2012 Fair Trade Campaigns Conference – Day 3

The third and final day of the Fair Trade Campaigns Conference in Chicago – filled with more great conversation and nervous conference attendees that were not sure if they would be able to leave Chicago (thanks to Hurricane Sandy).

The third day started with a Producer Panel, where banana farmers and artisans talked about how Fair Trade makes an impact in their communities.  Felipe Echeverri Zapata and Jorge William Restrepo represented Bananeras de Uraba in Columbia, Hannah Dodoo represented Global Mamas in Ghana, and a third panelist Andreas represented Minga Fair Trade Imports.  The group shared some fascinating information, such as the challenges of climate change and El Nino causing a loss of up to 30% of banana production, and shared some inspiring quotes, such as Hannah Dodoo telling us that “if you train a man, you train an individual, but if you train a woman, you change a nation” (I’m guessing she based the quote on this African proverb).

The Producer Panel ended with the panelists being asked about what they saw as future challenges for Fair Trade.  Hannah stated that Fair Trade must be embraced in all businesses, with continued purchasing from Global Mamas.  Andreas said that he did not see a challenge because many people know what the tagua is, but he stated what he really needs are better designs of products.  Jorge ended with the comment that those who market Fair Trade products are still “missing,” and the system still needs to be much more transparent.  It was inspiring to hear how Fair Trade has had a positive impact on their lives, and how they believe that this impact will continue in the future.

For the morning breakout session, I attended the Building a Strong & Sustainable Committee talk by Gwendolyn Tedeschi and Ben Thomas.  We at Penn State Brandywine certainly have built our committee, but sustaining a committee when most of our students leave after the first two years is a challenge for the future I am worried about.  The session had some great discussion about making sure the committee is diverse across students groups, faculty, administrators, food service and the campus bookstore.  There were also suggestions to add staff and alumni.  Finding an institutional anchor is key, as well as giving each student an important task/responsibility with the movement.  I am excited and nervous about the future of the Penn State TrailBlazers, but this information is great for me to bring back to my group as to what we need to keep focused with, and information that I can share with students at other campuses looking to form their own Fair Trade movements.

Our working lunch had everyone split into two groups – the Fair Trade Towns people in one room, and the Fair Trade Colleges & University people in another room.  I was excited to see Parker Townley, coordinator of Fair Trade Colleges & Universities, show us a new tool kit for campaigns looking to be approved, and I had some great conversation with the students from Penn State – University Park in attendance at the conference as to what they could do to keep the movement moving forward at their campus.  Having more online resources available should better assist all campaigns, especially the University Park group.

Parker ended his session with the “Let’s Get to Work!” challenge.  Parker is asking all university campaigns to create change by moving our campaigns forward by major steps.  We are asked to either increase the number of our social media followers, add more Fair Trade products or host two educational events, or reach out to two new groups to form new partnerships.  We are totally going for the social media challenge (stay tuned for a future blog post about this!).

The final session of the meeting was a closing keynote by Kirsten Moller, the co-founder of Global Exchange.  If you ever get a chance to hear her speak, it is a must!  She is so passionate about social, economic and environmental justice.  And her sharing of the Raise The Bar, Hershey! campaign energized the entire room.  I think her take home message was that we have done great work, but there is still much more to do and we can’t sit back and assume it will get done by others.

I think it is going to take me some time to digest all of the information and interactions from this conference.  I do not think that I have yet realized all of the impacts this conference has made on myself as an individual and the impacts it will make on my students, my campus, and possibly, even on the larger Fair Trade movement.  I wonder what I will be blogging about a year from now….

Contributed by Dr. Laura Guertin

 

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2012 Fair Trade Campaigns Conference – Day 2

Day 2 of the Fair Trade Campaigns Conference, our first full day of Fair Trade connections and conversations!  It has been exciting to be in Chicago, the second largest city in the world to be a Fair Trade City.

