Coffee producers are fundamental to the work we do at Sustainable Harvest—and to the work throughout the coffee industry. We celebrate this by treating our relationship with them with the utmost care and respect. We recognize producers who have demonstrated exceptional value to our supply chain through our Most Valuable Producer (MVP) program.
For years, we've convened regularly with our MVP members, including in-person training and meetings between producers and buyers. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve had to reimagine how we conduct these events, which are incredibly important both to us and to our partners at origin. We’ve spent the last two years holding webinars and other online events, and now we’ve decided to go a step further.
We are excited to introduce our new digital learning platform, the “Plataforma EDU,” or EDU platform, a digital learning system for members of our MVP program. Through the EDU platform, we’ll be able to continue to empower producers, sharing valuable, high-quality educational content that we hope will bring value to them, their communities, and their coffees.
Our MVP Program
To get to the “why” behind the new EDU platform, let's first look at why we do our MVP program.
We started this membership system with our origin partners to help them understand the market-changing trends and increasing demands—from certifications, quality, and processing methods, to packaging requirements and innovation in different areas of the supply chain, to sustainability and social responsibility. With the MVP program, we ensured that our partners could adapt to the market, deliver on expectations, and achieve excellence, so that all stakeholders could grow together.
Since we started the MVP program, we’ve had the same three goals:
- Build long-lasting mutually beneficial relationships. Sustainable Harvest was born from the idea of supporting producers. We see value in strengthening that foundational side of the supply chain, and we love to facilitate relationships between producers and the roasters buying their coffee.
- Share cutting-edge knowledge. We want to provide training that helps our origin partners grow, achieve better quality, develop skills around quality control, improve their quality of life, and positively impact their communities.
- Level the playing field. Not only do we provide training to MVPs in all things coffee, but we go a step further and provide "soft skills" training. This not only helps them achieve better results when it comes to their coffee, but also helps them be more prepared to negotiate with buyers, know how to prepare the documentation needed to export their coffee, and understand the best ways to express themselves and the story of their cooperatives.
These three goals are mirrored in our EDU platform, which aims to build on and expand our MVP efforts.
The EDU Platform
The isolation stemming from the pandemic has been difficult for everyone. At Sustainable Harvest, one side effect is that we’ve had to reimagine how to deliver value to producers. While the regular webinars we pivoted to have been a reliable way to build on our program, we realized that there was an opportunity to leverage the new digital reality to enhance our educational programs and deliver an improved learning experience.
In April 2021, we hit on the idea of launching the EDU platform to stay better engaged with our producers. “The digital world is here, and technology is here to stay, so we need to adapt and use it in our favor,” says Jorge Cuevas, Chief Coffee Officer at Sustainable Harvest. “We need to use technology to meet our needs and those of our MVP partners.”
Jorge says the EDU platform has four main advantages:
- It allows us to share more content than we do now, so we'll be able to offer MVPs a wider range of topics and information.
- It better fits the needs and everyday lives of our partners. They can take courses at their convenience, and the classes won't interfere with their day-to-day activities and work.
- We can reach more producers at the same time, as there is no limit on participants for the courses.
- We can reopen courses at different times of the year, reaching a bigger audience and sharing content with more producers.
Courses to meet producers' needs
The EDU platform is now live in its beta stage with Spanish content, as most of our MVPs are based in Latin America, with learners from 58 producer organizations in Peru, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Colombia. The content covers topics the MVPs have expressed an interest in learning about. For example, the first module focuses on nursery management and leverages the internal expertise of the Sustainable Harvest team, the renowned coffee research organization, World Coffee Research (WCR), and the innovation laboratory of the Inter-American Development Bank Group IDB Lab. Hanna Neuschwander, Strategy and Communications Director at World Coffee Research, is pleased that WCR can collaborate on content for the platform that strengthens producers. “Coffee producers have tremendous expertise in their craft, but don’t always have access to the highest-quality information—for example, about propagating healthy seeds and plants,” she says. “Expanding access to high-quality information for coffee producers is critical for unlocking the potential of coffee varieties to support farmer success.”
"They've committed to this program, and we will work directly with them to identify the opportunities and then, where possible, and where resources permit, scale them across all of our suppliers," says Kellem Emanuele, Chief Impact Officer of Sustainable Harvest.
Adds Jorge, “We believe that knowledge needs to be shared; we believe in helping others to develop professionally, to make our industry better." Jorge also says the long-term goal of the platform is to create a Digital Coffee University. "We want people to take courses based on the skills they want to develop, and based on their level of knowledge and experience, as well as to provide them with a library of content that helps them grow,” he says.
Chief Impact Officer Kellem will help us build the courses' curriculums and leverage connections and partnership opportunities with NGOs and other organizations—as in the first module, with help from WCR and IDB Lab—for capacity building to bring to life what MVPs need. Sustainable Harvest plans to launch an English version later in 2022 to serve other MVPs, including the MVP Africa organizations formally added in 2021, and continue to add new content in the coming months.
What do we hope to achieve with the platform?
Our main goals for the platform include meeting our producers' needs and building their capacity to achieve improved performance while delivering a top-learning experience. “We hope to meet those needs so well that producers see a clear improvement in performance,” says Kellem. “We want this ultimately to result in improved economic opportunity, environmental resilience, equity, and inclusion.”
We are extremely invested in our suppliers. We take seriously our role to address their needs on the content side, but we have also invested a lot of time and energy to make sure the content delivery vehicle is right. "The effectiveness of the training and the way it's delivered must bring value to the people you're intending to reach," says Kellem. This is why, for months, we've been working to build the platform to support our suppliers and make them "the best in class," in Kellem's words, and to keep building leaders in quality and sustainability while providing them with mindfully crafted content.
You can take a quick look at the EDU platform here! And if you're not a member of our MVP program, you can sign up to get a notification when we make the courses available to the general public later in the year.