Member-organized town halls have been popping up all over the world in the wake of the Specialty Coffee Association’s decision to move forward on their international competitions in Dubai and the proposed Deferred Candidacy Policy. The Specialty Coffee Association held its first “online town hall” this week. President Paul Stack, Vice President Heather Perry, Executive Director Ric Rhinehart, and WCE Managing Director Cindy Chang answered questions submitted via the Webinar form for over an hour.

The SCA will host another online town hall next week.

The audio is available here:

We transcribed the town hall in its entirety below. Comments are open in this article.

Moderator: Alright, hello everyone thank you for joining us on this webinar on the different candidacy policy. We see about 40 people are online, we have about 70 attendees, so we’re gonna wait just a couple of minutes to let everyone join, and we’ll get started. Just as an FYI, we’re recording this session and we will start with a statement from Ric Rhinehart, our Executive Director, which will be followed an FAQ. If for privacy reasons you prefer not to be recorded, we’ll leave the questions towards the end. Also, you’re able to submit a question privately and we can read that without stating your name if that’s useful to you all. We’ll get started in just a couple of minutes.

Okay, so, I think we have most of our attendees online, so we’ll started. Before I introduce our panelists from the SCA, I’d like to let everybody know that you should have on your panel two options. One option to submit a chat, and you can do that to the entire audience or just the organizers or any of the attendees, you can also ask questions and your questions can be answered in the chat window or we can also read them out loud for all attendees, just let us know if you prefer for it to be private or public.

So we’ll get started, but I’ll first start with my name is Vicente Partida, I’m the Comms Director at the SCA, online we’ve got Paul Stack, President of the SCA, Heather Perry Vice President, Ric Rhinehart Executive Director, and Cindy Ludviksen WCE Managing Director. So we’ll get started with Ric …

Ric Rhinehart: Morning everybody, just make sure my audio’s effective here. Thanks for joining us, or good afternoon for those of you joining us from different time zones other than the West Coast, my apologies for that. Our purpose today really is to improve on our overall communications, and our goal is to be accessible for questions and to provide answers to those questions. We did want to give you a bit of overview of the course of events that led us to this moment in time, and provide as much clarity as we can about how we arrived at this place. So I’ll give you a brief introduction to that, and I’ll try to be very brief and then leave lots of time for others on this panel to illuminate those thoughts and then we are here for your questions and we’ll give you every answer that we know the answer to.

So, without further ado, I just wanna run really quickly through the course of events … it would be typical for World Coffee Events to utilize some of our world championship events as a way to extend our support and our … fostering of specialty coffee communities around the world. In general, the World Barista Championship has been held either in the World of Coffee show in Europe, or in the SCA expo in North America, although from time to time we have also offered the WBC out in order to pursue that strengthening of communities in relevant host cities. We have regularly over the last five years been able to extend other competitions out as a means of helping to foster those growing communities.

This year was one of those years where we were able to offer a number of our world competitions out to other sites, so we issued an RFP asking for interested parties to respond and we received two good clear bids from responding cities that offered to host the … several of our competitions. You should know that there was a process and a criteria for vetting those cities and it was very much based in the pragmatic issues of, is there good airlift, is there sufficient hotel space, is this a place where there’s a growing coffee community, is the organizer … they have the capacity and the experience to organize the show, is there a show that might be of interest to our community to attend, etc. So those criteria were applied to vetting these offers, and ultimately two cities, Belo Horizonte and Dubai were selected as hosts for several of the competitions.

You’ll note that while there was a process, clearly it was lacking in its expanse and we are very much aware of that, and are committed to changing that so that hosting criteria includes some other critical aspects of decision making, and that vetting process becomes more robust. I think Cindy will talk to more about that later, but in any event we wanted to be certain that that’s clear, that we have already committed to and will continue forward with revising that criteria, that list criteria and the vetting process.

Any event we were made aware, quite clearly of something that we had thoughtlessly overlooked, which is the potential challenges or the real challenges for certain members of minoritized communities within our organization, so we quickly made the decision to try and understand how to mitigate that. I will say that a tremendous amount of [inaudible 00:08:37], gather new insights, research pulling etc. went into trying to understand how we might mitigate these circumstances. And two things became apparent to us fairly early. One of those is that the driving issue here is the compulsory nature of a world event. If you’d been a competitor in a championship series and you want to continue to compete at the world stage, you have to go where the event is being held and we realized that created a compulsory scenario where people couldn’t necessarily elect not to go to any given destination unless they were willing to forego their pursuit of their championship.

The other thing that became readily apparent to us was that in almost every case where we’ve held a competition, whether it was in Europe or in North America or in any other cities that we had held competitions in over time, we were likely to encounter one or more scenarios in which qualified competitors were unable to compete for reasons of legal structures or reasons of inability to acquire visas, for a host of other reasons. We’re clear that there’s not equivalency between all those reasons, but we did make an effort to try to develop a policy that would mitigate all of the possible reasons why a qualified national champion would not be able to participate at the world level.

