Students discussing Fair Trade with FT actors and professionals
As part of the Belgian Fair Trade Week 2017, WFTO-Europe organised an event on Fair Trade at the Université libre de Bruxelles. The main aim of the event was to introduce Fair Trade as an alternative business model to university students and young people in general, especially to those interested in business. To make the event more conducive to youths, we chose the World Café methodin order to provide an opportunity to discuss topics more casually and in greater detail, and also to create space for questions and direct interaction between the Fair Trade actors and participants.
The event had three main blocks that were designed to cover the complexity of Fair Trade and help us tackle the differences in Fair Trade knowledge levels among the participants:
The first block was reserved for the general presentation and basic introduction. After the initial welcome speech by WFTO-Europe coordinator, Francesca Giubilo, the floor was given to Patrick Veillard from Oxfam-Magasins du Monde then Virginie Bartholomé from Belgian Development Agency (BTC). Patrick gave a brief presentation on global supply chains, in particular textiles. He shared information about the growing need for Fair Trade and basic differences between the conventional supply chain and the model followed by Fair Trade producers. The next presentation, by Virginie Barholomé, focused on the Fair Trade movement in Belgium. It introduced the Belgian Fair Trade country initiative, presented statistics on Fair Trade in Belgium, and introduced some of the local Fair Trade actors.
The World Café was the largest portion of the event so that participants could steer their own learning according to their interests and prior knowledge of the industry. Participants were divided between four groups and visited each of the hosts, who all targeted a different aspect of Fair Trade within their expertise. From the Fair Trade Advocacy Office, Sergi Corbalán raised some interesting questions on the role of government in Fair Trade, while Thierry Noesen from Belvas shared the point of view from an ethical businessman. Jerome Veriter and Alexandre Bertrand from Groupe One added some practical tips on creating a sustainable strategy for new businesses. Finally, WFTO member, Equo Garantito’s Eleonora Dal Zotto widened the discussion to a slightly larger dimension by explaining the role of Fair Trade networks in linking Small and Medium Enterprises and Fair Trade actors. Overall, there were many interesting discussions between the participants and hosts, both groups raising thought-provoking questions regarding Fair Trade labels, certification systems, and simply ethical and responsible lifestyles in everyday life.
For the closing section, the WFTO-Europe team, together with students from Oxfam ULB, prepared a small Fair Trade reception, which created the perfect space for some informal networking. During this time, it was proven that the audience had certainly been engaged at the event as they continued to pose many intriguing questions to both the hosts and other actors at the event- an indicator of a job well done!