PUBLIC Chats: Far + Wide Collective

A brief conversation with Hedvig Alexander, the passionate, politically minded founder of Far + Wide Collective, which sells gorgeous handmade items supporting artisans from developing countries.

Was there a single moment that set you on the course for what has now become the Far + Wide Collective?

Yes, it was while I was living in Afghanistan that it struck me how during war, we mostly think about human casualties and destroyed infrastructure which is of course the most traumatic aspects. But what also happens is that a country at war disconnects from the rest of world, losing its connections to trade, business, education and identity. I saw this very much in Afghanistan where relationships for trade were completely lost, leaving artisans with no way of selling their products meaning they were very dependent on an export economy.

So Far + Wide was born. I saw an interest and a need for places like Afghanistan, sub saharan Africa as well as other countries, to get back into the game. Far + Wide is about creating more equality in the global market. The question is, how do we make sure that everybody has similar access to the global market?

Taking it back to the beginning, what brought you to Afghanistan?

Ah, I wanted to see the world! I was born and raised in Denmark, and went to university in the United States. I was there during 9/11 and found that it was the centre of so many conversations over about 2 years in university. When I was younger I was not very political, but I had seen the proxy war in the 80’s between the United States and the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union was on Afghanistan’s soil which I always thought was terribly unfair because the war wasn’t really about Afghanistan, it was just the last piece that wasn’t part of the NATO or the Warsaw Pact. I always knew that they paid a very big price for our security and so as soon as 9/11 happened I know I wanted to try and make things better. I got a job with the U.N. and off I went!

Amazing. It sounds like social impact has always been at the core of your interests and values. 

Yes, although I didn’t know it was called that! My parents were very globalist in their views so they were very keen that we understood the world. They were also very adamant about teaching us to play a part in our community, including things like keeping the Danish school system public because they believed that education reflected society. They had a lot of views that I can now see are very mainstream and socially oriented.

I imagine back then those beliefs were a little out of the ordinary.

For sure. My parents were considered conservative as well as socially conscious. Our neighbours were extremely left wing which was interesting because they got along very well with my parents. At the same time, they thought my parents were capitalists because my father was a lawyer. Through this, my parents instilled in me that whether you are left or right, you still have a responsibility.

You talk about your parents teaching you to be active in your local community, but you really took it to the next level and created a global community. 

I think I have globalist views and really believe that we in Canada or Denmark, are only as strong as the world as a whole. At the end of the day it’s our responsibility to make sure that we do as much as we can to bring global equality. I think it’s a hard thing to do but it’s worth trying.

What do you enjoy most about Far + Wide and building this amazing collective?

I think it is the collective: this idea that you try to create a new group of people to help you create a new type of business model that’s going to be financed in different way. There’s this idea that we want a greener way of life and equality, but we also have to realize it may take different business models and financial structures. That’s where I think the world is still a little behind.

Do you have sights set on building new communities with artisans outside of Afghanistan?

Yes, definitely. Sub Subharent Africa, the Middle East, lots of new places, because there you have the same trade issues. It is really about creating this community and the right structure around it.

Do you have any new projects on the go?

We’re launching The Pin Project, which in lieu of the current refugee crisis, despite the media not reporting on it adequately is actually much worse than two years ago. We created it with the help of Canadian designer, Jenny Bird, and it’s  so lovely. It’s a pin in the shape of a kite and we had  refugee groups all over the world make this pin and we will be launching the Kickstarter campaign in a couple of weeks. It’s an easily accessible way to get people involved in the issues, the money really goes completely back to the people who produce it. This way it allows people to get involved without having to change their habits or physically go to these countries to help.*

*The Pin Project has launched since this interview with great success. Read more about the project and the milestones they reached here
 

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