Rewarding Results for Shared Interest

The Shared Interest team takes great pride in our work to support fair trade businesses in the developing world.  Over the last month, it has been rewarding to receive external recognition through the following achievements:

We were awarded second place in the Observer Ethical Awards’ Big Idea category.  Judged by a panel including high profile names like Lucy Siegle and Livia Firth, we were thrilled that Shared Interest was selected.  Our £500 prize money will be donated to our charity, Shared Interest Foundation. 

Long-listed by the Guardian Sustainable Business Award in the Social Impact category, we have become part of the Guardian Sustainable Business Best Practice Exchange.  We are delighted to be part of this network that shares articles on initiatives demonstrating elements of genuine innovation and forward thinking.

On the note of looking forward, we have also been announced as regional finalists of the Private Business Awards.  A place on the regional shortlist means automatic nomination for the national awards. We find out our fate on 10 July and will of course keep you updated.  Fingers crossed!

This recognition through awards gives us a further opportunity to thank our Investors and Volunteers for their continued support.  Without our committed supporters, we couldn’t continue to strive for our vision of a world where justice is at the heart of trade finance.

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Thanking Scotland This World Fair Trade Day

Shared Interest EdinburghOn the eve of World Fair Trade Day 2012, the Shared Interest team travelled up to Edinburgh to meet with investors and their guests at the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh.

We wanted to thank our investors in the region personally for their continued support and also tell their guests a little more about what we do.

Director of the Scottish Fair Trade Forum Martin Rhodes gave an update on the nation’s campaign for Fair Trade Status.

Scotland promises to be the second country in the world to gain Fair Trade Nation status, following in the footsteps of the Welsh Fair Trade Forum who announced their status in 2008.

Martin gave examples of some of their inspirational activities, such as schools hosting visits from fair trade producers from as far as Malawi and Uganda.

Our Managing Director Patricia Alexander stressed the effectiveness and importance of ‘word of mouth’ promotion as she thanked supporters in helping to promote Shared Interest in their own community.

Several people there have been involved with Shared Interest since the early nineties.  As a co-operative, I think we are lucky to have such a dedicated membership.  However, we are always looking to grow our number of investors so we can lend more money in the developing world.

Marketing and Relationships Manager Shared Interest AmbassadorsShared Interest Edinburgh Event Coffee TastingKerrey Baker thanked our volunteers (and Ambassadors) for the work they have done over the years.  Tracy, Stephen, Jan and Pat spoke to the audience about the Ambassador scheme and how people can invest their time as well as, or instead of, their spare money.

 

At lunchtime guests enjoyed browsing the busy fair trade marketplace with fair trade stalls and we were even treated to some coffee tasting, which created a bit of a buzz and debate amongst guests.

This was our very first supporter event in Edinburgh and, with our space at the venue at maximum capacity, we really enjoyed thanking these
dedicated followers of fair trade.

Shared Interest Edinburgh Event

 

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Coffee Overload

By Maria – Account Manager for Latin America

COFFEE OVERLOAD

-       LOCATION

Portland, Oregon was this year’s host city for the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) event. It is a very tidy, clean and fit city with lots of people on bikes or jogging and the streets and public transport were spotless (the public transport in the city centre was free!). Not to mention how friendly the people were… surprisingly starting by the immigration officer at the airport! Really!

-       COFFEE SHOPS AND MORE COFFEE

I love coffee signI’ve never seen so many coffee shops in one place and the ones I visited didn’t disappoint! At the conference and at the shops I had an overload of coffee in different shapes and forms: americanos, espressos, chocolate coated coffee beans, chocolate smoothie with crushed coffee beans, coffee liquor…

-       IT WAS NICE BECAUSE…

I had the chance to meet our producers face to face and to listen to what they had to say about how thankful they are having our facility, but most importantly feeling that they were genuine when they were “happy “ to meet us in person.

