(note: The following column will also appear in the May/June issue of Roast Magazine. Click here to subscribe, or pick up a copy at the Roast Magazine booth, #1405, at the SCAA Expo in Atlanta.)
In June 2014, the executive committees of the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) and the Speciality Coffee Association of Europe (SCAE) met in Rimini, Italy, to begin exploring possibilities for alignment. As a member of the SCAA and publisher of a global trade magazine, I support this effort to determine both the benefits and the potential pitfalls of a merger between these organizations. Is there a case for the sum of the parts being greater than the whole?
One of the best potential outcomes of a well-executed merger would be to bring consistency to the establishment of standards and educational resources around those standards between the two associations. This would benefit not only roasting and retailing members and trainers, but the entire supply chain by creating a unified approach across the globe. Producers would be able to more quickly grasp a complete understanding of how specialty coffee is defined and differentiated.
I can envision other benefits as well. Certainly, a larger organization would provide an expanded network for members, opening new doors to partnerships and new sources for inspiration and ideas. Combining resources for mutually beneficial research projects and a stronger, more unified voice for advocacy should lead to a more effective and efficient global organization.
What about the challenges? Poor planning and execution, especially at the onset, would obviously derail any potential benefits. The executive committees of both associations must clearly communicate not only the end goals and governance of a combined organization, but more importantly, the details of the process that will lead to an effective merger.
Should a merged organization effectively be formed, there are also potential ongoing pitfalls that must be avoided. Members and leadership must guard against a homogenization of ideas that devalues individual, localized differences and preferences. Budgetary decisions and financial structures must benefit the entire organization, even its smallest members, and must be completely transparent.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the structure and bylaws must be crafted carefully to ensure that governing such a large organization is not dependent on the passion and skill of a few individuals. The structure and governance must be strong enough to support the inevitable bumps in the road along the way.
I am always looking for ways to improve my business, and I am pleased the SCAA is doing the same. I look forward to studying the proposals as they are announced and supporting the analysis of the benefits and the process.
Visit scaaunification.org to further explore the work being done by the SCAA and SCAE around this potential merger.