SPP meeting in Panama

The last couple of days spent at the 4th Annual General Meeting off the Small Producer Symbol had some exciting moments and some not so exciting moments. Spending 10-12 hours at a time in a windowless hotel conference room listening to meeting proceedings in Spanish can be tedious and exhausting BUT to see the workings of a truly producer-run organization making decisions had its profound moments as well.

On the first day any proposed changes to internal policies were voted on and the new Board and committees were elected. Not overly exciting stuff on the surface but underneath I was able to see the dynamics that exist between producers in different countries and regions (South and Central America). Culturally and geographically these groups are very diverse and there were a number of differences in opinion but the democratic process was respected throughout.  Even though there may have been opposing votes, when a majority vote was taken then everyone accepted it and moved on.

The results of the elections were a little surprising to me as I ended up on the Standards Committee and Jeff somehow ended up on the Vigilance Committee.  The lack of buyers present at the meeting meant that the same people were called upon to fill all the positions available. This is a major shortcoming of the SPP right now…yes it is owned and run by producers but without many buyers giving input, producers have very little understanding of their North American and European customer base. A new face on the Board however came from Equal Exchange and this was a very exciting development as they are a major player in fair trade coffee in the USA.

The second day of meetings was focused on the 5 Year Strategic Plan. It was largely a challenging experience because as far as growth of the organization and recognition of the symbol goes, producers have very little input to give. When asked how they want to see their organization evolve and grow they have wonderful ideas but much of that hinges on the success of the SPP in our marketplace here in North America.

I had a quick meeting with Equal Exchange to see how we might loosely coordinate our promotional activities to help position the SPP in our marketplace. We seemed to be both very much on the same page in terms of how that would look. Lucky for both of our organizations, our own brand is already very much in line with SPP so all we need to do is attach the SPP to the work that we are doing and mention each other’s organizations when we do so. The university campuses will also be huge for us. Now that Fairtrade Canada is allowing the SPP to be part of the Fair Trade Campus program we need to capitalize as soon as possible and start making the SPP visible to young people.

Expect to see and hear more about SPP over the coming months as we get into gear to promote it more actively.