Fair Trade Vancouver (FTV) has made many impacts in Canada. Within the last three years, the organization has become a resource for talent and expertise in many issues relating to Fair Trade.
What distinguishes FTV — aside from overwhelming support from community businesses and organizations — can be measured in the depth of its achievements. Recognition has always been a strategic goal in increasing awareness and uptake of support for Fair Trade.
But publicity is only one of many goals for FTV. According to Avery Gottfried, President of FTV’s Board of Directors, “FTV has always looked for opportunities where we will have our biggest impact and rceach. This allows us to focus our energy and achieve results that have the best chance of success.”
With respect to FTV’s participation in community events — including Car Free Days, the KidSport Soccer Match, and FTV’s flagship event, the Fair Trade Pavilion held at Vancouver’s EPIC Expo — these goals can range from creating opportunities for face-to-face interactions, media exposure, relationship building, and community development.
Additionally, what has ensured the success of these undertakings has been the partnerships that have been formed in the process — with other organizations, companies and institutions, but most importantly Fairtrade Canada who has supported, guided, and chipped in financial backing for many of the larger undertakings.
Without a proper understanding of Fair Trade, the movement can have a polarizing affect among individuals within communities and stakeholder groups. Being open and respectful to the interests of all stakeholders working within a community has been essential to the organization’s success.
“FTV has always sought dialogue and discussion with any and all parties,” says Sean McHugh, Executive Director of The Canadian Fair Trade Network — previously the Executive Director for Fair Trade Vancouver. “Change is holistic, so engagement should be far-reaching. We try to present change as an opportunity, not a burden.”
By understanding the needs of others FTV has developed networks and communications that have led to benefits for many. James Milligan, owner of Social Conscience Fair Trade Sports Balls, explains that it was through the help of FTV that he’s been able to arrange contracts with both UBC and SFU campuses.
“FTV has helped raise the awareness of Fair Trade in general,” says Milligan, “which is supportive of all fair traders — regardless of the products they are selling.”
Gottfried and McHugh both stress the value of working with talented and knowledgeable people. Aside from working with designers, writers, web developers, and a multitude of other professionally oriented individuals, FTV has been able to develop an organizational infrastructure that helps guide project management.
From detailed market analysis to project charters and organizational planning, “FTV is always trying to develop a culture that builds, values, and uses structural support to achieve its goals,” says Gottfried, who also stresses the importance of providing valuable experience to volunteers: “FTV has attracted some highly talented people by giving them the opportunity to gain great experience in managing and executing top notch events.”
One of FTV’s biggest successes occurred as a result of its work with the Vancouver City Council in making Vancouver a Fair Trade designated city. This not only ensures the commitment of the city to progressing the commitment to Fair Trade within the city, but also commits the operations of the city to a number of available Fair Trade practices.
More recent achievements for the organization have included supporting the Fair Trade Campus designations for both UBC and SFU, the two largest educational institutions in the province. With these milestone developments, not only are more people made aware of Fair Trade, but many have taken to further their commitments to ethical products.
“There has been a groundswell movement in Vancouver, and there is a ripple effect emerging in other communities across Canada,” says Milligan, who hopes to see similar organizations develop across the country.
“FTV’s growth and accomplishments serve as a template for action, which will hopefully save time for up-and-coming Fair Trade community organizations. There won’t be a need for them to reinvent the wheel.”
Author: Bryce Tarling