Cenfrocafe

Maria with Cenfrocafe

-       IT WAS INTERESTING BECAUSE…

Fair Trade USAI heard about the current changes with Fair Trade USA. Seeing the “passion” of the producers putting across their points of view and their feelings towards the new scenario of having in one hand Fair Trade USA and also Fairtrade International… in Merling Preza’s words the general feeling was:

“Fair trade should evolve and go forward but needs to maintain its principals and values.”

*Merling Preza: General Manager of Prodecoop and President of CLAC’s Board

*CLAC: Latin American and Caribbean Network of Small Fair Trade Producers

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Fairtrade Fortnight Finale in Cumbria

I was delighted to see a Shared Interest account opened in the Cumbria region this week, and like to think that it could be counted as an action from the Take a Step for Fairtrade campaign….

Fairtrade Fortnight saw many individuals and partnerships in my area taking steps for Fairtrade.  As reported back in March, we shared celebrations with the Scottish Fair Trade Forum, the Sunderland Fairtrade Partnership, and the Sunderland Soroptimists.

The finale for me was a trip to the picturesque Lake District town of Ambleside for the Cumbria Fair Trade Network AGM, where Francis Chisuse was a guest representative of smallholder fair trade tea growers from Malawi.  

I encouraged people there to open a Shared Interest account as a possible Step for Fairtrade and was pleased to see this week that someone had been inspired.

If you are part of a fair trade group that would be interested in investing with us, please click here

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Visiting Shared Interest Headquarters and Beyond

 

John with his Shared Interest colleagues

John took part in Shared Interest's AGM in Oxford

By John Dossou, Regional Development Executive, West Africa

Week One

This was my first visit to the UK but not the first in Europe, and my first week in the Newcastle Office was marked by meetings with various departments.

I had the opportunity to talk to Kim of the Shared Interest Foundation and discussions were centred on opportunities for the Foundation’s work in West Africa. The needs on the ground are very great around capacity building for producer groups.  

I spent time with the Business Development department, having hands-on training on my new job. Elisabeth, the line manager, spent time with me talking on the need to diversify our product portfolio in West Africa.  My meeting with Kerrey, the Supporter Relations Manager was focused on the Shared Interest investor interests and expectations.  My discussions with Tim, the Finance Director, were focused on the governance of the Society and the Registration process of Shared Interest in Ghana. Malcolm, the Customer Services Manager, is one the longest serving managers of Shared Interest and gave me the history of the organisation. He also has a good memory of the history of the Newcastle city!

During evenings and at the weekend I toured the city.  The Quayside is a beautiful sight at night with the Millennium Bridge across the Tyne.  I also tasted the popular ‘Fish & Chips’ on a cold Saturday morning along the coast with a walk around St Mary’s lighthouse.

I enjoyed Dunstanburgh Castle on Alnwick Coast. The temperature at the coast was 2°C. I was almost freezing and that was the lowest temperature I experienced in the UK. This historic castle is almost in the sea but according to my colleague it has been at its very place for decades meaning that there has not been much coastal erosion in the area. 

I was taking a walk around the town and fell by chance on a gigantic football stadium (St James Park/Sports Direct). This is the symbol you come across in every football loving city around the world and Newcastle was no exception.

Another interesting experience I had was the multiplicity of restaurants from different cultural backgrounds. I tasted Italian, Indian, Spanish, Chinese & British foods and it was great. I was very reserved for tasting food I have not taken before but ended up loving it.

We had a nice treat in an Indian Restaurant (Akbar) one of the evenings with colleagues from the Finance Team led by Nafees. The naan (Indian bread) was very large and delicious; it’s maybe the speciality of Akbar Restaurant.

I never expected to meet the friendliest people in this part of Europe. I was agreeably surprised by the hospitality of the people I met in the office, at the hotel, the restaurants and even in the street. Newcastle is a really cosmopolitan city.

Week Two

My second week in the UK started with a return trip to London in the company of Elisabeth and Kenyan RDE, Rachel Ngondo to attend a Comic Relief meeting.

The purpose of the meeting was take part in a presentation on the topic: ‘Comic Relief Trade Programme – Routes to Market Study’ presented by Sian Herschel of Comic Relief.

