When Dona Luciene, a resident of Suruacá, set out to open her own clothing business, she knew there would be countless obstacles standing in her way: a limited market, the lack of funds to buy a sewing machine and raw materials, and family illness, just to name a few, although, these did not stop her. The strong basic skills and a mindsets she and the other participants through ourcCLEAR Project is a critical foundation for building self-reliance. Dona Luciene has achieved not only monetary success, but has become a community model for enthusiastic and talented entrepreneurship.
What's the difference between hard skills, basic skills, and mindsets?
If these skills are so vital to Dona Luciene, and CEN as a whole, what do they actually entail? Higher-level or hard skills are generally technical skills that can be taught and most importantly, applied in a concrete way, since they're measurable and are related to an area of expertise, such as bookkeeping, sewing and filing. Basic skills and mindsets are the foundation for building higher-level skills. Basic skills, or soft skills, include critical thinking, problem solving, and discipline, and can be described as the ability to apply hard skills to actual situations. Mindsets, or habits of the mind, are when people adopt a deeper quality of learning and thinking.
Application of these skills leads to higher-level learning and self-reliance
Mastery of these basic skills and mindsets is critical for acquiring higher-level skills. Without this strong foundation, residents often struggle with tackling obstacles and maintaining optimism with their projects. For instance, an entrepreneur might learn how to establish prices, but they won't be able to do so effectively unless they possess the discipline to keep track of their expenses, production levels, and sales. Particularly in developing countries with poor educational systems, a cycle of dependency is often established, in which residents become reliant on outside aid for assistance. Because of this, residents often adopt self-defeating, I can't mentalities.
While training and resources, such as money and equipment, might give the community members some additional confidence, they'll most likely quit when they hit an obstacle for which they don't feel equipped for. On the other hand, if given the same situation, and the person has a confident and disciplined mindset, they will likely arrive at several solutions, since they won't be discouraged by a difficult task; these skills are thus necessary for long-term self-reliance.
Consider Luciene's struggle to expand her business. As opposed to accepting defeat and a meager monthly income, she strengthened basics skills, such as accuracy, ability to accurately assess situations, discipline, and patience, which gave her a strong foundation for new bookkeeping and management skills. For example, she found a way to expand her profit by producing a couple of garments and using a predetermined amount of the profits from those sales to buy more materials. She began to keep close track of her expenditures and sales, which helped her set prices which covered her production costs and provided a fair profit. Without the ability to clearly assess the situation she faced, the patience to start slowly and build up working capital, or the discipline to accurately track her expenses and sales, bookkeeping and inventory management training would be ineffective. Dona Luciene has not only mastered the hard and soft skills she requires to make her products and expand her product line, she has adopted a confident mindset, which allows for her to overcome unexpected obstacles.
Dona Luciene is just one of the many residents who've challenged themselves to acquire the basic skills and mindsets necessary for empowerment; thus, achieving the kind of success that will pave the way for an independent, self-reliant community.
To read more about CEN's approach to development, click here.