The result of this was as follows: the Board of Directors at SCA stepped in after the signing of the contract by World Coffee Events to try to address the situation. The Board appointed a review panel, the review panel was formed of volunteer leaders, staff, and a range of other stakeholders in the organization, and they took a deep look, this review panel took a very deep look at this scenario, came back with their findings, and to be perfectly frank was unable to reach a consensus on how to move forward. They presented those findings to the President’s council at the SCA, and ultimately to the Board of the SCA. Robust debate continued with all the information at hand, and ultimately the Board of Directors at the SCA made the decision to direct the executor, SCA, to negotiate with Dubai in this case and be prepared for other negotiations that would mitigate the compulsory nature of competition.

We did try and enter into that negotiation, and ultimately the result of that was a recommendation for the executive to develop a policy which allowed for anybody, any competitor who had issues, legal or safety or climate or for whatever reason, entering into a destination where a world event was being held to forego that entry but not lose their place as a world competitor, as a national champion. And from that point, we made, the executive made the recommendation to the Board to adopt a preferred candidacy policy. I will be the first to acknowledge that our communication around that preferred candidacy policy, our articulation of that policy, and our timing around that announcement and most importantly our rather premature announcement of the policy without sufficient work to clearly articulate what the policy was intended for or the process that would allow it to be enacted has been apparent. We’ve done a horrific job in that communication.

I will say that this meeting and others like this have been very much an attempt for us to clarify not only the design of that policy and the attempt of that policy, but the clarity with which we want to hear from the community about how to craft a more effective policy that offers the protection that it was intended to offer without creating any additional burdens as a result, which is a clear possibility in the way we’ve announced so far in our desires to change that with input from the community, substantial input from the community.

So that’s how we got here, in terms of how we’ll go forward I think I’ll hand the baton off. We’ll be open for all kinds of questions as we’ll move forward, but that’s the quick summary of how we arrived at this place.

Moderator: Alright, if anyone has any questions please feel free to type them into the questions panel, also the chat is open. Oh, one second. Okay, it appears the chat is turned off, so if you have a question please type it into the questions panel, my apologies for that.

Okay so we have our first question here, “Is the policy complete or is it a work in progress? It seems more of an outline at this point.” Heather, would you like to take that question?

Heather Perry: So, right now the policy is an outline. We’re still working on exactly, you know we’re here participating in these webinars, we’re attending town halls when we’re invited, because we wanna make sure that the policy actually achieves what it was designed to do. So we wanna make sure we’re listening and we take all of the feedback of good and bad to the policy to really help frame it the rest of the way. Right now it’s an outline and as Ric laid out the idea behind it was really to make sure that everybody who had earned the right to represent their spot on a national championship level got to. And so while it didn’t necessarily perfectly solve the situation for Dubai, there are a lot of really good merits to it that we think can be utilized going forward. So right now it’s a framework, we’re still kind of fleshing out exactly how it’s gonna work with input from the community.

Moderator: Thank you Heather. Again, if anyone has any further questions, please feel free to type them into the questions panel. I think I’ll ask this one of Paul Stack please. Would you like to talk, to walk us through the structure of the WCE and SCA please.

Paul Stack: Sure, yeah happy to. So I suppose if we start at the historical level in terms of the founding of WCE, which was founded in 2010, and that was founded as a 50/50 venture by the SCAE and the SCAA together to professionalize, initially the World Barista Championships but also to look at producing other events around the world as it grew, which is why it was named in the first instance World Coffee Events as opposed to the WBC. So WCE, daughter company if you will of SCAA and SCAE and has been looking after the production of all competitions, global competitions, since 2010 and also some other things like you may have heard of Re:verb, and other products that WCE present and produce. WCE is a company registered in Ireland and has its own Board and its own management, and the Board structure has got an advisory Board or an advisory council as well, which is made up of volunteers. If there’s any further questions on WCE, Cindy can expand.

And then WCE has been owned by SCAE and SCAA in the first instance. When unification came into being this year, it meant the new unified body SCA, had the daughter if you will WCE 100% as part of SCA. So WCE still exists as a standalone company, 100% owned by SCA.

Moderator: Thank you Paul. Cindy, would you like to walk us through some of the structures of the WCE? We can’t hear you.

Cindy Chang: Yeah. Well, as Paul stated that we are a separate company, and we worked with the volunteer Board as well, and that Board was members from all around the world, they didn’t typically just reside in the U.S. or Europe, they were nominated by those parent associations, but they resided from all over. And a lot of our activities focus specifically on engagement in other parts of the world. We knew that there were parent programs in the U.S. and Europe, and so most often we looked at opportunities to engage in those programs in all the rest of the world where there was growing community within the coffee industry and getting more access to engagement and coffee programs. And so that’s largely what a lot of our activities were about. So structurally, our core products were the competitions and we also worked with a varying number of committees that helped us develop competition structure, rules, and such, and usually that was done by each competition.

Moderator: Great, thank you very much Cindy. We’ve got another question here, “What are a few key reasons that removal from Dubai altogether was not voted on?” Ric, do you want to answer this question?

