Previously, I discussed why I see CPAS as an event which presents value for anyone working on the retail end of coffee, and how we can think of that value in a meaningful way. That post is here.
My personal experience with Camp Pull-a-Shot (and BGA programming more generally) in the past has been largely one of skepticism; Living in the northeast, I was a dues-paying member, I personally bought into the mission and future of the BGA, but it was mostly through a desire to invest in the long vision of the Guild – after all, the programming was predominantly offered in places that your workaday barista would find geographically or financially inaccessible, and while the Certifications and educational programs were visible and exciting, it was hard to find a value in them outside of personal satisfaction.
That being said, spending time at CPAS, along with the discussions I had there and elsewhere, I think I am starting to get it. The Barista Guild is an organization truly in its infancy, and any apparent regional shortfalls are due not to intentional favoritism, but rather simply to scarce resources; there are only so many instructors, there are only so many regional representatives. The idea which I had failed to grasp before seems now as plain as the nose on my face; the BGA exists to serve its members. There are very, very few members working in the northeast, so why would a young organization spend its limited resources holding events there? Far better to fulfill and grow areas where there already exists a dedicated base of dues-paying members.
This creates a sort of recruitment Catch-22: we must try to recruit using the equation that more members leads to more programming, avoiding the troublesome fact that there is not yet much of that programming available. We in this region are lucky in that the SCAA Event will be in Boston this year, which is an easy, immediate, and visible example of a way in which BGA membership can be beneficial.
This all ties into the single suggestion I would offer for future organizers of the Camp Pull-a-Shot events. In a very real sense, the folks attending these excellent weeklong retreats are the future leaders of our industry, and likely at the forefront of the coffee scene in their respective hometowns. In recognition of this fact, I would love to see some programming directed toward helping these enthusiasts become organizers.
We could do much both to grow the Guild and grow pockets of progressive coffee passion by creating a toolbox that can be taken home, a guide to putting together throwdowns and hang sessions. This is already happening in Providence and Boston and elsewhere; if we can take the passion that already exists in CPAS attendees and offer them ways to direct it into building a community at home, then we plant the seeds for true leadership. As we grow our memberships ability to organize at home, the better we will be able to extend the reach and resources of the Guild at large. If we could offer a session or two of organizer training alongside the trainings on coffee preparation and production, it would go a long way to invest in our future leaders.