The following morning I had a presentation to make in the office together with Elisabeth on her Ghana Trip. It was a very interesting session to show colleagues our impacts on the ground and pictorial field visit report.

During the week I also had a discussion with Paul in Peru on Skype. Paul is Shared Interest’s Regional Development Executive (RDE) in South America. From our discussion I gathered that Paul has detailed information about the business at his fingertips. He gave me more insight of the role of RDE and some practical approach of the work.

At the weekend, my colleagues invited me for dinner.  At Elisabeth’s house we were treated with delicious potatoes (typically British). The conversation took most part of the evening and we were overtaken by the time as we left them late in the night.

The following evening we were with Tim’s family. This was another unforgettable moment as we were entertained by his two lovely daughters who welcomed us with violin and drums. We were treated with Chinese delicacies – very nice and very appetising. 

Week Three

We had some fun on Tuesday evening with our colleagues of IT Department on a bowling night.

That night at the hotel, we were woken up around 1am by the fire alarm. I appreciated the quick response of the fire fighters, compared to where I come from; it would have taken hours or waiting forever and ever. 

I was privileged to meet Kate (Shared Interest Chair) for the first time in the office. Kate is very jovial and welcoming. I was introduced by Patricia and together we had a brief talk on the preparation of the AGM.

Our AGM shirt was delivered and transport arrangement was communicated.  I travelled with Rachel, Elisabeth and Malcolm by train to Oxford. The journey took us five hours, arriving at Oxford around 5pm.

 I was introduced to the Shared Interest Board who were in a preparatory session for the AGM.  After a brief introduction, I answered a few questions on the political and economic situation in West Africa.

We left the hotel in taxi by 9am for the Oxford Town Hall. It is one the architectural masterpieces of Oxford.  Oxford is a very beautiful town with its olden architectural masterpieces.  The proceedings started at 11.30am with the welcome address of the Board Chair (Kate). The meeting was well attended by over 200 participants, the biggest so far in Shared Interest history. I had the opportunity to interact with many members during the AGM and broadened my contact list in the UK.  The AGM was a great success.

We left Oxford immediately after the ceremony on a coach back to Newcastle. It was laughing and chatting all the way back. You could read satisfaction on every face after this great achievement.  

The atmosphere in the coach on our way back from Oxford was the ambiance of great soccer game victory.  We got back to Newcastle around 10pm.

 It was very difficult saying goodbye to my colleagues when we arrived at the train station that night since I was taking my flight early the following morning back to Ghana.

 

 

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Bananas, black sigatoka and business awards

Just a Few of the Topics up for Discussion this Fairtrade Fortnight

Now, just as the dust is beginning to settle back onto our Fairtrade banana costume I wanted to share with you my experiences of Fairtrade Fortnight 2012….

Headline figures supplied by Fairtrade Foundation kicked off my enthusiasm for the 14 days ahead.  According to their stats, the movement has continued to grow despite the economic climate with 42% of all sugar purchased in the UK being Fairtrade, and sales overall reaching £1.3 billion.

As the fortnight progressed these figures were proudly included at most events I attended, but the stories around them varied massively.

In London I heard from Rosemary Kadzitche who spoke of the hard work which goes into harvesting peanuts; meanwhile Sandra Rojas told of the massive $60 increase received through Fairtrade ($50 for the seeds and $10 on top in Fairtrade premium) for a 45kg sack of Sesame seeds.

Tookie Speaking

Banana farmer Tookie spoke of the spread of black Sigatoka, a disease which affects the yield of a banana plant.

A personal highlight was having banana farmer Tookie from the Windward Islands speak in Leighton Buzzard of the challenges his sector faces.  He spoke of the devastation caused by Hurricane Tomas as well as the challenge presented by the spread of black Sigatoka, a disease which affects the yield of a banana plant.  Despite this however, Tookie said the biggest challenge for the farmers was securing the capital they need to ensure the sustainability of their co-operative.

