Born and bred in the southeastern United States, I learned to love football (particularly the college variety) the way I learned to walk and talk. It was everywhere, a part of life, and I grew up spending Saturdays attached to the TV or radio, holding my breath with every wavering pass and praying for mercy on fourth and longs.
Yesterday I went to a college football game (my first of the season) and it set me to thinking. While they're not often mentioned in the same breath, football and fair trade share more than a bit of common ground. Here's my top five list.
1. Play fair. This principle is obvious in fair trade: it's the foundation on which the whole movement is based. In football, make an unfair tackle or flout the rules in any fashion, and you'll suffer the consequences by losing yardage.
2. Teamwork. No single player can win or lose a football game. It takes a group of players cooperating together to reach the final goal: victory. A good quarterback depends on his offensive line, a running back needs blocks. Both offense and defense have to do their part. Fair trade similarly relies on groups of people working together for the common good. Farmers growing fair trade coffee in Africa typically band together in fair trade co-ops. They also depend on you and me--retailers and consumers--to stock and purchase their products. No single link in the chain can guarantee success; it's all about working together.
3. It's about work. No football team finds success without spending many, many, many hours on the practice field. Two-a-days in summer heat might equal a win in the cool of fall. But skip the practice and the outcome is all but guaranteed. Fair traders don't get far if they're not doing the unglamorous work. Making the product is just the first step. Then there's marketing, selling the goods, educating the public, shipping...and on and on the list continues.
4. Innovation. Albert Einstein once defined insanity as "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." A good coach mixes it up, knowing that repetition makes it easy to predict--and defeat--his team. A prudent fair trader understands that success depends on flexibility to changing times and circumstances. Artists must continue to create new and unique pieces, farmers must adjust their plans according to the changes each season brings.
5. Know the basics. A mastery of simple principles--like wrapping up a tackle or reinforcing stitching--leads to a big payoff in the long run. Who doesn't like to watch a well-executed game? Who doesn't like a beautiful and utilitarian purse? No one, that's who. Do your job well, and folks will sit up and take notice.