Ric Rhinehart: Sure, those key reasons, and thank you for noting by the way that that issue has never come to a vote before a Board, the Board has in fact given consideration to how to maximize the benefit of the competitions as they were intended to, and still honor our core values about inclusiveness and diversity and what we really believe in this organization. Those things are sometimes intention. I would say that there are two key reasons why we haven’t addressed that as a possibility. First and foremost is the very strong belief that the goal of the SCA and the mechanism of WCE have been always designed to engage specialty coffee communities and to foster those communities where they exist and where they’re growing. Those communities exist and are growing in places where it’s extraordinarily challenging for those folks who are members of that community to access the international coffee community, to access all the benefits that we normally are able to get to quite easily in other parts of the world. So we have been very committed to that concept.

Secondly, an equally important reason is we did enter into contracts with partners in Dubai to host these competitions there and as a matter of course both WCE and SCA are organizations that don’t take lightly their obligations under contracts, they want to enter contracts in good faith, the intent is to execute those contracts to the best of our ability. We are not in a scenario where there’s been a material change in the scenario in which we entered into the contracts. I would say that we have had a deficit in making assessments of the risks for ourselves and for our members around how we selected those host cities, but there’s no place at which any of our host cities were deficient in presenting their case. If there’s any deficiencies, they exist on our part. So we are obligated to those contracts in the way that any organization would be obligated to contracts that have been entered into in good faith.

Moderator: Thank you, thank you Ric. We’ve got another question here, “There has been a lot of backlash over the policy and a loss of credibility. When does SCA think the final policy will be out and how will you regain credibility?” Paul, would you like to answer this question?

Paul Stack: Sure, just I’m using myself. Yeah, there’s no doubt there’s been backlash, without question. It’s extraordinarily difficult learning on this sequence in terms of the WCE choosing the location as they’ve always been tasked to do and they’ve always done a great job doing, and these events over the last few months highlighted an oversight potentially–there’s nothing potentially about it–an oversight in terms of how we assess. What we were assessing as Ric outlined in terms of WCE protocols were growing community, being able to run a great event, and stuff that again if necessarily Cindy can go into in more detail. What this has unveiled to us is a backlash, which unfortunately is being presented as if our decisions have been taken without care for members, and so how do we fix that?

What we’re trying to fix are very poor communications. What we have is a volunteer Board who has been presented with this difficulty and that difficulty articulated by Ric in terms of how do we do what we were elected to do, which is to grow specialty coffee globally, and now how do we manage that when it comes right up against a conflict against some of our members. That’s very difficult. So, with the differed candidacy policy, our focus was to try and take away that difficulty, which was viewed in relative shortsightedness on the competitors only. It’s also become clear that judges, while not compulsory, also need to be considered as to how we manage ourselves going forward.

So at the moment in terms of trying to regain trust in what we’re trying to do and grow specialty coffee for everybody and for everybody globally including current and future members in the community, we’re looking to listen, to get feedback from town halls as well as our own webinars like this that we’re running so that in putting together the deferred candidacy policy, we reflect all those learnings. And in terms of timing, as per the original statement, we’re looking to give an update to the membership before the end of this calendar year. I believe we have to go on an iterative loop to the membership on that to make sure we’ve got time for feedback. So that may take some time past December to complete it, in fact I very much doubt if we can get it done before the end of the calendar year. So we don’t have a date yet on when we publish that, but we certainly will have an update to the membership before the end of the calendar year.

Heather Perry: If I can just add on to that … one thing I just want to make sure everyone understands as well is that the DC policy, the Board does not look at the DC policy as a license to take competitions wherever we wanna go. Now that we have this policy in place, we don’t have to worry about Human Rights or anything like this because we’ve got all of that covered, people can just opt out. That is not the point of it. We know we also need to review our site selection process and include Human Rights, and so we’ve got that part of it as well. But I don’t think you can look at just one without the other, I just wanna make sure everybody’s clarified, it is not a license to go wherever with that DC policy. We are also looking at that site selection process and updating it to make sure it does reflect our values.

Paul Stack: Thank you Heather, I think that’s an important add-on in that we, as a Board, are adamant that we won’t publish any further location without having the new site selection policy not just revised, but also shared with the membership.

Moderator: Thank you Paul and Heather, and actually I think this next question ties in nicely with what you’ve just said here, the policy doesn’t address … the question is, “The policy doesn’t address the accountability of the SCA WCE to host in cities safe for all members. What steps or policies are being discussed to address the site selection with regards to ensuring all members are safe and welcome?” That ties back to the vetting process. Do you wanna talk about that, Heather?

Heather Perry: Yeah, and ultimately like I just said, we know that these site selection process, it’s public for review right now, the RFP you can look at that right now on WCE’s website, and you can see what we currently ask for and it’s very logistically based currently, there are some city elements that we have in there as well, but it is obviously not as inclusive as it needs to be. And so we are reviewing that site selection process as well, as Paul mentioned we aren’t selecting any other sites until with make sure that we update that policy and that it’s reflective not just of our mission but of also our values and so that we don’t select sites where our members don’t feel safe.