The morning began with a Panel Discussion: Building Partnerships for a Stronger Movement.  The panel consisted of individuals representing Local First Chicago, Pioneer Valley Local First, UC Davis/Sodexo, UC San Diego, Five for Water Foundation, Fair Trade Towns, and myself representing the “town and gown” connection of Media Fair Trade Town and Penn State Brandywine as a Fair Trade University.  The questions from the moderators and the audience were very thought-provoking and provided new ideas to think about as well as a refresher of items and programs already in place.  Even as a participant, here are some of the takeaways I had from the panel:

  • Go back and think about the term “partnerships”… What do partnerships mean to us? How do we define “what is a partnership”?
  • Who else can we work with to think outside of the box to make a partnership?
  • Partnerships are efficient if you have the same audience
  • Have an inclusive message, such as “buy local, buy fair”
  • Brush up on “appreciative inquiry”

It was off to Breakout Session 1, where I decided to stop in to hear more about the History & Scope of Fair Trade by Jackie DeCarlo (Catholic Relief Services) and April Linton (Author, Fair Trade from the Ground Up).  The presenters started with a reflective question, when did YOU first become involved in Fair Trade?, then moved in to a true/false format of posing questions to the audience to move us through where Fair Trade has been and where it stands now.  For example… TRUE OR FALSE…. Fair Trade only encompasses products that bear certifiers’ labels.  Jackie encouraged us to check out the CRS Fair Trade website for more information and history of Fair Trade.

For the next breakout session, I headed to Bringing Fair Trade to the Classroom.  The session was filled with university students and faculty sharing ideas and strategies for bringing Fair Trade to every discipline and making it either a part of a course or an entire course.  The group shared how courses in statistics, economics, geography, agriculture, and even writing could have a Fair Trade component.  Suggestions I am going to follow up with included checking out the anti-Fair Trade literature, the scholarly articles listed on the Fair Trade Resource Network website, seeing if our campus common read program can select a Fair Trade book, and looking for K-12 curriculum for outreach purposes on the Global Exchange website.

I then grabbed my box lunch and headed to the networking session by Green Mountain Coffee.  It was interesting to hear them talk about their Fair Trade varieties of coffee, but there needs to be more consumer demand for more Fair Trade options to be available, as Green Mountain makes less money off of this line (it costs more, but those costs are not passed along to the consumer).  Several people from Fair Trade Universities and Towns also shared how they are struggling to get attendance at showings of films on Fair Trade topics, and everyone in the room suggested strategies that could be pursued (partnering with other groups to increase attendance, perhaps just call it a film festival and not a Fair Trade film festival, etc.).  In the end, we got back to a message heard several times previously at the meeting – get the word out to consumers.

The Open Forum on Fair Trade had some interesting and challenging questions, and again, some great statements to think about:

  • Fair Trade is dialogue, transparency, and respect
  • Do we ask everyone to purchase more Fair Trade, or just have all purchases be Fair Trade, and is there a difference?
  • Moving forward, let’s not agonize, let’s organize
  • If Fair Trade is all over, the world will be at peace (this statement was made by Hannah Dodoo of Global Mamas)

For the Crafting & Tasting Demonstrations, I decided to attend the jewelry making session led by Minga Fair Trade Imports.  We learned about the tagua bead (actually an ivory-like nut harvested from palm trees indigenous to South America) and got to make our own necklaces, bracelets, key chains, and earrings.  Personally, I’m not a big jewelry-wearing person, but I love my tagua necklace I made, and each time I wear it I’ll be sure to tell the Fair Trade story behind it.

Next up was Courtney Lang reviewing the Go Bananas for Fair Trade Challenge and announcing the winners.  Guess what???  Penn State Brandywine and Fair Trade Boston were declared co-champions!  (more to come about this in a future blog post…)

Fair Trade Chicago gave a keynote on their stories and lessons about Fair Trade, sharing interesting activities such as mapping out where Fair Trade items are sold, connecting Fair Trade to job creation, establishing an education program, and bringing Fair Trade fashion shows and soccer balls to young adults and kids.  Way to go, Chicago!

The final activity for the night (phew! such a long, information-packed day!) was fascinating.  I attended a talk by Felipe Echeverri Zapata and Jorge William Restrepo from Bananeras de Uraba, (English summary), who discussed the benefits of Fair Trade for banana farmers in Columbia.  The Zapata family clearly cares deeply about their workers and has done much to help them.  Alas, the realities of climate change are impacting the growth of the bananas, preventing them from providing a constant number of bananas for the market.  I will certainly be keeping an eye out for their bananas! (they recommended checking out Sam’s Club and Walmart)

Another day filled with great information and connections.  Day 3 should be just as exciting – with Hurricane Sandy coming towards the east coast for an added bit of excitement!

