Alumni News

Encouraging a more socially conscious consumer

Alissa Nightingale

Bachelor of Management (Marketing)
Scholarship Program Lead, Westpac Bicentennial Foundation
Two women from Guatemala

“Every time someone spends money, in some way they are casting a vote for the kind of world they want.”

Alissa Nightingale is truly dedicated to helping others in need. Within 10 years of completing a Bachelor of Management (Marketing) at the University of South Australia, she has worked with various not-for-profit organisations, is on the Board of the Peter Couche Foundation, and has recently launched The Nightingale Collective – an online accessories and homewares store that supports artisans and their communities in developing countries.

Alissa explains why it is important to purchase with purpose, how every individual has the power to make a global difference, and who her online store is supporting and how.

The Nightingale Collective is such a wonderful initiative selling beautiful pieces from all over the world. Please describe the company and your inspiration to launch it.

The Nightingale Collective was born on a trip to Nepal while I was working for The Fred Hollows Foundation. It was evident that local artisans had incredible talent but were not supported for their work or had access to new markets. I wanted to bridge the gap between talent and opportunity and provide a platform for responsible commerce.

My trip also coincided with the devastating Nepal Earthquake of 2015. I saw how the community not only required substantial aid – but they needed a stable economy and investment in their local industries to rebuild.

By purchasing something from The Nightingale Collective you buy some beautiful art, jewellery and accessories knowing the proceeds are directly going to help people and communities recover and rebuild from natural disasters, war and many other injustices.

I want to encourage a more socially conscious consumer, one who knows and cares where the product they buy is made, the stories behind the people who made it, and how their purchase can provide a meaningful impact for communities. I believe ethics and style do not need to be mutually exclusive.

The name, The Nightingale Collective, is also a nod to my grandparents who instilled a strong sense of social justice in me at a young age.

Please tell us about some of the artisans you are supporting through your online store..

Women employed through international Sanctuary's social enterprise, Purpose

Women employed through international Sanctuary's social enterprise, Purpose

One of the artisan groups we work with is Purpose, whose jewellery is handcrafted by survivors of modern-day slavery in India, with proceeds benefitting International Sanctuary. By providing meaningful employment through International Sanctuary's social enterprise, Purpose, women are able to support themselves and obtain job training and experience. Through iSanctuary's wide range of holistic care services young women can begin to heal and grow in mind and body.

Another is a partner in Kenya that works with women who are deaf. In Kenya, unemployment rates for the deaf are as high as 85 percent, as the deaf are generally considered to be unsuited for work. This discrimination is heightened against deaf women, who are often mistreated by their spouses or families. Through providing safe work making jewellery, these women gain skills and a fair income to provide for their families, as most are also single mothers.

What are some of the community programs that are financed by the online store?

When sourcing our products we ensure the artisans, who are often women, receive fair wages, positive working environments, and are supported by community development programs that improve the lives of their families and the wider community:

  • Community programs for women in Peru, who make our gorgeous hand knitted toys, with a focus on their economic, sexual, and political rights.
  • Supporting International Sanctuary, a non-profit that provides holistic care for young women rescued from sex trafficking in India.
  • Supporting youth education and community health for women and their families in Guatemala.

How can people make a real difference as an individual?

People should realise the incredible power they have as consumers to demand change. Every time someone spends money, in some way they are casting a vote for the kind of world they want.

I think it’s important that individuals give consideration to more than just price when buying something – if it’s too cheap, why? And what impact is that having on both production practices and on the livelihoods of those who make it.

Often those at the end of the supply chain – whether a farmer or a garment worker – are those that are most negatively impacted by our quest for the cheapest carton of milk or t-shirt.

In your opinion, what are some of the main issues facing women living in developing countries?

Woman weaving

I think a major issue facing women in developing countries is economic insecurity. This issue is heightened considering the fact that woman face more barriers in almost every aspect of work – from gaining employment to receiving fair pay and safe working conditions.

It is also incredibly difficult for a woman to rise above poverty when she doesn’t have equitable access to healthcare, land, employment, or financial services.

A quote that captures this is from former President of the United States Bill Clinton when he stated that “Women perform 66 percent of the world’s work, and produce 50 percent of the food, yet earn only 10 percent of the income and own 1 percent of the property.”

But it’s incredible what woman can do when given the opportunity and resources. For example, microfinance has had a significant impact on women in developing communities. When Noble Peace Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunis founded Grameen Bank close to 97 percent of small loans were going to poor women. He found that not only did women make better use of the loan but had a better track record for repayments, were a huge untapped labour pool - and the women who received loans were more empowered and often adopted healthier lifestyles.

Please briefly describe your pathway from studying Management (Marketing) to where you are now:

I was fortunate to start my career at UniSA’s Ehrenberg-Bass Institute while studying marketing. It was an amazing experience seeing the Institute work with global brands like Mars, Coca-Cola, and P&G all from Adelaide. The knowledge I gained from their evidence-based marketing has been invaluable throughout my career.

It was whilst working at a wonderful Adelaide agency, Hughes PR, an opportunity arose to work with the Fred Hollows Foundation to manage their major donor and corporate partnerships - something I could not have predicted while studying my degree but a role I grew to love.

During my time at Fred Hollows I was inspired to start The Nightingale Collective, an ethical fashion brand that brings together handcrafted pieces made by talented women artisans around the world.

The Nightingale Collective Products

Handcrafted pieces from The Nightingale Collective

And I am lucky that I now get to combine my passion for social enterprise in my role with the Westpac Bicentennial Foundation where I have the opportunity to support other social entrepreneurs who are passionate about making a difference.

Have you noticed a difference between working for not-for-profit and private companies?

That is a really good question and I have thought about quite a bit. By the very nature of the structure of a not-for-profit means the organisation is reliant in the generosity of many, whereas with an organisation like Westpac it is the one organisation and the direction and support is provided by the Board. Maintaining revenue streams for not-for-profits is always a challenge, particularly in such a competitive environment.

What I have noticed is that smaller organisations have tended to be more nimble, and able to act on emerging opportunities more quickly, so there is a sense of satisfaction being able to see ideas come to life in a relatively short time frame.

But it is inspiring to see passionate people within both the NFP and private sectors who are committed to making a positive difference, and increasingly we will see the lines blurring, as collaboration and partnership increases across sectors.

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