As well as travelling the breadth of the country, I tweeted my way through numerous events from the first Bristol Fairtrade Business Awards to the fifth Witney Fairtrade Fair.  I also attended my first service at St Paul’s Cathedral.  This was a celebration of London becoming a Fairtrade Diocese.  When the Bishop encouraged everyone to shout ‘Fairtrade’ and wave our fair trade flags, it brought a fantastic end to what has been a busy but successful and inspiring fortnight.

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An inspiring Members’ Day and AGM

As the 22nd Annual General Meeting and Members Day draws to a close I reflect on what has been a very busy and thought provoking experience.

Over 200 Members travelled from around the country to attend the day which was held in the Ballroom of the Oxford Town Hall.

Ian Barney the Managing Director of TWIN and Willington Wamayeye, MD of Gumutindo Coffee Cooperative gave an introductory address.  Ian explained how TWIN worked exclusively with smallholders recognising their importance to rural economies and in the protection of rich and diverse ecosystems.  Willington spoke of the difficulties created by climate change and the devastating impact of landslides in the small organic coffee farming community of Mount Elgon in Uganda.

It was a great opportunity for Members to talk to other Members and hear first-hand the massive impact their investment has made.  Last year, payments of over £39m were made to 63 countries around the globe.

Regional Development Executives Rachel Ngondo and John Dossou travelled from Kenya and Ghana respectively to give Members a first-hand account of their experience on the ground.  Two new films were showcased which detailed the impact of lending to banana cooperatives in Peru and handicraft producers in Kenya.

Patricia Alexander gave an overview of the recent work of Shared Interest Foundation and reported that the percentage of children attending school had risen to 86% in one area.  The video accounts of women in Rwanda were particularly moving.

Feedback from Members was extremely positive.

“Thank you for a very inspiring day and for the wonderful work you do. Thanks for the delicious lunch and refreshments”

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International Women’s Day 2012 in Sunderland

Yesterday’s event at the National Glass Centre in Sunderland brought together several diverse organisations who were all committed to raising awareness of women’s issues on a local and international level.

Managing Director, Patricia Alexander spoke about why fair trade is so important to women’s producer groups around the world. Patricia spoke of her trip to Rwanda, where she met many women who had been impacted by the genocide. For the women who were widowed, becoming self-sufficient was their only option, and by forming fair trade co-operatives many of these groups are thriving. With the help of the Shared Interest Foundation project we have provided business skills training to many groups, which we estimate has impacted 9000 individuals.

The event was closed with a fair trade coffee on the roof of the National Glass Centre, one of Sunderland’s most iconic buildings. It’s well worth a visit if you’ve never been before, and of course you can treat yourself to a Fairtrade beverage in the café.

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International Women’s Day celebrations at Shared Interest

International Women’s Day celebrations for 2012 take place this Thursday 8th March, which slots neatly into our programme of celebrations for Fairtrade Fortnight.

I will be attending a Fairtrade reception at the National Glass Centre in Sunderland, which is being organised in celebration of IWD. The event is designed to raise awareness of the issues facing young women in developing countries, and how young women in Sunderland can make a difference. I am looking forward to hearing my colleagues speak about their first hand experience of how fair trade and Shared Interest can support women’s producer groups. We will also have the opportunity to network and share stories with local women’s organisations.

Here at the office, our social committee have organised an in house competition for staff to name a famous woman who has inspired them. I’m sure there will be some very diverse and interesting names put forward. Roll on Thursday; it should be a very positive and uplifting day!

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Sharing Steps this Fairtrade Fortnight

In a bid to raise awareness about Shared Interest and the work that we do in the developing world we have partnered up with Smooth Radio in the North East and The Big Issue across the country, using their websites as a way to promote Shared Interest.

Have you seen our dedicated microsites? If not the links to each site are below:

http://www.smoothradionortheast.co.uk/ethical

http://www.bigissue.com/shared-interest/

Please pass on the links to your friends, families and work colleagues and help us to bring Shared Interest to their attention as show them how they can invest in a fairer world.

Related Articles

Namayiana - Fair Trade Producer Visit Click here to learn how you can invest in fair trade.

Click here to donate to the Shared Interest Foundation
Mexican coffee farmer at work in the fields


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