If any part of our membership doesn’t feel safe, we need to make sure we [inaudible 00:29:10] and with that process, we’re still going to run into places where for some reason people can’t get a visa, or for some reason a person can’t attend. That’s just the nature of the world that we live in. So the DC policy will still help to answer that question. But we do know that the site selection process will need to be updated to make sure it reflects our values. And I don’t know if Cindy, if you have any more specifics, I don’t have a specific timeline on it outside of the fact that we [inaudible 00:29:36] til that gets up to date.

Cindy Chang: I can respond a bit to just that, the DC policy as Heather stated is not about the site selection at all, it is about the way we can manage the choice for competitors to decide if they have the ability to the location in front of us. There are also lots of other complications that happen, that have happened over the years as Ric mentioned before where different countries [inaudible 00:30:22] different levels of access. So we just wanted to look at the inclusivity of trying to remove those barriers of access and say we’re gonna save you a spot.

That policy, I believe we can draft with the input of a lot of volunteer voices making the point of it being accessible and inclusive. The most important thing about that policy. Policies don’t have to be rigid just for the sake of that policies are rigid. We designed a policy so that we can allow access and allow for people to have their voice and their choice and so this is how I think the DC policy will be designed. And then the site selection is down the road, maybe a different policy, a different process that will address where events go and how we choose where they go. But for the DC policy we are looking to try to start that process essentially immediately and see if we can work towards more of an update by the end of the year.

Moderator: Thank you Cindy, and thank you Heather as well. I’m just going through the questions here, there are a few that are similar but I’ll try to acknowledge all of them just so you all know that we’re looking at them. There’s one here that I think Heather and Cindy just responded to, but it says, “We’ve noted the differed policy for competitors, but there are also likely a significant number of other participants for example judges and sponsors who may not be able to attend. What mitigation approach does SCA have for this?” And I think that’s where the vetting process and the revision of the vetting process and the criteria comes in.

Cindy Chang: Yeah, I can speak a bit to that for some of the other stakeholders, sponsors, judges, volunteers, participation in events has always been voluntary. The main distinction for competitors is if you want to take the opportunity for what you’ve earned, you went through a path to get a credential so you could get a chance at a world stage, that was only ever available if you went, previous to this. If you couldn’t go, you couldn’t go, you just lost that opportunity. And so initially the DC policy was looked at to allow for that consideration, the compulsory nature that competitors face, it’s different from other participants.

But in the case of judges and sponsors, we care very much about those voices as well, and I believe we’ve had a lot of open dialogue with them but anybody who is in a position who feels like there’s a challenge to that, to going somewhere, is more than welcome to contact us and we can discuss that. If there’s a voice that wants to consider other options there, we’d be happy to hear it.

Moderator: Thank you, thank you very much Cindy. So looking through some of these questions here, the next one, “What is your response to the many organizations who have chosen to suspend their association to the SCA and WCE in light of the selection of Dubai and the deferment policy?” Ric, do you wanna answer this one?

Ric Rhinehart: Sure, my immediate reaction and I think our immediate reaction as an organization is heartbreak. We have organized ourselves for more than 30 years in order to create more community, to create a more effective networking opportunity, create more inclusivity and to amplify the voice, especially coffee, because we have had and continue to have a belief that specialty coffee offers unique possibilities in the coffee value chain for all the participants. So that when with pursue the cause, especially coffee, we make a better opportunity for consumers, we take a chance to have a better coffee experience, we make a better opportunity for producers, they get a better chance to share in the rewards of coffee.

So being at this moment in time where the impact of our, to be perfectly frank, at this moment in time where the impact of my exceptionally poor communication skills throughout this because I have to take responsibility for that, I have led us to a place where rather than building community, rather than uniting people, rather than bringing the voice, especially coffee, to the forefront, we’ve isolated folks, we’ve created division and we’ve really been antithetical to our mission. So our reaction is what do we do to get back on mission and to get everybody on mission with us? And this is part of that.

And I can assure you that the Board of Directors of SCA, the Board of WCE, and all of the staff of both organizations are completely committed to understanding how to get us back on the important mission of raising the cause, especially coffee, globally, so that everybody in the specialty coffee value chain can benefit from the unique opportunities that specialty coffee offers over other kinds of coffees. We want to be on task with that, we want to be focused on that work, whatever we can do to bring people back to that mission is front and center in our minds, we’re looking for input we’re looking for understanding, we’re looking for ways to comprehend how to do that, and most importantly we’re committed to improving our own communication skills. This is one of those opportunities, but there will be many, many more. And we will do our absolute best to be better communicators, create better feedback loops, to create better iterative processes, and frankly to be better listeners at every turn.

Moderator: Thank you, Ric. So our next question here, “Does the SCA have a sustained obligation to address Human Rights, including conditions akin to slavery, child abuses, laws designed to subjugate particular minorities, severe penalties including death for certain non-violent crimes, etc., particularly when the issues are the consequence of a partner entity’s laws and practices?” Paul, do you wanna take this question?

