My perspective on Unification

Disclaimer: I work part-time as Senior Creative Advisor for SCAA, a role that began last August.

I work in coffee because of the people in coffee – the great coffee is simply a benefit. It’s taken me around the world and connected me to an incredible community that never seemed to recognize borders, certainly I never did.

From the early days of Flickr, the community has always been at once global and intimate to me. We connected because we wanted to learn more, and knew we were the minority in a big industry. From there, technology, events, volunteerism and friendships kept us in touch.

To me, SCAA and SCAE always felt like two departments of the same vision, except each one spelled a word differently. My involvement in competition, and subsequently with World Coffee Events – a company co-owned by both associations, showed me what a unified model would look like.

With staff spread across four continents, and the support of the parent associations, and impassioned volunteers, the WCE is able to produce events that engage coffee communities all around the world, providing valuable exposure and connectivity to producers, roasters, baristas, importers, allied companies, local communities, and home enthusiasts. It works great.

I’ve been fortunate to travel a lot in my career, and often feel the perspective shifts resulting from such travel invaluably inform my professional competency.

I’ve worked in Dublin, London, a few weeks in Canada and Chicago. Volunteering and events have allowed me to travel the world and learn first hand about the beauty of our diversity. Engaging that diversity taught me a lot,  but also emboldened me to hang on to my preferences,  something I was most recently chided over when Charles Babinski mocked my preference for the single-shot 5 oz cappuccino during our live-commentary for the WBC in Dublin.

I cherish the things that make us different, it keeps things interesting. I oppose anything that would seek to homogenize our industry and do not accept that this proposed Unification would do that. I mean for goodness sake, it’s Specialty Coffee. It’s the idea that not all coffee tastes the same, that some is really delicious from one part of the world made by one bunch of people, and another tastes really delicious but different because it was grown in a different part of the world by a different bunch of people. In what world would anyone act to blend it all together!?

If they did, I wouldn’t work for that association, and I wouldn’t be a member. I joined SCAA as an advisor last summer, and saw first-hand how committed the staff and leaders are to embracing and promoting diversity. The constant conversation is ‘how can we better serve members, how do we get stronger but stay local’. I knew SCAA had good people, but was genuinely blown away by how true their intent is. Any of my close friends reading this will have heard me report as much over the past year.

Bringing the associations together seems like a no brainer to me and I’m yet to hear a convincing argument why it shouldn’t happen. It’s an important decision, and there should absolutely be discussion, but I have little time for fear-mongering and personal attacks.

If you are in a position to vote, or in a position to encourage the person at your company who is able to vote – I encourage you to learn about the SCAA and SCAE’s proposal at SCAAUNIFICATION.ORG. If you are curious to hear an opposition argument, you can find one here as rebutted by Nick Cho, and another rebuttal of the same post by Heather Perry – here.

Please vote. Thanks


5 thoughts on “My perspective on Unification

  1. Stephen, your ability to espouse perspectives with a creative flair is evident. I have to admit, tho, your tact to plant an discrediting idea in your readers minds caught me off guard. To end your perspective with encouraging discussion, then discount that by changing the tone to “fear mongering and personal attacks”, and finally lead the reader to links that are mean to reinforce these are “fear mongering and personal attacks” examples, you miss the key issue in encouraging discussion. It will always be up to the individual voter to vet the information of all perspectives/debates. A Yes view can’t exist without a No view, otherwise it would not exist at all, no need if everyone agrees. And that is where Diversity enters always. Diversity is the glue that keeps everything in balance. Where most go astray, is when the perspective gets confused. It can’t get clear and gets “What I Intend to Do” confused with “What I Want to Happen”. Where “What I Intend to Do” is always in the individuals control, “What I Want to Happen” is not. It pretty easy to see you intended to lead your reader to a destination. The trip was just to bumpy for me. It brings to light, when you say “I cherish the things that make us different, it keeps things interesting”, just how committed you are to this. If you can reconcile with clear conscience that “how we can better serve members” means leading your reader where you did, then I just gave you a reason to open your eyes and try to see all perspectives without boxing them in. Best to Your Future, Bob Sanders

    1. Hey Bob – thanks for your comments. I understand your critiques and don’t deny for a second that I sought to encourage a yes vote, and as such didn’t want to promote the opposite argument.

      I recognize the potential for confusion when I encourage discussion but then decry fear mongering and personal attacks, but did that quite consciously. I’ve been reading a lot of the threads online, and have been really put off by the personal tone adopted by some. There is a certain amount of venom in the rhetoric that is really discouraging, which when combined with repeated falsehoods leads to redundant debate and fear mongering.

      I fully appreciate that people love SCAA, don’t necessarily trust when something becomes bigger, and concerns over the level of attention the many independent companies will receive in a more global association. Those points have been well articulated, but I believe the logic presented by the SCAA, Nick Cho, Peter Giuliano, Heather Perry and others is far more compelling.

      What bothers me is when an argument with incorrect assumptions or misinterpretation of documents is presented, the flaws are pointed out but the argument doesn’t cease, or get more complex. Instead we see dismissal of the facts, and the argument repeated, unchanged elsewhere. That is really frustrating, and really doesn’t help inform membership.

      I welcome discussion, and that’s what the in-person forums and webinars are for. It’s not on SCAA to campaign for a NO vote, nor is it on me. I am not required to present both sides of the argument, but I wanted to make a statement that supports respectful debate based off facts.

      I’m sorry the trip was bumpy for you, I’m not a great writer. My statements about diversity are far too sweeping, but I don’t accept your point that me leading the reader to my position of support mitigates my point, or belies my commitment to diversity.

      I am yet to see a convincing argument of why we shouldn’t unify the associations. My experience with WCE and more recently with SCAA makes me confident it will work well. I will continue to read voices of opposition, and will do my best to listen. I imagine others will do the same.

      Thanks again for your response, I’ll leave a comment on FB that I responded here.

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