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SCAA and SCAE proceed with unification

From the October 2016 issue.

The votes are in: The SCAA and SCAE will join forces as one association to further specialty coffee’s presence at a global level.

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The 38 per cent of SCAA members who voted “no” included a group of former association leaders who were reluctant to join forces. Among their fears is that a multinational organisation would mean attention and resources would shift toward the global coffee industry and away from the United States’ local coffee industry, one SCAA had been supporting since its inception in 1982 (SCAE launched about 16 years later).

But leaders in both parties remain confident that local members will remain the focus. “We recognised that our greatest opportunity was also our greatest challenge,” says Rhinehart. “We had the opportunity to have greater global influence to make the voice of specialty coffee heard at a greater level, but we knew it was critical to stay active at the local level.” Instead of diluting the association’s impact, Rhinehart stresses that the unification will actually provide existing and new members with greater access to education, resources, events and more. Additionally, it will open up opportunities for networking and collaboration, all to the benefit of the global industry and its stakeholders, including farmers, roasters, baristas and more.

The organisations will retain their offices: the SCAA’s near Los Angeles and the SCAE’s near London. Research will take place in both, while main operations will be based in Europe and sustainability and events will be based in the US, says Veal.

“The combined organisation is not geographically restricted by function, though. To ensure that our services will be locally relevant to all of our members worldwide, a decentralised structure was selected as the best model to reach and serve a widely dispersed global community.”

The two associations represent 10,000-plus members, with the split pretty equal across the two. As such, voting will be relatively even, especially with SCAA inheriting SCAE’s model of “one member, one voice.” In the SCAA’s current model, only corporate members are eligible to vote, which represents about half of its total members. Once unified, all members will have the option of voting in any future polls.

Says Ging of the concerns and obstacles they’ve encountered, “The benefits far outweigh the challenges, but we don’t want to discount the challenges that may be ahead of us.” She says the main challenge thus far has been around cultural differences and working together: “Sure, we’ll have disagreements at times or we might not understand each other the first time around, but we’re really going to focus on a cross-functional, cross-cultural leadership team so [cultural differences are] less of a concern going forward.”

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