Paul Stack: Sure, thank you. This is a very difficult area in terms of what can we do as a specialty coffee association in light of human rights difficulties all over the world. We know that there are human rights challenges everywhere in the value chain, from origin countries where we deal with rights with different consuming countries and rights where we are very present and countries also where we’re expanding the footprint of specialty coffee. So, how do we move forward with this balance of trying to fulfill this mission of growth across the globe, which is the mission that both [inaudible 00:38:05] associates voted us in to do, and balance that with our obvious need to be cognizant of human rights in areas into which we go. Because there’s no question, the former, if we’re to try and grow specialty coffee, will always challenge the latter in terms of human rights as to where we go. Because not everywhere has got the same human rights rules or social norms as for example U.S. or western Europe, and even those two things are also different in terms of access to different countries.

So an answer, I think we do have an obligation, and I think we do have an obligation to try and step from where we are with the learning on this round of listening and engagement so’s that our policy going forward has got clarity on that, as to how we balance those two things and then my suspicion is that we will have a much more rigorous policy for people, well not necessarily people but places that want us to go and particularly where we want to go with championships, which is compulsory in nature as opposed to voluntary in nature.

Moderator: Thank you, Paul. We’ve got another question here, “It is my understanding that SCA is not for-profit and WCE is a for-profit. How does money from the WCE flow into the SCA? How does the SCA profit, quote unquote profit, from WCE?” Cindy, do you wanna talk about this one?

Cindy Chang: Okay. Yes, it’s true that WCE is registered as a for-profit entity in Ireland, some of that has to do with just the situation of the kind of you register as is different in different countries. We’re not a non-profit like a charity, we didn’t have a member base because we didn’t have our own associations, so we were an event production company and registered as a for-profit company. But our shareholders, our owners have always been SCAA and SCAE, non-profit entities. We started with asking for no capital from either parent association, we built everything on our own and the annually we also contributed funds back to both parent organizations.

Also previously when our events are hosted or hosted in the parent trade shows, like expo or World of Coffee, we paid for everything a part of the build and the facilities, utilities, catering, all of that. Lodging, travel, everything all on our own. So WCE as an entity has never really been profitable. Our scenario is a little bit better when we get hosted, because the hosting criteria talks about their help in supporting some of the actual production aspects, like providing a space, providing the build and such. But again, we never asked for any kind of financial contribution as part of a direct financial contribution as part of a hosting criteria, it was always the provision of stuff to make the event happen, the production happen.

If I can elaborate just a little bit here, from a perspective of being a company, a business, we looked at obviously the need to have some financial balance to be able to operate, have admins, staff, and do the things we do as well as the mission aspect of what the business was set up to do. And our business mission was always to look for worldwide engagement and to have our events allow for opportunity to build, foster, and engage with specialty coffee communities all around the world. That mission was always largely the driving force, much more than the idea of just making profit and that was something that always guided everything that we did. We looked at going to places because of the interest that was there, the potential that was there, we often spoke with our national bodies about whether or not there would be activities they would be interested in. Often times that’s how we came to choose all stars programs or various activities that we did in different countries for the competitions themselves.

It is significant investment to put on a big show, like a world championship, but it doesn’t equate or compare to what we see as the impact and that goes to staff that work the shows to judges to competitors, people in their process of competition develop so many different layers of skills, sense of pride, ritual, perseverance, and then inspiration and motivation for others and that is immeasurable. We see it every time we conclude an event, and the engagement and the way that the audience has responded to all the programs that we’ve brought into these different countries has been huge and it’s always been about the ability to have that inspiration to make you feel like I don’t just have a job, I have a career. I don’t just feel like I do what I do for money, I feel like I do what I do for passion. And that leaves seeds of impact in specialty coffee, that’s always been the more valuable part as a company for WCE.

Moderator: Thank you, thank you very much Cindy. I’m looking through some other questions here, you’ve got some similar questions and I think this one summarizes it well. As I understand it … here’s the question … “As I understand it, the DC policy requires that a competitor must provide a reason by which they cannot or will not attend a world championship event. This may require that a competitor quote unquote out themselves or provide reasons to their supporters, whether that is customers, bosses, friends, family, etc. why they will defer their candidacy to compete. What support can the SCA and WCE provide to members who have to make that choice?” Ric, would you like to answer this one?

Ric Rhinehart: Yeah, again we’ve, I think it’s abundantly clear that the DC policy has been a concept and a framework and is not fleshed out. Neither has the policy nor has the procedure for how to access that policy. Our commitment to you, our members, and to the community at large is that we will define that policy and flesh out that policy and develop those processes with this thought and other thoughts in mind that we have had flagged for us by this community. We will continue to seek your input to understand what other obstacles exist, and for creative solutions to this. We will make access to this policy as simple, as non-threatening, as clear and as painless as possible, whatever we have to do.

