Lancaster, Morecambe & District Fairtrade Group is a steering group with 11 members working to raise awareness for an area of 140.000 residents.

They have organised themselves in a flexible way so they can tap into different types of support from a wider network of people. The Chair of the steering group, who has been part of the Fair Trade movement since 1984, shared the details. Six of the 11 are core and active members of the group, while the other five members are individuals with a less formal relationship with the group, who tend to help out whenever they are needed.

Other key roles in the steering group include a Secretary, Treasurer, Council Liaison, Social Media Coordinator, as well as members with connections and involvement in different sectors across the district such as the Lancaster City Council, health services, education, churches, and other local charities. The chairwoman in particular, works on Fairtrade at both town and regional levels, whilst also engaging with two local universities in the district.

This organisational arrangement wasn’t developed intentionally but the group has found it practical and helpful for them. The chair’s biggest tip is networking as this led to the formation of the group in the first place but also has ensured a diverse representation of the local community on it. Networking in the form of word of mouth and approaching “friends of friends” has been key to spreading the group’s reach by establishing links with different people and groups in different sectors.

As a way of bolstering membership and recruiting volunteers, the steering group has also used their personal contacts and encouraged others who can contribute different skills and knowledge to join. They have also used their local Community Voluntary Service (CVS) to recruit volunteers for the group. A new younger volunteer was recruited this way to support the group in contacting local businesses and design the group’s latest leaflet of where to find Fairtrade products locally.

When organising specific tasks or events, members work in groups of two or three. This drives the work needed but they bring their ideas back to the whole group for input and discussion. The group finds this approach more efficient as:

  • The work progresses faster
  • It’s easier for two or three people to meet up
  • Individuals take on tasks they feel comfortable with
  • It’s still possible to seek advice and feedback from the whole group