Since 1995, Tjanpi Desert Weavers (Tjanpi) has been the social enterprise of Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (NPY) Women’s Council supporting women across 350,000 square kilometres of the Central and Western Desert region of Australia to create and market fibre art made from locally collected grasses and other materials. It provides both income and employment opportunities for over 400 women in NPY lands. 

After 15 years of operations Tjanpi found itself facing a significant threat to viability. This was due to loss making activities in the commercial gallery market, along with the prospect of downsizing due to the loss of a grant that was part of the organisation’s heavy reliance on government funding.  

Creative Economy undertook an initial strategic review and then developed a new strategic plan in a social enterprise model using Creative Economy’s innovative sustainability framework. The strategy re-established Tjanpi as a social enterprise driven by its original purpose “to contribute to improving the lives of NPY women and their families, by supporting women to earn their own income while coming together on country for cultural activity to create fibre art.” 

The result has been an increase in total revenue by 200% through diversification of revenues and significantly reduced dependency on government grants to 20% of total revenue. The innovation and consistency of work of the women of Tjanpi and the strength of the strategic plan secured the largest single investment by the Foundation of Australia’s oldest bank Westpac, who supported the employment of Aboriginal women in the remote desert region.