The author of this article recently had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Barry Morehead, the founder and visionary behind Work of Worth. As always, Barry was passionate and enthusiastic as he answered my questions, giving some valuable clarification to Work of Worth’s efforts and plans. See below:
What do you mean when you talk about “Freeing the Oppressed?” Who are the oppressed?
“Almost half the world’s population, 2.5 billion people, live on less than $2 a day. And poverty, extreme poverty especially, is the root of many issues in our culture including human trafficking, [lack of proper] education, and the inability to eradicate preventable disease.
What we’re doing thru the businesses that we’re trying to start thru the Business Development Center is paying people a fair wage and treating them with dignity. With the jobs that we’re creating thru the Business Development Center, the entrepreneurs first of all have to agree to a set of principles. [Some] of those [are] that they will treat their employees with dignity and will not discriminate on the basis of sex or religion or caste or socioeconomic status, that they will treat people equally, and that they will pay them what their work is actually worth – hence Work of Worth.
Work of Worth, the organization that we’ve created here in America, originally was designed as an import and distribution company to support businesses, particularly manufacturing businesses, that are being developed in the Business Development Center in India, in Africa, and other parts of the world - Businesses that are creating these jobs and treating their employees fairly. We created Work of Worth to support them with western commerce by importing useful items that would be in demand in the states and distributing those to individuals either thru retail venues or retail outlets like the web or distributing them wholesale via companies that would then sell them for us. All of this takes commerce [and] commercial dollars, and puts it in some of the worst places in the world where poverty is rampant and extreme, where we can pay laborers a fair wage and give them enough money to take care of their children.
I’ve visited villages in India, which is where the whole concept got started, where single moms are trying to raise their families on less than $2 a day, and they don’t have enough money to clothe their children, much less educate them or provide medicine for them. Food is difficult for them as well. And oftentimes these moms are faced with extremely tough choices that we can’t imagine in our culture, like having to sell a child for survival. [Some of these mothers] will sell their daughter into sex slavery at a very young age just to get money to be able to feed their other children. And that is the root of Work of Worth is reversing and changing a lot… in areas of extreme poverty where people wouldn’t normally believe that they have hope.
Does that actually work?
We’re providing that hope [in that] we’re providing jobs, and it’s working. I’ve been back to the same children 12 months after my first visit, and I saw the same moms and [now] they’ve got a sparkle in their eye and a smile on their face because they got a job, because someone chose to treat them with dignity. Sometimes they’ve got the kids with them at work if the employers allow that. And the kids are wearing uniforms, which means that they’re going to schools and getting an education. It works. We’ve seen it.
What’s the relationship between Work of Worth and the Business Development Center?
“The concept [for WoW] started with myself and other businessmen who had been to the Business Development Center and had met with [and trained] these aspiring entrepreneurs. [We] wanted to do something on an ongoing meaningful basis to support them thru western commerce and commercial dollars. So there is no legal connection between the business development center and Work of Worth… but we’re all fighting the same battle, so we’re all working together…
We will support the training that’s happening with BDC and I will continue to be involved as a visiting executive…. I hope to [keep connecting to business owners thru the BDC), not just the BDC in India but also the BDCs opening in other parts of the world like the one opening in Uganda.
Work of Worth’s primary aim is not to train the business owners, that’s the Business Development Center’s job. Work of Worth’s primary responsibility is to import and distribute items that come from these businesses that come out of, either the Business Development Center or other similar worldview organizations.
What else does WoW have coming up in the pipeline right now?
Something else that we’ve started and are moving toward… Work of Worth is more than fair wage, it’s more than fair trade and more than fair labor… Our goal is social change, social enterprise, philanthropy and worldview… We’re interested in a lot more than fair wage. We’re training employees how to treat their employees fairly. We’re providing them with benefits like retirement, which is unheard of in these nations.
We are actually now in the beginning stages… of looking at a certification so we can certify a product as a “Work of Worth.” We suspect that there’s eventually going to be two tracks, where some products are approved as a “work of worth” and some are certified as a “work of worth,” certification requiring much higher criteria…. We may also offer this to other organizations who are interested – Kanzi Crafts for example, or Freeset, if they’re interested in using our logo on their items as a certified “Work of Worth,” especially for those organizations that have helped us get started, we would gladly do that for them. Eventually we’re hoping that there would be some value in that certification and that organizations would seek us out to get [it].
I love this idea. For a long time I’ve thought: “there needs to be something more than just Fair Trade.” Fair Trade only goes so far, and we want to do more…. I can just see the stamp right now: “this item is a certified work of worth.”