You may or may not know that we are active supporters of the Holme Valley Fairtrade group. We had a road trip to London on Saturday 17th October with fellow Holme Valley Fairtrade members, Helen Robinson and Sophie Bebb (who are also our good friends from fairandfunky). We set off very early (5am) and all travelled down south in Janet’s lovely Mini Cooper. We eventually arrived at 11am ready to register at the National Fairtrade Supporters Conference 2015.

National Fairtrade Supporters Conference 2015 - Travelling to London

When we arrived at the venue, Kings College, we met Louise from The Wrinkled Stocking Tearoom, Holmfirth, who is another member of the Holme Valley Fairtrade group. She’d had her own adventure travelling down to the Conference by train.

Janet, Louise and I (Esther) hadn’t ever been to a Fairtrade Conference like this before so it was definitely eye-opening and interesting to hear about what Fairtrade Foundation are doing and hearing from the very people it’s supporting.

After getting a Fairtrade brew, we all congregated in the main lecture theatre where the Conference was kicked-off with a couple of presentations and the Fairtrade Campaign Awards!

National Fairtrade Supporters Conference 2015 - Faith MuisyoFaith Muisyo from Fairtrade Africa Head of Region for South Africa spoke about the realities of working in South Africa and the effects that the Fairtrade Foundation have had on the areas they are involved with. This really hit home, especially hearing about the inequality issues between the value of a man’s job compared the same job but with a woman. The man still gets much more pay and authority!

Michael Gidney, the Fairtrade Foundation CEO, then presented the Fairtrade Campaign Awards for 2015. We had entered the Missing Banana Campaign on behalf of the Holme Valley Fairtrade and guess what; we were awarded “Runners Up” for the “Best Media Campaign” Award! Woooo! We were given a certificate of achievement to take home for the group – which is sitting very happily in our office for the time being.

National Fairtrade Supporters Conference 2015 - Holme Valley Fairtrade - Runners Up for Best Media Campaign Award

Do you remember the Missing Banana Campaign? Through the power of social media and tongue-in-cheek posters we managed to spread the word about Fairtrade across Fairtrade Fortnight 2015. We got into the local press (online and printed), we had loads of online activity – especially on Twitter and Facebook – and to top it off, we reached out to the local school (Honley High School) for help and within 48 hours some of the students had found the Banana. Through this campaign it got the school talking and they are now in the process of becoming a Fairtrade school!

Fairtrade Fortnight - Missing Banana - Honley As you can imagine we were buzzing about the Award – so much so that you’d think we actually won the whole thing! We weren’t expecting a certificate so it was a very pleasant surprise indeed.

The rest of the day included a couple of workshops (Janet and I went to one about Social Media and the other about Journalism and the Press) and then another presentation from a lady called Josephine Aguttu who is a gold miner and secretary of the Tiira Small Scale Miners Association, Uganda.

“What spoke to me the most was when Josephine said: “why do I walk on gold but remain poor?”  I think it’s an incredibly powerful and humbling statement.” – Helen Robinson, Chair of Holme Valley Fairtrade

The final part of the day was a Question and Answer panel with John Steel – Chief Executive of Cafedirect, Faith Muisyo – Fairtrade Africa Head of Region for South Africa, Barbara Crowther – Fairtrade Foundation and Brad Hill – Fairtrade Strategy Manager at Co-operative Group.

National Fairtrade Supporters Conference 2015 - UK Impact Strategy

What was interesting to me about this whole event was that it seemed to focus on the Fairtrade Foundation itself and what it was doing. The best (and smallest) parts of the day, for me, were hearing from the real individuals who are being positively affected by the work that the supporters are doing and also hearing about what other supporters are actually doing too. Both presentations from Faith and Josephine were eye-opening and the Awards were fab!

