August 21, 2014
Rebecca van Bergen is the founder and Executive Director of Nest, a New York City non-profit organization that is working side-by-side with the world’s most promising artisans, to sustainably develop their small businesses while simultaneously promoting peace, prosperity, and female empowerment. Nest has partnered with Voss Foundation since 2012 to provide access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene to their African artisans and their communities. Since its inception, the partnership, along with Rosecraft and Gone Rural/Gone Rural boMake, has built seven hand-pump wells and 185 latrines for over 6,000 people in Swaziland.
“Nest understands that challenges to artisan business growth are intimately linked to the quality of the environments in which they operate,” says Rebecca. “With Voss Foundation’s partnership, Nest has been able to provide more than 6,000 Swazis with access to clean water and sanitation; it is on behalf of our women artisans and their families that I accept this honor as Voss Foundation’s ‘Women Helping Women’ awardee. I look forward to Nest’s continued partnership with Voss Foundation as we together demonstrate the tangible role of women in driving sustainable global change.”
Recognizing craft as a cornerstone of emerging economies around the world, Rebecca saw an opportunity to transform craft into a tool for positive social and economic change. By empowering artisans with the modern tools, training and market access necessary to revive their crafts, Rebecca was determined to create a place of prestige for ancient artisanship within world of modern high-end retail and designer fashion.
One example of this success has been Nest’s strategic partnership with Maiyet, the celebrated artisan-made luxury fashion line. Rebecca’s co-honoree this year is Maiyet’s Co-Founder and Creative Director, Kristy Caylor.
As a pioneering woman, wife and mother, Rebecca has made female empowerment a focal point of Nest’s social goals, identifying artisan business partners that promote female employment; as well as building female safety, job security and leadership into every Nest development project. In her personal and professional life, Rebecca is vocal about encouraging women leaders to embrace “the feminine business mind,” which uniquely integrates compassion into all business endeavors.
“I am so happy to honor Rebecca this year for her incredible work with Nest,” explains Voss Foundation’s Executive Director, Kara Gerson. “By empowering artisans throughout the world, she is the definition of a woman helping other women. And through Nest’s ongoing partnership with Voss Foundation, Rebecca has been able to demonstrate the true ripple effect of clean water, sanitation and hygiene as a means to enable community-driven development in Sub-Saharan Africa.”
As a result of her groundbreaking, three-pillared approach to global development, social enterprise and female empowerment, Rebecca was named one of the St. Louis Business Journal’s “30 under 30,” which recognizes the achievements of young entrepreneurs and executives. She appears regularly in media including PBS’s Agents of Change, and was identified as a CNN “Young Person Who Rocks.” Among Nest’s accolades, the organization was a featured charity at the Sundance Film Festival and has been recognized by the Clinton Global Initiative. In 2014, Voss Foundation’s partnership with Nest was featured in The Guardian.
Rebecca and Kristy will be honored at Voss Foundation’s Fall 2014 luncheons in San Francisco and New York.