Making 'BrightHub' A Reality for Youth Workers in the FTZ

Transforming youth workers who go back to their hometown from the FTZ due to hardships into skilled and empowered individuals.

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  • Yes, I fulfill all of the eligibility criteria.

Initiative's representative name

Ashila Niroshini Mapalagama (nee Dandeniya)

Initiative's representative date of birth

21 January 1980

Initiative’s representative gender

  • Woman

Which eligible market are you based in?

  • Sri Lanka

Where are you making a difference?

Katunayake, Gampaha, Western Province, Sri Lanka (for skill development)

Website or social media url(s)

When was your organisation founded?

June / 2008

Focus areas

  • Helping people adapt to technologies of the future
  • Financial skills and capability
  • Reskilling and upskilling the workforce

Project Stage

  • Start-Up (first few activities have happened)

Yearly Budget: How much capital do you need to accomplish your proposed project?

  • $10k - $50k

Organisation Type

  • Non-profit / NGO

1. Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this to succeed

My journey as a workers’ rights advocate stems from my own experience as a former migrant and garment worker. With an approach that moves beyond protest against labor violations my organization StandUp Movement focuses on ways in which workers can enhance their resilience by educating them on their rights and pools resources to create a network of support and financial security. I realized that most of these garment workers (80% of whom are female) in the Katunayake Free Trade Zone have been compared to the likes of modern day slavery for challenges they undergo. Most receive inadequate wages, have no access to basic amenities, are subject to heavy stigma and are discriminated against by managers and union leaders who are mostly male.

2. The problem: What problem surrounding employability or financial capability are you helping to solve?

FTZ workers return home due to hardships after working for 5 years and collecting their gratuity. They not equipped with the skills to sew an entire garment. Before they are due to leave, these workers take formal sewing courses hoping they can run a business later. But they’re exploited by individuals who offer low-grade, informal courses under the guise of offering help. They become unemployed after returning home due to a lack of skills.

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

By selecting 03 districts for our pilot run, I hope to examine these respective markets and work out which products would fit the needs and demands of said market. After this assessment, the workers will be provided with necessary training according to the nature of their respective district market’s demands (i.e. sweaters, jerseys and other clothes that suit the cold climate in the Nuwara Eliya district, Batik related products for the Southern districts, hand-made products for the Kurunegala district, etc.) Additionally, discarded garment material will also be put into good use. The training will introduce workers to methods of gaining access to disposed garment material once they return to their hometowns. In sum, the plan includes a preliminary research phase to identify the needs of respective markets followed by a comprehensive and quality training, -which I hope to name “Project BrightHub” - of presently exploited garment workers so they can develop their skills, secure employment and be financial empowered in addition to providing them with a market for their products. Another aim of the training is to establish a link between products and the market.

4. How are you innovating or using unique approaches to solving the problem?

By establishing “BrightHub,” workers will be trained to be successful entrepreneurs, producers and most importantly accountable citizens who also be trained in the following areas: - safeguarding human rights and dignity in practice - being gender-sensitive in their business approach - knowing the importance of ethically sourcing products - ensuring that products and production process do not harm the environment - finding ways to empower their colleagues as they have been empowered. The personal attributes, skills and capabilities of each worker will also be considered, thereby ensuring that they receive optimum benefits of the training and are better able to deliver on these results after returning to their hometowns.

5. Employability: how is your organization or project teaching people to develop the skills that they need to survive in the future job market?

Establishing “BrightHub” will uplift young workers and encourage accountability while enhancing their leadership skills through a successful product and marketing process. The process will prioritize the importance of management (time, money and finances, workflow, team, etc). Other employability and soft skills that are crucial in order to thrive in a challenging environment are attributes like communication, professionalism, strong work ethic and problem solving skills. Workers will be trained on effective interpersonal communication, networking, technical skills, etc. Participants will learn how to apply such soft and hard skills into real-life situations. BrightHub will promote a friendly, forward-thinking, open, non-judgmental and enabling environment that also functions according to professional guidelines (i.e. being punctual, showing respect, appreciating diverse opinions, etc.)

5a. Please describe which future-oriented skills your organization is focused on fostering and how you have measured / plan to measure progress

The project hopes to foster respect for human rights, gender equality, ethical sourcing, environmental friendliness, accountability, understanding of market dynamics and processes, product management, entrepreneurship and a commitment to empower fellow women and other marginalized youth workers. We plan to measure progress through the use of KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). At the beginning of each course, each worker’s state and present knowledge is assessed and tabulated and once the project is underway their progress will be measured through a survey once in every three months.