We’ll keep in mind that our actual objective is to protect the rights of qualified competitors to compete on the world state. That’s our goal. And as long as that’s our goal, we’ll do anything within the framework of achieving that goal to minimize unintended consequences, unintended obstacles that are created as part of this process. We seek that input, we relish that input, we will utilize that input to make this functional. And you have an absolute commitment from us that we will make this a policy and a process that is aimed at achieving its intended goal, and where we’re extraordinarily aware of the unintended consequences, possibilities, and make sure that we avoid them. Again, this is a framework and a concept, it needs lots and lots of development but we look forward to the opportunity to do that development with you members of our community.

Moderator: Thank you, Ric. I’ve got a few more questions here … okay, question, “Will there be a public apology and full transparency in written form about how the decision came about and what the decision timelines will be?” Paul, do you wanna answer this question?

Paul Stack: Absolutely, yep. Absolutely, we apologize, I on behalf of the Board for the events of the last 2 or 3 months or so, and there will absolutely be a statement once we’ve gone through this webinar, tomorrow’s webinar, and gathered the Board is set to meet again next week. And what we’d be looking to do is to answer as many questions as we’ve garnered, so as that we can have a statement, which hopefully addresses as much as possible, and it will have full clarity in term of what you’ve heard on the audio today in terms of that sequence of the RFP for WCE, the signing of contracts, the alert that came to the association and to the Board of any issues, and the subsequent decisions taken. All of that will absolutely be shared with the membership. In terms of timing, I certainly would expect that we’d get that out sometime in early December.

Moderator: Thank you Paul. We’ve got a comment here, and I think it’s a really good one, it’s not a question but I would like to turn it into one. Somebody commented, “Just want to say that although uncomfortable, I think addressing these financial issues and having transparency is important right now because money is the first thing people look to about these types of issues. People think the SCA is profiting off hosting in Dubai and they will continue to think so if we don’t talk about that, so thank you Cindy.” That was in response to one of Cindy’s answers. Thanks very much for that comment.

Does anyone on the panel have anything to add to that?

Ric Rhinehart: I might add just something clarifying, Cindy actually addressed it and I’m not certain everybody caught it, but … WCE exists as a company in Ireland because it was meant to be this joint exercise between the SCAA and the SCAE, and we were looking for a place to found this company, of course there was a certain amount of, well we’ll just host it in the U.S., we’ve got lots of staff there, that’ll be great. And then there was, well we should host it in Europe somewhere, how ’bout Switzerland, and these are the very real conversations that happened around this. Ultimately we selected Ireland in part because it’s a sort of compromise between continental Europe and the continental U.S. geographically, because we had substantial presence there, and because they had a reasonable corporate structure.

One of the things that was not available in Ireland, as Cindy alluded to, is a not-for-profit organization like the 501(c)(6) organization that SCA is organized under, so you could either be an outright charity or you can be a for-profit company of one kind of another. We couldn’t function as an outright charity, because we wouldn’t have met the tests necessary for that, so we incorporated as a for-profit business knowing that the sole shareholders of the for-profit business were non-profit business. And those non-profit businesses, which the SCA is one today, are unique in sofar as they cannot distribute profits or dividends to anybody.

Everything that comes into the organization is used by the organization towards the benefit of its members and towards accomplishing its mission. That’s the definition of a non-profit under the 501(c)(6) structure, we’ve always been that organization, we’ve always been committed to working in that basis, and we’re continued be committed there. So in terms of money flows, anything that came out of WCE when there were excess funds went to the non-profit parent companies who used those monies to further the missions of their members. And that’s still the case today. We’re happy to be transparent about it. Honestly, most of the time it’s mind numbingly boring to go through the legal structures here, but we’re more than happy to go through what they look like and they always end up in the same place. All monies that come into the organization ultimately flow to the benefit of the members.

Moderator: Thank you Ric. Sorry everyone, I was muted there. Okay, let’s keep looking through the questions here. We’ve got a question here, the question is, “I understand that a new procedure is being developed for site selection in the future. With the current process, at what point should this oversight have been caught? I am looking at the WCE Board, and it is composed of 13 out of 13 men, did the WCE Board of Directors approve the selection of Dubai?” Heather, do you wanna take this question?

Heather Perry: I’m actually gonna let Cindy take it, ’cause I’m not that familiar with the WCE approval process, so I’m gonna let Cindy take it.

Moderator: Good call. Cindy?

Cindy Chang: Okay, sure. At what point should the oversight have been caught, it’s a very difficult … should’ve been caught at what point … I don’t know and I think that there are a lot of Board members along with a lot of staff who think that question, “How did we miss it?” and I wanna share some information, I don’t want to offer this as an excuse because it’s noted and recognized that we need to be better and do better about this, but we have been going to Dubai with different events for many years. I think I remember the first time I went was 2009. And the parent associations have also had a lot of experience there with education programs, different kinds of conferences, and such.

