Challenges and Opportunities: The Guilds

By Hannah Davies

Within the coffee industry, the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) is a body that provides support to the professional development of baristas, roasters, technicians—and now producers—through our Guild structure. Our challenges lie in finding the best way to deliver that support and the most effective way of reaching our various communities. The work of the Guilds is delivered by SCA staff and volunteer leadership, who are constantly striving to develop a successful strategy to reach our community with the professional support that they desire from their Guild. We must be inclusive, accessible, and available to our members—but finding a way of communicating across a broad range of cultures can present challenges.

Under the now unified parent organization, the Barista Guilds and Roaster Guilds of Europe and America will face the large task of unifying with their counterparts. This will be one of the biggest challenges that the Guilds have faced, but great progress has already been made. We have to consider many aspects as we align bylaws, rules of procedure, and committee structures. The most important element that we must always consider is our membership. How does the geographical location and cultural background affect their needs from the Guild? Becoming one global Guild for the wider community presents these challenges, which is why we have a dedicated unification committee with a key focus on ensuring that we do our best to provide the service that we set out to deliver.

Another key challenge for any of the Guilds is to remain up-to-date with the industry, and deliver the most current research and information through our programs and resources. The influence of advanced technology cannot be ignored, and we must make sure that we can support the change in the role of the barista as this evolves. Sustainability issues will affect all of the Guilds as we face challenges with climate change at the farm level. It is our challenge as a Guild to prepare our members for change and provide relevant information. The Guilds can overcome this challenge by becoming the vehicle to deliver the work and research conducted by the growing SCA Research department.

What opportunities can arise from the Guilds? 

With all of the challenges we face, there are many opportunities as well. The unification process for the Guilds requires extra input from our volunteer leadership, and will increase the opportunity for our members to connect and learn lessons from across the globe. We are already seeing the positive effects of shared knowledge, skills, and lessons learned through the unification of SCA.

I believe that the greatest opportunities from the Guilds come from getting involved. Attending or volunteering at events connects you with a network of industry folk that could hold the opportunity for you. I’m only in this position today because I attended a Barista Guild of Europe (BGE) event and got involved through that experience.

The Guilds are growing: Coffee Technicians Guild (CTG) launched last year and has begun the process of recruiting and electing a formal committee. I am so excited for this sector of our industry to start building their own community and forming resources and education to aid their peers. A Coffee Producers Guild is also on the horizon—another amazing opportunity for like-minded professionals to have the chance to connect and learn from each other.

The Guilds are what their members make them, the opportunities are only increased from going the extra mile to commit time and energy to Guild activities.

Hannah Davies is the Jr. Events Manager for the Specialty Coffee Association