A quick reminder that tomorrow (Friday 11th May) is the Oxford Fair Trade Coalition AGM from 4.45 at the Town Hall, followed by a Fairtrade Volunteers Celebration Event from 5 until 7, where we welcome all volunteers working for Fairtrade in Oxford to join us for refreshments, a chance to meet up and share news and conversation, and the premier of a short film recently created on a visit to Just Change producers in India. We are holding this, of course, just before World Fair Trade Day which takes place this Saturday. See http://www.wftday.com/ for videos and more information about World Fair Trade Day.
An annual report of the work of the OFTC is below. Tomorrows AGM will include the election of co-chairs. Tim Davies is standing down as co-chair. Mike McKinley will be standing again, and Sabita Banerji is standing for election as co-chair.
We look forward to seeing many of your there, and continuing to work with others over the coming year,
All best wishes
Oxford Fair Trade Coalition
The year in review
Our last AGM was held in late 2010. Since the start of 2011 the Oxford Fair Trade Coalition has:
- Mapped out the current availability of Fairtrade in the city through a ‘Your Fairtrade City’ day of action, and renewed Oxford’s status as a Fairtrade City;
- Distributed ‘Oxford Fairtrade City’ window stickers to Fairtrade businesses across the city;
- Secured a number of media appearances on Oxford radio;
- Co-ordinated and promoted a large range of events for Fairtrade Fortnight in both 2011 and 2012, including producing a full colour Fairtrade Fortnight newsletter;
- Hosted the first meeting of a European network on meeting the contribution of Local Government to meeting the Millennium Development Goals, sharing the past and present of Fair Trade in Oxford with groups from across Europe;
- Supported and promoted a range of activities and events, from special offers at Oxford’s Fair Trade shops, to talks by Maryam Bibi of Kwendo Kor, and talks for Oxford University students on Fairtrade: Surviving the Recession;
- Provided speakers for events at schools and colleges, and helped students with research into Fair Trade;
- Worked with Oxford City Council to secure the supply of Fairly Traded products in the new town hall gift shop, and to explore ways to encourage festivals and events in Oxford to make more use of Fairtrade products. Oxford City Council now also have all Fairtrade drinks machines in the Town Hall.
You can read more about all our activities on our website at www.oxfairtrade.org.uk. All these activities are only possible through the work of a network of committed volunteers – both a core team who regularly attend OFTC meetings, and a wider community active in working for Fairtrade across the city. We’ve also explored ways to engage new volunteers, from the photographers who took amazing photos of our contribution to the Fairtrade Foundations record breaking ‘cotton bunting’ campaign, and the developers who have been helping to create a mobile website for finding Fairtrade in Oxford (coming soon!).
The Local Government Meet the Millennium Development Goals event in Oxford provided us with a great moment to both look back at the history of Fair Trade in Oxford -from early craft product imports organised by Oxfam staff and the launch of Campaign Coffee at Uhuru on Cowley Road, to the launch of Oxford’s Fairtrade Town Status in 2004 – and to explore the present and future of Fairtrade, which in troubled economic times is ever more important to support producer groups across the world to develop sustainable livelihoods.
One of the strong themes of our work over the last year has been making connections: exploring the links between Fairtrade and other issues, such as the environment, gender, education and peace, and this is an area of work we hope to continue. We have been delighted to be able to work in partnership with groups like Just Change and Friends of Kwendo Kor in recent events also, exploring frontiers of Fairtrade, and models that go beyond the Fair Trade mark to develop radical trading relationships based on mutual benefit and co-operative structures. We hope to be able to explore the relationship of Fair Trade and co-operatives more in this, International Year of Co-operatives.
Over 2011 and 2012 the kind support of Oxford City Council, funding from the European Local Government and MDGs project, and funding from a Youth for Fairtrade Project to support to development of the mobile website, have enabled us to twice employ a consultant to work on projects, including our Fairtrade City Renewal (presented as the ‘Your Fairtrade City event and day of action’), and on Fairtrade Fortnight 2012.
“Congratulations on maintaining Fairtrade City status for Oxford and for the great work you have achieved over the past few years. It has been inspiring to hear about all the progress that has been made since 2009. Once again we would like to thank everyone that has been involved in ensuring that the Oxford Fairtrade campaign continues to go from strength to strength. As you are aware it is because of campaigns such as this that Fairtrade continues to grow and now brings benefits to more than 7 million people – producers and their families – in over 50 countries”
Fairtrade Foundation comments on our 2011/12 renewal of Fairtrade Status
Membership and meetings
The core coalition group has continued to meet regularly at the Town Hall, with representatives from local Fairtade businesses, campaigners, the City Council and other supporters. Minutes from all our meetings are available through the website www.oxfairtrade.org.uk.
