In July, Intelligentsia teamed up with Root Capital to put on the first-ever ECWx, an offshoot of the coffee company’s Extraordinary Coffee Workshop (ECW). Longtime readers of Sprudge may recognize that acronym; the weeklong “signature innovation” of Intelligentsia’s Direct Trade takes place yearly in producing countries all around the world, and we have been covering it since 2011. ECWx, the TEDx to ECW’s TED, as Intelligentsia’s Michael Sheridan calls it in his most recent blog post, took place in Nariño, Colombia and focused on issues relevant to local smallholder farmers with a “deep-dive on all things Colombian.”

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Now in its 10th year, ECW wanted to do something a little different in scope, something smaller. Thus, ECWx was born. According to the Sheridan’s post, “ECWx was created explicitly and exclusively for smallholder coffee farmers.”

We believe specialty coffee’s clearest path to improving social impact at origin is through the inclusion of the coffee chain’s two most marginalized groups of participants: smallholder farmers and coffee farmworkers.  Contributing to greater participation and profitability among smallholder farmers, and helping expand opportunity and improve working conditions for farmworkers, are the best ways to expand the promise of specialty coffee.  ECWx is part of that effort, bringing the value we create for Intelligentsia Direct Trade supply chain partners every year through ECW to a broader audience of smallholder growers.

With the help of Root Capital, “a non-profit financial services provider”—whom Sheridan refers to as the Apple of non-profits—Intelligentsia is hoping to help those in the “missing middle,” those too big for micro-finance loans but too small or risky for commercial banks. According to the post, coffee coops and other coffee-based institutions at origin fall in the missing middle, a billion-dollar segment that is “systematically underserved.”

Expect to see more local-focused ECWx events from Intelligentsia in the future. Next month, ECW will land in Bolivia, where more than 50 producers from 15 countries will be in attendance. For more information on the inaugural ECWx, Michael Sheridan’s full blog post can be found here. And be sure to check out the ECWx in Pictures, a photo-journal recap of the week’s events.

Zac Cadwalader is the news editor at Sprudge Media Network and a staff writer based in Dallas. Read more Zac Cadwalader on Sprudge.

All images via Intelligentsia Coffee.

Disclosure: Intelligentsia Coffee is an advertising partner on Sprudge Media Network.

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