7. Marketplace: Who else is addressing the same problem? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Various individuals offer sewing classes targeting workers who are looking to relocate from the Free Trade Zone back to their homes. Under the guise of ‘training’, they exploit the workers’ hard-earned money. The training does not address the real needs of these garment workers, their ability to buy raw materials, or the connection between the products and the market they produce. My plan is far more complex ; by preventing unemployment and freeing them from exploitation of their money, ‘BrightHub’ enhances their financial capability, livelihoods and employability in the long run.

8. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

At the moment, our members use two simple sewing machines at our center and makes use of a variety of raw materials that are otherwise removed from the Free Trade Zone. They engage in the above activity during their free time and sells them among the members and informally representing different areas and acquiring the knowledge needed for their products through their own fellow workers. My plan is to further upgrade this practice and have a far bigger, more positive impact on more garment workers at the FTZ.

9. Financial Sustainability Plan. Can you tell us about you plan to fund your project and how that plan will be sustainable in the short, medium, and long term?

A budget summary for our project has been included in the attachment above. With funding support from Ashoka Changemakers, the BrightHub project will be able to conduct baseline research to identify the needs of the market, provide quality skill development training, take care of utilities and ease of communication between the participants of the training and other staff. BrightHub will function as a long-term center that welcomes participants as they apply and provide them with the necessary training. As such, this venture will serve as the first step of molding empowered workers who are equipped with right tools to take charge of their future.

10. Team

Ashila Niroshini Dandeniya - Executive Director - Full time Shirone Kaushalya - Coordinator - Full time Saranie Fernando- Legal Officer - Part time Virginie Kadudas - Coordinator- Part time Shashikala Botheju - Financial Assistant - Part time Prasad Sanjeewa Gamage - Project Officer - Full time Shiromala Damayanthi -Coordinator- Part time Thushari - Field Officer - Part time

Help Us Support Diversity! Are you a member of an under-served , under-represented, or marginalized group in your country of residence? (yes/no) (this question is optional – if you choose to fill it out, the response will not be shared with your fellow contestants)

  • Gender
  • Socioeconomic class

If you selected “yes” to any of the categories above, please explain how being a member of this group has impacted you and your work?

As a former migrant and garment factory worker, I too have experienced the plight and hardships that these workers face. As a woman, I also know that although 80% of the garment factory workforce are female, those in the top leadership are male. For this reason, male union leaders & managers often disregard women's well-being and needs due to a lack of empathy and understanding of human dignity and female labour. Due to gender norms, I am also subject to heavy stigma as a leader of my community.

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Ashoka page or contact

11. Bring it to life: Please walk us through a concrete example of how your solution will solve the problem you’re trying to address

Through my proposed plan, these workers will be taught transferable skills and be able to secure employment once they return. For instance, ‘X’ works in the FTZ despite poor working conditions and low wages. Due to hardships, she decides to return to her hometown. However, she leaves with the skills and capacity building that BrightHub offers her. With this new form of empowerment, she can be assured to secure employment in her own hometown without the additional burden of travelling across districts, being away from her loved ones and working in poor conditions and with low wages. BrightHub will ensure that her capacity is built according to her needs and interests and that she understands how marketplaces and the economy work in addition to helping her form networks in her hometown in order to successfully run a business and make sound financial decisions on her own.

12. Skills Matching: HSBC Employees will have the opportunity to offer skilled-volunteering. If matched, which of the following skills would you be most interested in receiving?

  • Planning & Strategy
  • Monitoring Impact
  • Project Management
  • Program Design
  • Research
  • Staff Development
  • Marketing Strategy, Design

13. Financial Sustainability – funding breakdown: please list a quick breakdown of your funding, indicating an estimated percentage that comes from each source.

Grants 98%

Earned income from "Talk Shop" 2%

14. Financial Sustainability – please tell us more about how you plan to fund and scale your project over the next 12 months.

Our proposal is planned in such a way that we are best able to understand their real needs and provide them with the training they need to adapt to the dynamics of the present-day market system. A detailed summary of our proposed budget has been attached to this application.