Contributed by Dr. Laura Guertin

A Call for your Support from Fairly Educated!

I recently received an email from United Students for Fair Trade, asking for me to support Fairly Educated’s effort to make every university in Australia and New Zealand a Fair Trade University by the end of 2015. We are asking for your support as well and encourage you to sign their petition on Change.Org. This petition seeks the support from “…the two most influential organizations in the tertiary education sector”, the Tertiary Access Group (TAG) and Australasian Campuses Towards Sustainability (ACTS), in passing resolutions agreeing to help their members become Fair Trade. It is an important effort to support as the global impact on farmers and workers would be incredible! Please share it and sign.

Contributed by Sarah DeMartino, Fair Trade Intern

Fair Trade Podcast: Fair Trade Resources for Staying Educated

Link to podcast (MP3 file)

Script:

The Penn State Brandywine Fair Trade TrailBlazers have a few helpful tips on staying in the loop with information about the Fair Trade movement. Penn State Brandywine recently became declared a Fair Trade University, and it was very important for us TrailBlazers to understand the growing movement and educate our campus. There is a lot going on with Fair Trade, and we had some hesitations and reservations about how to proceed in deciding what was best for our campus. Here are some tools we felt were helpful for learning about Fair Trade as the movement changes.

Starting out, we didn’t know much about Fair Trade, so our first step was to read! We read lots of articles about Fair Trade to acquire the necessary background information, and here are a few good websites and books for you to check out. We found the Fair Trade Resource Network’s website (fairtraderesource.org) very helpful and up to date with everything happening in the Fair Trade world, along with Fair Trade.org.uk, and the Fair Trade section under the Environment category of The Guardian website (guardiannews.com). We also found the books Fighting The Banana Wars and other Fairtrade Battles by Harriet Lamb, Fair Trade by Jacqueline DeCarlo, Global Girlfriends: How One Mom Made It Her Business to Help Women in Poverty Worldwide by Stacey Edgar, Brewing Justice: Fair Trade Coffee, Sustainability, and Survival by Daniel Jaffee, and Coffee and Community by Sarah Lyon to be very helpful in understanding Fair Trade.

Our second step was to contact different organizations involved with Fair Trade. There is a lot of different activity and viewpoints toward Fair Trade at the moment, so talking to a wide variety of organizations helped us greatly in trying to understand the whole picture.  Everybody we spoke to was helpful, enthusiastic, and had a wealth of knowledge and insight. A few good groups to contact are United Students for Fair Trade, Divine Chocolate, Fair Trade Towns, Fair Trade USA, Equal Exchange, Fair Trade Federation, Alta Gracia, and Ten Thousand Villages. There is a plethora of other groups you can get in contact with, and we encourage you to do so!  Don’t forget that if you cannot bring a speaker to campus, there is always the opportunity to Skype and exchange information via email.

We also made a point of contacting local Fair Trade towns and schools. Support is crucial when starting out on the Fair Trade path, and we are lucky enough to be located in the town of Media, Pennsylvania, America’s first Fair Trade Town, and to have Penncrest High School, America’s first Fair Trade public high school, right down the road.  We were also able to talk to Temple University about Fair Trade and what it is doing to support and bring Fair Trade to its campus. Having other groups to talk to helped us to see what has already been done and where we could go. These institutions were both insightful and encouraging! If you and your university are seeking to support Fair Trade, ask other schools and towns in your area what they are doing to support Fair Trade and start networking early.  Even if they are not designated to be a Fair Trade school or town, they still might have initiatives supporting Fair Trade. 

Lastly, perhaps one of the most powerful messages we took away from our discussions with these organizations, schools, and towns, was to ask questions and hold people accountable. It is important to understand how Fair Trade is growing and to ask the right questions. Know what Fair Trade means to you and don’t be afraid to ask difficult questions. If something is unclear, ask somebody about it and speak up.

We hope that you found our tips helpful. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at fairtrade@bw.psu.edu, or on our Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ accounts.