Institutionalizing collaborative leadership for growth 


Community Homestay is a social enterprise that partners with rural communities to provide a platform for women-led homestay businesses. As a travel company, it trains local entrepreneurs to provide immersive experiences to tourists looking for a taste of the local culture. Driven by the values of women empowerment and responsible tourism, the company invests 85% of the money it earns back into the community. Community Homestay currently operates in 22 different communities in Nepal.


In 2012, a group of thirteen women joined hands to start a homestay in Panauti – a historical town just outside of Kathmandu Valley. While they had the support of a well-established travel company, Royal Mountain Travel, the men in their community doubted their ability to adapt to the challenges of running a business. But, proving them wrong, the women were able to get the Panauti Community Homestay off the ground and establish a source of livelihood for themselves. Building on the success of their first homestay in Panauti, Community Homestay expanded to other communities and within a few years grew from being a department within Royal Mountain Travel to a successful travel company of its own.

As a young start-up, Community Homestay faced an array of complex challenges. To grow into a sustainable and thriving company required them to constantly come up with effective marketing and communication strategies. This endeavor became even more challenging when they faced a major leadership change in the beginning of 2019. During this transition, each team member had to take more initiative and become more responsible for themselves and their departments. While it was a difficult process, it was also a great learning opportunity and a chance to reinvent the internal mechanisms of the organization.

It was at this opportune time that Community Homestay took Nepal Leadership Academy’s ‘Leading Collaboration With Your Story’ course— which helped them navigate the challenges and uncertainties that the team faced. In the words of Bikal Khanal, Community Homestay’s Service Designer, they were able to adapt to the leadership transition by moving from “authoritative to collaborative leadership.”

The leadership course was, in many ways, a turning point for Community Homestay in the way they communicated externally as well as internally. As the Impact Manager then (and now the Chief Operating Officer), Poonam Gupta  was responsible for sharing stories of the company’s struggles and achievements for building client relations. As she began to integrate learnings from the course in her work, her narratives and stories started becoming more effective. She learned how to integrate the perspectives of the rural women who run the homestays to make her stories more powerful and persuasive. Community Homestay as a whole was also able to utilize the ‘public narrative’ framework taught in the leadership course to reconstruct its brand from the ground up and revamp its external communications.

In client communications, Ami Dhakwa, Community Homestay’s travel experts, remembers an instance before taking the leadership course where, despite eighteen back-and-forth email correspondences, a deal was never finalized between her and a potential client. After taking the course, however, she realized it was due to a lack of concrete planning and having specific action items in her communications. Improving her approach, she was able to finalize a similar deal in just two emails! 

With such important deals happening regularly, Community Homestay looks to continue improving communications with clients and turning possibilities into results. What started out as an experiment in Panauti, the organization today has homestays in 22 different communities all over Nepal. Along with the growth of the organization, it plans to continue empowering rural communities, especially the women there, create hundreds of new jobs, and pave the way for a thriving homestay business in Nepal.