15. Growth Strategy: What are your main strategies for scaling your impact?

 We will separate them into the areas they originate from and identify the needs of the market in those respective hometowns and designs training programs accordingly. They will also receive guidance on how to register their business in their hometown. 

In order to measure progress, the team will collect quantitative and qualitative data on:

The beneficiaries of BrightHub

Numbers and details of those who successfully secured employment or started a business in their hometown

The different avenues that were tested; what succeeded? What failed?

16. Activating changemakers: How are you giving people the power to control their own destiny and support other people to become changemakers in their communities?

Workers will come out as socially perceptive individually who are eco-friendly, feminist-conscious and aware of and able to advocate for women's rights and gender equality in addition to being able to make informed decisions. They will also set up their own businesses with knowledge on ethics and corporate social responsibility in mind in addition to using the tools they learn to start their own business. The change-makers we produce through this will stand out as the ones who are making the most out of social change as well as those who inspire others to take charge of their lives too.

17. Awards & Recognitions: What awards or recognitions, if any, has the project received so far?

As an organization, the social safety net that we have created for the disadvantaged workers of Sri Lanka’s Free Trade Zone has received much acclaim both nationally and internationally. Our venture, “Talk Shop” in particular has received much positive feedback and popularity among the community.

18. Tell us about how collaborations and partnerships would enhance the scalability and impact of your project

Through the previously established partnerships we have formed in addition to new collaborations that we hope to foster with other civil society organizations and non-governmental and non-profit organizations in respective areas, we hope to use their assistance in following up and supervising the progress of the beneficiaries of Brighthub. 

Finally - Your Selfie Elevator Pitch: Share a 1-minute video that shares a quick summary of the problem you would like to solve, how you’ve chosen to solve it, and the impact you hope to see.

Video can be accessed on:

Evaluation results

2 evaluations so far

1. OVERALL Evaluation:

Yes, absolutely! - 0%

Yes/maybe - 50%

Maybe - 50%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

2. Is this entry INNOVATIVE?

Yes, absolutely! - 0%

Yes/maybe - 0%

Maybe - 50%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 50%

3. Does this entry have SOCIAL IMPACT?

Yes, absolutely! - 100%

Yes/maybe - 0%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

4. Is this entry VIABLE financially and operationally?

Yes, absolutely! - 0%

Yes/maybe - 0%

Maybe - 100%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%


Yes, absolutely! - 50%

Yes/maybe - 50%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

6. FEEDBACK: Highlights

IMPACT POTENTIAL: You use specific numbers and evidence to describe what your project has achieved so far (or plan to achieve in the future) – and you have a concrete plan for future impact. You have specific tools for measuring impact. - 50%

QUALITY OF INNOVATION: You have a great understanding of the problem, have researched existing solutions, and have developed unique, thoughtful solutions - 0%

FINANCIAL AND OPERATIONAL SUSTAINABILITY: You have given a great deal of thought to not just the idea itself but how to make it work operationally and financially in the present and future; your plan is specific and you value sustainability. - 0%

CHANGEMAKING ACTIVATION: You have a good plan on how to activate changemakers and empower them to innovate through your product or programming - 100%

Other option - 0%

7. FEEDBACK: Areas for Improvement

IMPACT POTENTIAL: make sure to provide specific instances of your social impact (or how you plan to measure impact) – it may be helpful to describe the beneficiaries, the main activities/products, and provide evidence of (or plan for) impact evaluation - 0%

QUALITY OF INNOVATION: make sure to describe how your solution is unique and innovative – it is helpful to include the research you have done on past solutions and how your solution is different from (and/or builds upon) these. - 100%

FINANCIAL AND OPERATIONAL SUSTAINABILITY: make sure you have provided descriptive information about your financial sustainability plan. Where do the funds come from now and do you have a concrete plan for future sustainability? - 50%

CHANGEMAKING ACTIVATION: make sure you describe your plan for how to empower others to become changemakers through your programming, service, or product - 0%

WRITING STYLE. Try to be concise, descriptive, and specific. Avoid jargon. - 0%

Nothing stands out! I thought it was great. - 0%

Other option - 0%

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Attachments (2)

Ashoka CM Budget.xlsx

A breakdown of our proposed budget for the implementation of "BrightHub"

Links to more info.pdf

Links to more documentaries and articles on my organization, Stand Up Movement Lanka’s work to advance workers’ rights.


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