinational company VOLVO. After surveying the proposed project villages and holding discussions with villagers, the company decided to build golf courses.
It was also decided to set up tree plantations on one-acre plots. The trees would be sold to the house-construction industry in Bangkok. The villagers were provided the technology for cultivating trees that could be transplanted. This enterprise became successful with a large number of builders approaching the villages for supplying the trees. As VOLVO representatives took part in this process, they also began to identify new businesses for themselves.
The example shows how both business houses and rural poor can benefit from linkages based on promotion of entrepreneurship.
The PDA has set up partnerships with over 140 business companies. While several provide financial support for programmes implemented by PDA, many business houses have formed business partnerships with the rural poor. Rural youth have been trained to make popular global brand products such as Nike and Bata shoes.
The companies can get products made at a lower cost and maintain good worker-management relations in these production units. Rural people, on the other hand, are able to find jobs near their villages and stay closer to their families.
Many of these units are still operational more than a decade after they started and pay good wages to their workers. However, lower labour costs in other developing countries in the region are threatening some of these units with closure.
Handout 2: case study on networking for marketing by women's groups
Most women's cooperative groups in Thailand use four types of marketing strategies.
The CPD has identified the post office as a strategic marketing partner for women's groups and the following model has been introduced in Songkhrala district, Hatyai Province.
A customer wanting to buy products from a women's group, sends a purchase order to the group by letter or telephone. The group sends the product in a parcel to the post office nearest them, which, in turn, forwards the package to a post office closest to the customer. The customer collects the parcel and sends the money (payment) through the post office.
The Hatyai Central Post Office, the Tourist Authority of Thailand and the Cocoa Company will be partners.
The Tourist Authority will prepare a brochure with information on cooperative women's group products, their sources and prices.
The Hatyai Central Post Office will collect information about products of cooperative women's groups in southern Thailand, with the help of post offices in the province.
The Cocoa Company will provide financial and public relations support to the project.
The Central Post office has a committee including:
- the chief of the post office
- the district governor
- a representative of the tourist department
- a representative of the cooperatives
- an officer of the regional CPD
The committee will take decisions on issues related to the selection of products and their prices.
Under this scheme, the customer selects the product from the information brochure provided by the Central Post Office. The customer makes a purchase order listing the product code and its sales price. The purchase order is sent with a demand draft for the payment to the Central Post Office. Based on the order, the Central Post Office obtains the products from the particular women's group and sends these to the post office nearest to the customer.
The price of the products is fixed all over southern Thailand and includes subsidised postal charges.
Advantages of the scheme
What you have learnt in this module
Networking is a very useful tool for rural women's cooperative businesses.
Networking among different women's groups helps them in procuring raw material at a lower cost. It also helps to improve marketing of their products.
Effective networking through middlemen is needed to reach national and international markets.
Networking with designers enables the women's group businesses to update the design and pattern of their products according to customer needs and preferences.
Networking and partnerships with industry enables NGOs and government to promote viable businesses with a long term perspective.
Collaborating and networking with the CPD provides the groups with regular information about opportunities to display their products and contact new customers. Exhibitions also help the women members to keep up-to-date with new technology for production and packaging.