Over the last 4 months, we have made some radical and exciting changes at Secret Projects as a result of the organisation being sold. Secret Projects now comprises of 2 companies; Secret Projects Community Benefits Society, based in the UK and owned by a group of 250 Shareholders, plus a wholly owned subsidiary company in India, Social Power India - we trade as Secret Projects. This all seems very technical... and indeed it is... yet, this change has had some amazingly positive advantages that we are over the moon about, giving us even greater scope to realise our vision of a world where all women have the confidence and resources to make choices, thrive and contribute to the strengthening of their communities.
Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of this change is that we have been able to sign up with a new bank and are now able to pay our Makers via bank transfer, rather than by cheque. Prior to this, we were only able to make payments to our Makers when we travelled to their communities for training, or to pick up finished Secret Products. This new system has had the most positive impact during the recent global Covid-19 pandemic as India and many countries around the world went into lockdown and we were unable to travel safely into our Maker Communities. As lockdown took hold, we made a decision that the most important thing was to get any outstanding payments to the Makers via bank transfer, so we spent much time collecting the women's bank account details and entering them into our new online banking system. It was a true labour of love and we were absolutely delighted recently when the Managing Director of one of our partner NGO's got in touch to let us know that one of our Makers had called him to say how grateful she was to have received her payment from Secret Projects.
'The Makers of Secret Products usually never call me, but I did have a call from one of them a few days ago. Yashoda 'phoned to thank me for the partnership with Secret Projects, as she had just received her online payment for the sewing done. This was a time of great distress at home with no income in the household and, she was just about to take a loan from a money lender with a 10% monthly interest rate. The money she earned from making Secret Products meant that she didn't need to take the loan after all. Her excitement and happiness brought a great sense of joy to me as well'.
Brother Thomas, CARE Hindupur Secret Projects NGO partner.
This is exactly the type of outcome we wish for all our Makers. We are grateful that by being able to streamline our payments to reach the women quickly and easily, we help each one to be in an even strong position to support themselves and their families - this has proved to be invaluable during the pandemic.
The benefits are also not just for our Makers either! As we now have a more efficient system for paying our Makers, this means that our team in India, particularly our Country Director, Nirmala who was the chief cheque writer, has more time to devote to other parts of the business as the banking transfer system is a much quicker process than laboriously writing scores of cheques. Here's what she had to say:
'The task of writing out the cheques was time consuming and tedious. However, I accepted the task gladly as it was an overwhelmingly positive feeling to see so many cheques going out to our Makers. With the new subsidiary registration in India that allowed us to open a new bank account, the first thing we did was to add the Makers as payees to make online bank transfers into their accounts. This has been so handy in the times of Covid-19, as we can't travel to see the women to give them their payment by cheque. Plus, it also means that the women don't have to go to their banks to deposit their cheques, lessening the risk of contracting the virus. This has enabled many of our Makers to thrive during this time of crisis.'
We are currently working hard on other ways that we as an organisation can reach our Maker Community regardless of any restrictions on movement, or how remotely they live. We look forward sharing more details about this very soon.