April 27, 2010

That was the question addressed by six of us who were all members of the multi-talent VIRTUAL ADVISORY BOARD last weekend in Portugal.

The ‘Manta Alentejana’ (a traditional handwoven rug/garment/ wall-hanging) is a famous piece of Portugal’s heritage which is up for sale.

The Manta Alentejana

The Manta Alentejana

Different nationalities
The volcanic ash over nothern Europe cleared just in time to allow one Scot from the Isle of Mull, one Englishman, two Portuguese, and two Irishmen (including myself) to descend on the village of Monsaraz close to the Spanish border, east of Lisbon.

Information Gathering
Saturday, 24th April was spent quizzing the owner of the local handweaving business about her wish to sell her factory and her shop after almost thirty years spent safeguarding this dazzling, multi-coloured piece of Alentejo heritage. We met one of the last two women weavers at work in a converted olive oil factory, in which the owner herself lives in a stone-floored apartment.

The VAB board members in dialogue with the business owner (bottom right)

The VAB board members in dialogue with the business owner (bottom right)

Doing our homework among the multitude of traditional designs.

Doing our homework among the multitude of traditional designs.

Filtering and Fixing Options
On Sunday, sitting in the shade of an olive tree in the grounds of the old converted Alentejo farmhouse where we were staying, the ‘brainsurfing’ (as I prefer to call it) began. By 6pm that evening, we had come up with five viable options to offer the business-owner.

Solutions Chosen
Each member of the VAB took part in presenting these creative but realistic possibilities. After a short discussion she chose not one, but two of the proposed solutions aimed at selling her business and ensuring the continuation of the precious handweaving tradition.

One involves the use of Social Media, and the other a major event to be launched locally in 2011.

Cocktail of Knowledge and Experience
As an assorted group of professionals and experts covering heritage, business development and marketing, communication, interior design, and innovation, we all felt energised by the challenge of developing these ideas within 48 hours. Unlikely to meet again on the same Multi-Talent Virtual Advisory Board, we felt the richer for getting to know each other and for putting our collective creative thinking to work. It was also a valuable chance to expand our own personal networks.

Mission Accomplished
Now back at our home-bases, we will all watch with keen interest as the task of implementing the chosen optons begins in the coming weeks and months.
May the future of the ‘Manta Alentejana’ be as varied and as colourful as this handwoven treasure itself!

Mission accomplished

PS The next multi-talent VAB will take place in County Wexford, Ireland, on 21st-23rd May. Watch this space.


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