Learning in the Backstreets

A social venture introduces the city’s crafts to foreigners and helps local craftsmen earn money.

In one of the back streets of Thamel, there is a one-room office space, which has been transformed into a room-full of ideas. This is where Backstreet Academy Nepal (BSA Nepal) is based.

The social venture creates a platform for foreigners enthusiastic about crafts to interact with traditional craftsmen.
For tourists, the academy is a unique place for authentic and local experiences that aren’t yet mentioned in guidebooks. For local artisans, it’s a place to share their skills with others, and to earn money.

Backstreet Academy offers over 20 different courses, ranging from carving masks to making pottery and cooking momos, in Kathmandu and Pokhara. As all these courses can be completed within a few hours, they are ideal for travelers transiting in Kathmandu.

Although the main customers for BSA Nepal are foreigners, Nepalis can also sign up for the courses. “For foreigners, these courses provide a holistic experience because they are not only buying a craft from the city, but they are making them themselves. In addition to that, they get to interact with artisans and Nepali youngsters facilitate the courses,” says Anil Gurung, country director of BSA Nepal.

“A social enterprise needs to balance profit-making and social responsibility,” adds Gurung. “But none of us is under an illusion that this is easy,” says Gurung.

BSA Business Consultant Rijendra Pradhananga agrees. “There is no harm in making profit. In any idea that we play with, we think about the profit as well the social impact.”

BSA is able to maneuver through the challenge of striking a balance between profit-making and social responsibility because each member strongly believes in the concept they are working for, the members say. “At the end of the day, we survive because of innovation, ,” says Gurung, “Our focus is to find out ways to be different, innovate and be good at implementing ideas.”

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