We’ve done all stars programs there, and just last year we had the Ibrik championship, which is also one of the same championships that have come up to be hosted there again this year. And a number of our Board, our volunteers, our judges, the people who are a regular part of our committees and voices that we hear from have all had experience traveling there. It didn’t come up, what we saw when we were looking at a proposal for hosting were considerations around the city itself, one of the things that we recognized as well is that it was a reputable partner, one that we were familiar with, one that actually did a great job committing and hosting to the championship just last year. They’re a group of people who had had a lot of experience traveling to Dubai, we were eager and hopeful to talk about ways we could make that experience valuable to the audience for the championships. So, the fact that this other conversation that is incredibly important didn’t come up, it does catch us as well as a bit of a surprise.

I think that obviously we recognize now how important it is to look at that criteria. When you mentioned the comment about the 13 men, that is true, that’s currently the [inaudible 00:56:32] of the Board. It hasn’t always been the case, we have also had women on the Board. I think that when we looked at diversity for the World Coffee Events Board, we looked specifically at diversity of geographic voices for cultural influence because we had parents that were American and European. We were trying to bring a balance that specialty coffee was global and it was worldwide and what we were doing was establishing programs to reach out to so many other parts of the world. So we asked for diversity and voices based on the countries or cultures that people came from in order to embrace a diversity in that sense. We didn’t necessarily have conversations around multiple other levels other than at the onset we thought we wanted to allow for global diversity in the way we approached WCE strategy and activity.

And yes, the Board is the one that votes for the decisions, has voted for the decisions for where we go with hosting proposals.

Moderator: Thank you Cindy, and I think this might be a good follow up question here that you can speak to, it’s related … the question is, “I speak for myself and my coworkers when I say that we are not so much interested in financial culpability as we are in personal culpability. The WC advisory Board is less than diverse, how will you address this?” And I just want to point out that WCE is the Managing Director of WCE. Do you wanna answer this question Cindy?

Cindy Chang: Yeah, well I think one thing I’ve always thought … obviously, I am a minority woman and I am a voice in a lot of the guidance in the company. I believe that we have a very diverse staff. The Board seats were never my choice, and they weren’t elected ’cause we didn’t have membership, but I believe that the way we carried it, our conversations and the importance of our mission was always respected. That is something that I spoke to quite a bit. Where we go now, where we’re moving forward in WC as we mentioned, we are undergoing unification. We are now 100% a subsidiary of a parent company. We’ve looked at how we can actually integrate more of the WCE activities into the umbrella of the bigger SCA, but then not lose touch with the product themselves.

So we started the idea of beginning a transition where the WCE Board would conclude the term at the end of this year, and select Board members could be allowed an opportunity to raise their hand if they’re interested in a seat in one of the committees, or working in one of the councils. Just to maintain that knowledge base of the strategies we had, the plans we had, for all of the competitions, but we’re also looking to actually embrace working with more groups to make the ownership of the competitions feel a bigger part of the bigger association. So we want to engage with the guilds and have more diverse forces and sort of bridge this gap of identity, because it’s only just now, this year through unification that we’re able to do that. So for the future, there’s not gonna be the same advisory Board after this year, we’re gonna be people working within the construct of the events advisory council, within that a committee focused on world championship development.

Moderator: Thank you, thank you Cindy. Conscious of time, I’ll ask the panelists do we have … we have a few more questions, do we have maybe 15 more minutes? Okay, great, great. Thank you. Let’s see, we’ve got a few questions here … I’ll open this up to the panel and see who wants to answer this one, “Competitions have recently been under fire for a lack of diversity. It has traditionally been male dominated. Policies like the DC only add to that, what can the WCA, sorry the SCA or WCE do to make competitions more accessible to women, LGBTQ people, etc.

Cindy Chang: Should I take this one a well? I know there’s been a lot of conversation about this, about trying to understand how the competitions could be more welcoming or more inclusive. Then there’s the question of talking about bias, which is tricky because at times people may think we don’t have any biases, I don’t have any bias, but there are … we all grew up in cultures where there’s gonna be inherent biases. So we actually, as part of the work that the committees and Board were doing and the last year we’re talking about ways we can look at professional help to discuss bias. Having some bias training, and also do more exploration about what we could do in the structure of the competitions to increase the feeling of access and inclusion, welcoming from the onset. So this was part of the activity that we were going to undertake as an initiative in this year.

Ric Rhinehart: I’d love to add to that. As Cindy noted, we make a self-assessment all the time about what our biases are, but there’s evidentiary basis that there is some implicit bias somewhere, all you have to do is look at the data. It’s been very challenging to understand the nature of that. And I would presume it’s complex, I would presume that it’s going to be a significant effort to try to gather enough data and make enough investigation to understand clearly the number of men who compete and the number of men who have won both at the national and world level in these competitions far outstrips a reasonable representation.

On that basis alone, clearly there are flaws. But we’re struggling to find those flaws, it is very front of mind for people who are intimately involved in devising the competitions, the rules, the settings … I think I can assure you that I’m thinking about it all the time. The answers are not as readily apparent as one would like, but clearly they can be discovered if we pursue them enough, and we will. I would say that they probably would result in fundamental changes to the structures of these competitions, and that’s fine, that’s good, that’s healthy. Then finally I would say, in terms of how we address these things, certainly the staff and volunteer base are trying to find ways to address these issues, these fundamental issues.

