A steering group is at the core of every Fairtrade Community campaign. Here are some tips that can help in recruiting new members, structure or organise your group, or make meetings more efficient and interesting.

A steering group can be really effective when there are clear roles and responsibilities. A lot of Fairtrade steering groups have a chairman, treasurer, and a secretary, however, roles can differ depending on your group’s preferences and needs. As well as roles, it is good to ensure core members have clear responsibilities that they can focus on for the benefit of the group. This could mean certain members taking on responsibilities that match their skills and knowledge and/or because of contacts they may have in the local area. Another way might be breaking up in smaller working groups which focus on a specific area of work or task.

Having a specific location for meetings is a good way of ensuring that meetings will go ahead. Quite a few Fairtrade steering groups have chosen to make arrangements with their local council, local cafés, schools, or even local pub to reserve a space and meet. This both helps to support the group logistically but also deepens relationships in the local community.

Along with ensuring your group has a core section of members, you can always call upon the expertise, skills and time of individuals from a wider network of people. As a lot of local people might be willing to help out but are not always able to commit to joining a group and meeting regularly, it can be helpful to explore how much of their time they are willing to give and what kind of skills/knowledge they feel they can contribute. Put together a list of people and their availability and invite them to join when needed. Some Fairtrade steering groups (see Lancaster, Morecambe & District group’s case study) work already this way whereby they have a core group of members and a wider network to draw help from.

Producing and distributing promotional materials such as business cards, leaflets or bookmarks is another way to advertise your group and make it easier for others to find you. This is particularly helpful when trying to recruit new members.

Some groups choose to invite external speakers to their meetings. This is a good way to liven up regular meetings and also to inform others about Fairtrade, which might join the group. Speakers can be individuals from the various organisations, community groups, schools, universities and colleges which your group engages with. Local academics that are well versed on Fairtrade, traders of Fairtrade products in the community can also be good external speakers.