Although we no longer operate a formal membership structure over 40 people are on the mailing list to hear about upcoming meetings, and are, as such, coalition members. If you do not get invites to our regular meetings and would like to, please let us know via fairtrade.
During 2011/12 OFTC has been co-chaired by Tim Davies and Mike McKinley, and Elizabeth Whitwick has been treasurer. Sabita Banerji has worked as a consultant for OFTC organising our status renewal, and Fairtrade Fortnight 2012. Sebastian Johnson and Val Johnson have been our links with Oxford City Council.
Looking to the future: Challenges and opportunities
Alongside our successes, we also need to engage with a range of challenges, both for OFTC, and for fair trade more widely. Members of the coalition have also submitted suggestions for future developments when registering for our 2012 AGM, and some of these are also included below.
- Economics challenges for Fairtrade: Although in general sales of Fairtrade commodities are weathering current economic storms, many producers are facing very tough times. Times are particularly tough for producers of fair trade crafts, where sales are being hit by continued recession.
- Sustaining events and activities: a number of the OFTC organised events and activities have attracted only a small audience, and we know there are many more people we could be engaging with. We need to find ways to continue to reach out to a wide range of people, including those new to Fairtrade, and those seeking to take extra steps into fair trade. Members have highlighted the value of speaker events, both to remind people to keep Fairtrade on their agenda, and to bring together active campaigners to share learning, ideas and inspiration.
- Reaching out to businesses: our initial focus for Fairtrade Fortnight 2012 was to encourage businesses to take an extra step into Fairtrade by offering new product ranges. However, engaging with businesses has proved challenging, particularly as economic pressures limit their time to engage with wider initiatives. Finding ways, particularly working with Oxford City Council, to engage with businesses, and the hospitality industry, continues to be a goal for the coalition – but one we where we still have a lot of progress to make.
- Supporting volunteers and attracting new members: We know there are many more people who would like to volunteer to support Fairtrade, but who are not interested in regular committee meetings. We need to find more informal ways to engage with volunteers, and to make the most of energy across Oxford to promote Fairtrade. We also need to encourage a few more people to join the regular OFTC meetings – as the networking and co-ordinating work of a regular committee meeting remains vital to amplifying and joining up Fairtrade work across Oxford.
- Working with the council: there are many more opportunities to work with Oxford City Council to promote Fairtrade, from working on Fairtrade City road signs, to embedding Fairtrade information in support to businesses, or in other key council processes.
- Exploring fairtrade+: In the November Millennium Development Goals seminar we discussed the importance of ‘Fairtrade plus’, going beyond simply meeting Fairtrade criteria, to support businesses and initiatives that are living out and extending the values of fair trading. We will need to continue to identify the ways that we can support.
- Networking, communicating, and keeping social: Our Twitter feed has over 1000 followers, and our website receives many visitors. Keeping these fed with regular updates and information requires continued work, and we need to encourage everyone with news to share it with us. The 2012 Newspaper was a great success, although expensive to produce, and so identifying opportunities and planning ahead to produce future resources will important. Social events are a great way to network supporters of Fairtrade, and to reach out to new groups, and so should continue to be a key activity for OFTC. Fairtrade Status Renewal 2013: we next have to renew our status as a Fairtrade City in 2013, and the process is changing. We’ll be looking out for new challenges to meet from the Fairtrade Foundation.
We hope you will join us in working on many of these opportunities and challenges, whether as a regular member of our meetings or just keeping in touch with your news and updates via fairtrade.
We end this annual report by re-iterating our thanks to everyone who has been involved in sustaining Oxford’s role as a leading Fairtrade City. Ultimately though, OFTC is not about Oxford, but is about having a global impact: ensuring that trade supports poverty reduction, sustainable livelihoods, education, and healthy communities for producers. Although products with the Fairtrade mark have become mainstream in the eight years since Oxford became a Fairtrade City, so much trade remains unfair and exploitative. Fair trade remains a radical idea: showing that an alternative is possible, and it’s an alternative want to continue shouting about and building up.
Tim Davies & Mike McKinely,
Co-Chairs, OFTC, May 2012