I would also say that we live in a time right now where there is a significant change generationally, there’s a significant change in how we approach leadership, there’s a significant change in how we make our way in the world. And I for one am optimistic that we’ll see a completely different approach to these things as younger and more diverse and leaders with different perspectives enter into the frame. The leadership of the Board of the SCA and the advisory council, the WCE, are all volunteer positions. They’re all made up of people who are part of our community who have made the commitment to volunteer their time and their energy and their intellect towards resolving these problems, and we will continue to be in that position. We not only welcome but we beg for your participation as volunteer leaders. It’s definitely the opportunity for increasing our diversity in leadership, and solving these issues of inherent bias that we have struggled to identify. You guys are the solution and we welcome you being that solution.

Moderator: Thank you Ric. Okay so next question here, and I’m going through, I just wanted to let everybody know we’ve got about 10 more minutes left and there a few questions that are very similar, but I’m trying to make sure that we cover them all. So next question here, a few questions have to do … and I’ll open this up to the panel … a few questions have to do with accountability and how certain sections of the community can ensure they have a voice when it comes to the structure of the SCA and ensure that their voice reaches the Board and reaches the executives. So one question here is, “What steps should the U.S. coffee community take to create a U.S. chapter of the SCA?” I’ll open it up to the panel.

Ric Rhinehart: Cindy, I’ll start and then hand off to you and Heather. To be frank, the issue of U.S. chapters has been on our minds. It’s in the priority list, it got pushed down a bit, partly because the U.S. membership has had the sort of entire staff of the North American side of the organization as their representatives, then half of the Board of their representatives, then through guild leadership, etc. So we haven’t given a lot of attention, frankly because it wasn’t a priority for us. We had so many other issues to resolve, obviously that’s changes we’re hearing very clearly that the outcry for that, so it’s accelerating in that priority list.

I will say that both Heather and Cindy have been deeply engaged in trying to come to grips with how and when to launch a chapter process. Heather’s been pushing on this issue for more than two years now, and Cindy has recently been assigned the staff position that will have to design what a chapter looks like and how will it be formed and constructed and created so there’s a maximum amount of access to decision making, to Board members, to policy, etc. So having said that, I’ll step back and shut up.

Moderator: Does anyone on the panel, Cindy or Heather … I don’t see Paul here, but does anyone have any follow up to that?

Paul Stack: Can you hear me?

Moderator: Oh, yeah we can hear you Paul but we can’t see you, but we can hear you.

Paul Stack: I dropped out, so I just called in on my phone, I’m gonna try to reconnect online. Sorry, just to let you know that.

Moderator: No worries. Cindy?

Cindy Chang: I’ll fill in just a little bit, obviously right now as a global association we have membership in over I think 114 countries, and not all of them are chapters, but there are significant number of chapters as well. I think one thing that’s really critical to look at here is the idea of needed to preserve the local voice and that local culture of all the members of a country, and then also having all of these chapters align on our global mission as an association. And there is a lot of work that needs to be done about that in the unification of these two associations. Obviously there was a little bit of a mismatch from the outside because one association was already a group of a number of countries and then another association was just one.

I believe there needs to be the ability to create the local aspect of a U.S. chapter, so we have a way respect the specific needs to each country, and the specific requests of each country’s membership, and look at impact on a country level as well as the impact of all the chapters in all the countries we work with for a global scale. So this is work that is critical to be done, and this is something that I’m really eager to try to help work on.

Moderator: Thank you, Cindy. So we’re almost 15 minutes over the hour, and we’ve tried to get to most of the questions. We weren’t able to get to every single one, but hopefully we’ve answered all of them, I think. If we haven’t responded to your question, we will of course, we’ll be posting an FAQ at the end of this week, and also we’re having another webinar next week on Wednesday where obviously everyone on this call is welcome to join us again. I’d like to ask the panelist if anyone has any final words for SCA members who have joined us today.

Paul Stack: Well, I’d just like to thank everybody for their time, to take time to come onto this call today and give us the opportunity to try and share some of the background to where we are and to assure you that we are spending a lot of hours trying to resolve a future direction so as we can positively represent members, and also do our mission justice as we try to grow specialty coffee, which is the reason we’re all here. So I apologize again, for the difficulty it’s caused members and I look forward to trying to make it better. And thank you, Vincente, for hosting.

Moderator: Thank you, Paul. Any other words from our panelists? Alright, thank you everybody, thank you for joining us, we’ll be posting this, the recording of this video on our website, on SCA news. Again, you’re all welcome to join us at the webinar next Wednesday, November 29th, and if you have any questions you can email us. The email address is Again, that’s, and you can also find that email address on the SCA news website. Thank you all very much.

The post Specialty Coffee Association’s Online Town Hall: The Full Transcript appeared first on Sprudge.