The Power of Community

Cafedirect was born out of an overwhelming sense of community leading to direct action. Coffee growers combining with 4 UK charities, Oxfam, Twin, Traidcraft & Equal Exchange to mobilise citizens in churches across the UK to pay a fair price for coffee at a time of crisis in the early 1990’s. Subsequently we have maintained that sense of community through ownership, governance and genuine involvement, for example including board members from our different communities.

Over twenty years later in a more global world, with increasing transparency, the need for the same community spirit is undiminished. The gap between rich and poor and the focus on selfish capitalistic values and competition at all cost remain omnipresent.
Still there is a great imbalance of power and people prepared to miss use it.

In my world it is clear that there is more to be gained by the bringing together of people to collaborate and deliver a community of power to create a sustainable, balanced world.

At Cafedirect power and ownership is shared between citizens who drink our hot beverages, citizens who grow coffee and process with us and other members of our community who invest time, money and all that they can.

By working together with combined purpose we achieve more than the consequence of a series of transactions between different sizes and types of organisations.

Where a buyer pays a supplier to make a profit and trades that is all there is – someone gives and someone takes. Where you are joined together you can establish fair pricing, shared work to address issues such as climate change and learn from each other over and over again.

Recently I felt this more than ever, helping the community run a conference in a remote part of Peru. A conference bringing together growers from across the world, processing partners, other key stakeholders such as Fairtrade and Oikocredit. Feeling the combined strength of everyone, be it in exploring and understanding how to improve coffee quality, how to work together to build brands and businesses or how to work peer to peer to enable the free flow of information across the community.

Being part of a company where everyone has a voice and the whole community is joined together is more challenging than conducting a commercial transaction, but the value of community is powerful, joyful and true. There is no reason why we cannot all change our business structures, ownership and governance to gain more from the power of community. It is our choice.


Written by John Steel, CEO, Cafedirect

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