WHAT IS DROPENLING
The Tibetan word “Dropenling” translates as “giving back for the betterment of all sentient beings.” The purchase of a Dropenling product directly supports Tibetan artisans and their families and helps to preserve and perpetuate Tibetan culture.
Dropenling artisans produce a range of authentic Tibetan crafts: woven textiles and carpets, painted wood furnishings and objects, stone carvings, leather bags, jewelry, dolls, and toys. Profits from the sales are reinvested to further support Tibetan communities. Produced only by Tibetan artisans within the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and in Tibetan communities in Yunnan province, Dropenling products are marketed locally through the Lhasa Villages and Shangri-la Tangtong stores.
Our mission is to create opportunities for Tibetans in the face of a rapidly changing economic landscape while preserving traditional culture.
Tibet is at a crossroads. Economically, culturally, and structurally, Tibet is changing. Both inside and outside influences are pushing the region in a new direction. We believe that the most effective way to capitalize on this change is to work with it and guide it in a direction that will benefit Tibetan communities. We emphasize bottom-up development that begins with understanding where change is occurring and then empowering Tibetan communities to take advantage of this change. Without options, their can be no hope.
The Tibet Artisan Initiative offers, product design training, business skills training, financing, and market access to Tibetan artisans while seeking to incentivize small businesses to invest in core competencies and expand operations. Training and investment in local communities is not enough. Our final goal is to localize all operational management responsibilities to Tibetans, by creating profitable enterprises that are sustainable for the long term.
Traditions in danger of extinction
Tibetan handicraft traditions are currently in danger of extinction. Increasingly, artisans residing in Nepal, India, and inland China manufacture and market ‘Tibetan-style” merchandise. These goods are then sold in Tibet and in other parts of the world. Consequently, merchandising revenues, as well as business management and artisan skills, are not transferred to the local entrepreneurs and artisans. To complicate matters, Tibetan artisans are beginning to pass away in great numbers without extending their skills to the next generation.
Made in Tibet by Tibetans
The opening of the Tibetan economy has brought in experienced Han and Hui Muslim small business operators who have significant advantages over Tibetans in product development and marketing, access to capital, and networks to outside distributors and markets.
According to the Lhasa Industrial and Commercial Bureau, only 13% (28 of 368)(1) of private enterprises engaged in the production of handicrafts in Lhasa are operated and managed by Tibetans. For Tibetan businesses that do operate, most do so informally (no bank account and/or shipping capability) and thus lack the necessary infrastructure to maintain a successful craft business.
One of the largest growth industries in Tibet
The Tibet Artisan Initiative grew out of sector-based analysis conducted in conjunction with the local government, which identified the handicraft sector as one of the largest growth industries within Tibet.
Tibet’s key economic indicators compared to China
Tibetan artisans are missing out on the economic and social dividends of Tibet’s rapidly growing tourist market. (Over 180,000 foreign tourists visited Lhasa in 2001.)
Over the last 10 years, Tibet has been experiencing economic growth of 9-10%. But this growth has been biased towards the urban-oriented public and private infrastructure investment leading to a rapid influx of outside migrant populations taking private and public sector opportunities. Despite recent growth trends, Tibet lags far behind the rest of China in a number of key economic indicators.