From the inception of Backstreet Academy as a social enterprise in Kathmandu, Nepal, we’ve always maintained our belief that profit making and social impact go hand-in-hand. This mantra drives our team across all our offices and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
It is through our hosts we strive to create an impact as we have created a special program for struggling artists and craftsmen to earn additional income and get much deserved recognition for their skills through Backstreet Academy.
Backstreet Academy Host: These are hosts who have been personally selected, vetted and trained by our course designers present in the respective citites. Our primary focus in this program is on the numerous artisans and craftsmen that dot the backstreets of a city. They work quietly in the underbelly of a city, creating amazing works of art that are often unappreciated and merely passed off as mass produced souvenirs for tourists. Where most see a souvenir, we see a personal story; a struggle for survival; a journey of self-discovery; years of practice and most importantly an undying passion to create. In addition to artisans and craftsmen, we’ve discovered that the backstreets also hold innumerable home-based workers who have amazing cooking skills, some with recipes that have not changed for countless generations. Often times, our cooking BA hosts are housewives who’ve mastered the art of cooking but don’t have an avenue to monetize it.
Most of our hosts have been found by reaching out to various NGO’s and handicraft organizations. This is the first step where we give priority to those artisans and craftsmen who are underprivileged and struggling. Not only do they get a platform through Backstreet Academy to earn additional income but getting to teach their skills to others also validates their efforts and gives them a renewed sense of self-confidence.
Facilitators: Most of our hosts do not have proper command over English nor are they familiar with using the internet. As a result our Backstreet Experiences with these Hosts include a network of facilitators who serve as guides, translators and cultural ambassadors. A facilitator will be assigned for any booking with a non-english speaking host that guests make. Facilitators are mainly students from the outskirts of urban areas who’ve moved to the city in hopes of a better education and life. While most of what they earn will go in sustaining their living expenses, there are also those who manage to send money back to their families in the countryside.
Before any facilitator is sent out to the field, they undergo a training session where we teach them the basics of customer service and polish their communication skills. The lingua franca for all our listed experiences is English, and in all the cities we operate in, young students are looking to practice and improve their English. Mastery over the English language often increases the chances of our facilitators in getting coveted jobs once they pass out from their respective schools.
In all our dealings with hosts, we always first establish the fact that we are a for-profit social enterprise and not an NGO – be it the hosts, facilitators or partner NGO’s, they are all aware of our mission to create a sustainable eco-system where social impact and profit making go hand-in-hand. Additionally, everyone involved in the making of a course is aware of the earnings of each party so that there are no misunderstandings or discontent with a listing.
In the grander scheme of things, however, ours is a small step towards connecting people from all over the world in an intimate setting where the artisans and craftsmen get their due while preserving a city's artistic heritage.