National Fairtrade Supporters Conference 2015 - Journalism WorkshopThe Fairtrade Foundation is absolutely amazing and works very hard to fight for many people in many countries. However, they are missing a few tricks and with a bit of help and support, they and their supporters could really develop their campaigns and have a louder voice! There is unity in numbers – at the moment it seems like a lot of the Fairtrade support groups feel isolated.

This is another example of underestimating the power of social media! When using it correctly it can reach out to a wider audience, connect people together and update people with info. The Missing Banana Campaign was 90% online and carried out through social media (mainly Facebook and Twitter). The problem is that it’s becoming more apparent that many people don’t understand social media so they either 1) shy away from it because it’s the unknown or 2) embrace it but don’t know how to use it properly so they are limited and/or use it wrong.

National Fairtrade Supporters Conference 2015 - Social Media WorkshopThe social media workshop that Janet and I attended was good, but we were disappointed that the examples of “successful” support groups Facebook Pages and Twitter Accounts shown, didn’t include Holme Valley Fairtrade who’d just won the runners up award for “Best Media Campaign”. It would also have been really beneficial to run through the basics of starting with social media and to also have been provided with a strategy plan and/or pack to help less tech savvy supporters to get online and connect with a clear direction to go in. There are still so many people who “just don’t get social media”.

#FairtradeFriday is beginning to grow and people are starting to take notice – this was mentioned by one of the delegates within the workshop. Again, this is a prime example of how social media works and how when many people start to use a hashtag, it creates a buzz, which in turn will create awareness. That is how the #MissingBanana Campaign worked.

Fairtrade Fortnight 2015 - Missing Banana Campaign - Holme Valley FairtradeWe couldn’t use the Conference hashtag (#FairtradeConf) or tweet during the day because there was no wifi or signal available within the venue. This was really frustrating! How can we create a digital buzz about the event with no internet?

Anyway, I’ll stop ranting. When you’re passionate about something it overflows and we’re really passionate about Fairtrade and we want it to grow. We genuinely think they’re missing a very big trick with their supporters social media and could easily help them go further and connect with each other. Holme Valley Fairtrade tries to extend out of the Holme Valley circle and often calls upon the help of Kirklees Fairtrade and Fairtrade Yorkshire especially through Twitter and Facebook – oh and the Fairtrade Foundation too!

Top tips for Fairtrade Supporters: Get started on Social Media

  • Set up a Community Page on Facebook and invite your friends and family to join. Like other Fairtrade Pages and local businesses you know who support Fairtrade – oh and your Support Group members too!
  • Set up a Twitter account for your Support Group. Again follow other Fairtrade Groups, individuals, local companies and the Fairtrade Foundation (@FairtradeUK).
  • Join the new Facebook Group for Fairtrade Supporters in the UK (click here to go to the Fairtrade Supporters UK Group: )
  • Link your Fairtrade Supporters website to your Facebook Page and Twitter Account
  • Make sure you encourage people to connect with you on social media – put the icons on your flyers and business cards etc
  • Take lots of photos of what you’re up to, where you are etc. Show your online community what you’re doing and show the people behind the screen
  • Make a plan of what’s coming up and the events you’re going to or are hosting. Think about creating digital posters as these will be more engaging rather than a load of text in a status or tweet – publicity should start going out at least 6 weeks before an event.
  • Start using hashtags #FairtradeMatters #Fairtrade #FairtradeFriday and #BananaSmile

Feel free to take a look at (and connect with) the Holme Valley Fairtrade Facebook Page and Twitter Account as an example of what you could do.

National Fairtrade Supporters Conference 2015 - Holme Valley Fairtrade - Runners Up for Best Media Campaign Award

We hope you find this useful. Are you a Fairtrade business in the Holme Valley? Or are you interested in becoming a Fairtrade business? It doesn’t have to be difficult – we simply swapped our tea, coffee and sugar to Fairtrade. Ask us for more details and we’ll happily introduce you to the Holme Valley Fairtrade group.

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Are you on social media? Do get connected and say hello to us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest & Instagram. We’d love to hear from you! #SoProHigh5!