What is SEED? What does it stand for?
Who is SEED?
SEED Livelihood Network partners with local livelihood groups connected to Free Methodist churches around the world so they might create sustainable income-generating opportunities that help create new futures.
What is a “livelihood group”?
A livelihood group is our term for a group of people working together to provide the basic necessities of life – food, water, shelter and clothing –for themselves and their families.
Who does SEED serve?
SEED intentionally works with and empowers motivated groups of people desiring to create improved hearts, souls, minds and bodies. These individuals are often among the marginalized in their own communities, either because they are women in cultures where women are excluded from economic opportunity, or because of their race or tribe, or because of disease, or other reasons.
How does SEED work?
SEED partners with micro-enterprises in local communities to help them overcome financial hardships. Sometimes we do this through strategic planning, business coaching, startup capital or, in the case of artisan groups, product development assistance and access to market.
What is “micro-enterprise”?
A micro-enterprise is simply a small business. It typically refers to international development, but not always. It might be helpful to define three terms you may hear that are often confused:
- Micro-enterprise: a small business.
- Micro-finance: a program for providing very small loans to people to launch or expand their businesses. This often takes the form of outside lenders, whether banks (Grameen Bank is probably the most famous) or individual lenders (like through kiva.com).
- Micro-credit: a program for providing very small loans to people to launch or expand their businesses, almost always through using resources within the group or community. For example, a group of 20 people pools their resources to provide a small loan to one group member, and when that group member has repaid the loan, someone else in the group gets a loan, and so on.
How does SEED start livelihood groups?
SEED does not start livelihood groups, nor do we control or supervise them. We partner with groups that have their own ideas for sustainable businesses. So, you’re probably now wondering …
How does SEED get connected with livelihood groups?
Livelihood groups are connected to SEED through various ministries of the Free Methodist Church. The SEED team dialogues with livelihood groups about their proposed business plans before we begin partnering with them. This is not so that we may decide what works and what doesn’t, but simply to make sure that the group has thoroughly considered their business idea. The simplified process might look something like:
- Livelihood group contacts SEED.
- SEED reviews existing business plan (or helps group to develop one – a process which can take a while).
- In some cases, SEED raises startup capital to use as a grant to help the group launch; in others, SEED places an order for samples of initial product ideas.
What controls are in place to make sure money gets where it is intended and that corruption is controlled?
Because SEED works only with groups, there is a level of built-in accountability. This is not a guarantee, of course, as people can make poor choices, but it increases the likelihood of integrity. SEED’s partner group guidelines and group covenants emphasize safeguards such as: multiple people’s names should be on property and equipment, no more than two family members should be in leadership in any group, and similar
What is SEED’s success rate with livelihood groups?
Over 95 percent. Each of the groups SEED is currently working with is on the road to self-sustainability. Sometimes this is a short process, while sometimes it takes longer, depending on the business, the market, and the skill and experience of the group and its leaders. Groups for which we have supplied startup funding have thus far almost all been successful at starting something sustainable – and that includes a number of groups that no longer work with us because they don’t need us anymore. That’s our goal.
How does a group “graduate”?
For non-handicraft groups, this is easier to determine: when the group has launched and has momentum toward its own sustainability, SEED asks if there is other assistance we can provide. Usually, the answer is, “No, but thank you for your help. Now you can go away.” With artisan groups, “graduation” comes when the group contacts us and tells us they have too many better-paying customers and can’t fill our orders any more. This is a longer process and not as common, as groups are more likely to keep filling our orders and simply hire more staff – creating new futures for more people, which is also a graduation of sorts!
How is SEED different from other fair trade organizations?
SEED is different from some other organizations in that we are a faith-based organization; we are different from others in that we are not exclusively about selling handicraft products; and we are different from still others because we only work with groups, not individual artisans. Instead, we work through churches, with groups, and to do what makes sense for them – handicrafts or anything else that is a viable business in their community. We are committed to our partner groups, even if they have a long way to go until they are sustainable. We will continue to partner with them and help them grow and develop.
How is SEED connected to International Child Care Ministries (ICCM) and the Set Free Movement? And did I miss any other strategic partners?
SEED, ICCM, and Set Free are all legally part of the Free Methodist Church USA, operating under the FMC’s 501(c)(3). The three work hard to find effective ways to collaborate in communities around the world and in their work in the U.S. SEED also partners with numerous strategic partners around the world and in the U.S., including several colleges and universities.
Who makes all these products?
Groups of artisans, often in majority-world (formerly called the developing world) countries. The groups typically come together in a workshop so that they are not only working but also building support and accountability with each other. Through doing this, they earn a sustainable living and help to transform their communities.
Are these products available to purchase online?
Absolutely – go to shopseedmarket.org to look at the full selection of products. Online there are also opportunities to invest in new business startups and to partner in underwriting SEED’s team.
If I buy a product, does all the money go to the artisan?
SEED starts with fair wages for the artisan group: we work with each group to determine fair trade prices for labor and materials. We also bear the cost of shipping the product to us and promotion and distribution of product in the US. We work very hard to keep our own administrative costs as low as possible. Our director raises her own support rather than taking a salary, and we rely on many types of volunteers to do much of our work so that we can both keep prices low and provide sustainable income to the artisans.
I bought a pair of earrings recently. Are they made with hypoallergenic materials?
All SEED livelihood groups use the materials that are locally available to them. This means they may or may not be hypoallergenic. Our recommendation for earrings is that if metal allergies are a concern, you consider purchasing hypoallergenic hooks from a craft or jewelry store and replace that part of the earring.
Is the olive oil from S’Farad organic?
The Free Methodist Church in Spain works directly with an olive grower who does not use chemicals or pesticides in his groves. We are confident that the olive oil is organic … but the certification process is complicated and expensive (just like it is in the US), so thus far they have only pursued that certification for the 500ml arbequina in the special bottle labeled organic.
What if I donate to SEED or one of the SEED Capital efforts? Are my gifts tax-exempt?
Contributions to SEED are tax-deductible to the extent that the law allows. When you donate for a SEED Capital project, 100 percent of your donation goes directly to the livelihood group; we ourselves pay any administrative fees for wire transfers and the like. SEED does not appear on many online charitable giving search engines because our nonprofit status is tied to the Free Methodist Church – USA. FMCUSA is a member in good standing with the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA). You will receive a tax-deductible receipt if you donate over $200 annually.
What type of work does SEED do with non-artisan groups?
SEED’s goal is to partner with livelihood groups in a way that makes sense for them. That means we start with finding out what they already know. In some cases, groups have an idea for a business but don’t know where to start, and we walk them through creating a business plan (including market analysis, financial estimating, strategic planning, etc). Other times we might help with leadership development, connecting the group with technical expertise, or raising startup capital.
I’d love to help a livelihood group; how can I get involved?
We’d love to have you partner with us and the livelihood groups. There are many ways to do this. You can:
This is right up my alley! Can I become a SEED representative somehow?
Where can I find more information?
Check out our website: https://seedlivelihood.org
We are also on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @seedlivelihood