REPORT, 2nd International WWOOF Coordinators' Meeting, Sapporo, Japan, 2006

Seeking Ways of Working Together for a Sustainable Future

Sapporo, Japan,  
29th October – 2nd November 2006

Purpose of the Conference
The primary aim of this conference was to establish IWA – the International WWOOF Association. The idea for an IWA was originally put forward back in the WWOOF 2000 Conference in England, and this 2nd conference in many ways picked up from where those discussions left off. Issues to be decided included: membership to IWA, the Mission Statement, what IWA should (and shouldn’t) do and how IWA would work in practise. An important value IWA upholds (both in 2000 and in the latest conference) is that it provides equal representation for all WWOOF groups.

During the 6 years following the first conference, membership numbers (hosts and WWOOFers) had grown fairly strongly for many WWOOF organisations. There had also been a significant growth in the number of WWOOF Organisations including; Bulgaria, China, Costa Rica, Czech, France, Mexico, Nepal, Slovenia, Sweden, and Turkey. In the later years various international “issues” arose which required some management to resolve. With no facility for democratic decision making, it was a natural choice to bring WWOOF coordinators together once again to find some solutions.

Sue Coppard                     Founder of WWOOF        
Garry Ainsworth and Maree     Swan     Australia                
John van den Heuvel                 Canada                
David Marie and Alexandra Denais     France                
Erica Altmann                     Germany                
Alan     Pink                        Italy                    
Glenn and Kyoko Burns             Japan                
Andrew and Jane Strange             New Zealand            
Sue Seymour                     United Kingdom            
Leo Goldsmith and Jessica Brodie     United States of America    
The Conference Diary
29th October.
By the end of the day all are in Sapporo, with many meeting at Glenn and Kyoko’s home to chat and enjoy Kyoko’s fresh sushi.
30th October.
The meeting was opened by the founder Sue Coppard who expressed delight at this gathering and enormous thanks to WWOOF Japan for organising it so magnificently. She continued saying there was nothing like meeting in person, and that WWOOF organisers were doing a great job for the world. She urged wwoof groups to avoid appearing paternalistic, but to develop structures that would encourage input and inspiration from the members and create an ethos of worker-owned co-operative. This would have long term benefits.
She felt that WWOOF had chosen her as its channel and ended with the following:
“Great spirit of life
Who has given us such a beautiful world
Fill our hearts with love for our fellow beings throughout the planet
And help us to serve the well-being of all”
May the Light always shine through WWOOF

Delegates began work on the 9 agenda items. Each agenda item was chaired by a different WWOOF organiser in turn. Kyoko kept the team regularly refreshed with Japanese tea and for lunch all were treated to bento boxes – full of fresh fish and organic vegetables.

The meeting finished at 6pm and it was back to Nakamura-ya ryokan to relax and chat (apparently there was even hot-tubbing and karaokeing happening!). Special thanks to Alan and Maree who carried on typing up the minutes throughout the evening.
31st October.
All travelled by train and bus for a few hours to the coastal town of Yoichi. An hours walk up the road we visited a WWOOF Japan host who produces organic eggs. Over lunch we talked about being a WWOOF Host in Japan, including how hosts need to be careful that the indigenous bears from the nearby forest do not eat the WWOOFers!
Once back at our accommodation at Tokushima-ya ryokan all gathered together for the second meeting. There was a review of the first meeting and a range of other issues were discussed.
 What the Conference Achieved            
While many groups came to the table with differing points of views on various issues, it became clear that with face-to-face debate, common ground was often found. Following is a list of agreements and recommendations made by those at the meeting:

The Sapporo Agreements                             

Part1) Definition of a WWOOF Group.

1.1 Must produce a list of hosts some of whom are organic farms or grow organically. Other host can be listed as long as there is a clear differentiation. Host listings must be accurate and up to date.
Comments made.
a) Where a farm was not wholly organic WWOOFers should only help on the organic part.
b) Growing organically for self sufficiency was sufficient.
c) For hosts listed as farm plus secondary activity WWOOFers should only help on the farm activity i.e. farm + B&B or restaurant.

1.2 They must maintain details of host and volunteers.

1.3 Lists should differentiate between type of host, i.e. organic farm / other activity (permaculture/ forest gardens, self sufficient pottery, organic fish farming, low impact sustainable dwelling construction etc etc.)

1.4 Must be run in accordance with the agreed aims and principles established at the 2000 conference.
a) Facilitate getting people into the countryside.
b) Based on non monetary exchange.
c) Help the Organic movement.
d) Aim to promote organic growing, sustainable lifestyle and social sharing.
Groups work towards these aims by facilitating a non monetary exchange. Human energy in return for sustenance and shelter between their volunteer members and host members.
People/ organic principles before financial considerations.

1.5 WWOOF groups can sell other goods and services as long as the provision of their list is not dependent on the purchase of these other goods and services.

1.6 Must contact their hosts at least once a year.

1.7 Must have a complaints procedure.

1.8 It was recommended that they communicate with all members once per year - a newsletter was the suggested method.

Part 2) Criteria for IWA membership.

2.1 Must be a genuine wwoof group as defined in Part 1.

2.2 Pay the annual membership fee as and when required.

2.3 Membership of any national organisation covering more than one country would be considered as a single membership i.e. one vote.

2.4 Must nominate one person as the national organisations spokesperson.

2.5 To support other wwoof groups

Part 3) Mission Statement

 After an explanation of what a mission statement should be the following was agreed on:

The principle mission of the IWA is to provide an equal and independent opportunity for all wwoof groups to present themselves to the World through the IWA website. We strive to enliven, support and foster the social, cultural and economic opportunities within the organic volunteer movement through the workings of all wwoof organisations. and their members.
We recognise our role worldwide to develop, strengthen, promote and acknowledge the diversity of individual wwoof groups. We participate in sharing human resources within and through out the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms.

Part 4) Functions of the IWA.

4.1 Maintain a National Organisation starter pack to be given to prospective national organisations. The IWA will then deal with all enquiries. Whenever there was a case of a new group starting up in a country where hosts are already listed by a WWOOF group then that original listing group will be included in the negotiations.

It was agreed that a valid starter pack should be produced as soon as possible.  A sub group of:
France - David Marie
New Zealand - Andrew Strange
UK - Sue Seymour
was formed to carry this out with the resulting IWA pack was sent to all groups for opinion and consultation. Each new group would be provided with a starter pack and as much help and collaboration as possible to enable them to get started. Once a national organisation had started there would be a period of up to 12 months “running in” for the new national organisation, after which the worldwide lists would cease listing that country’s hosts. This was considered valid for completely new start ups but not to apply too rigidly to France, Spain, Portugal and Belgium who were already well on the way to becoming independent.

4.2 Maintain a register of interest and progress towards forming new groups.

4.3 Produce a quarterly newsletter - electronic only.

4.4 To provide the principle website for all WWOOFing in the world under the domain name wwoof.org. This would happen once the IWA was up and running and functioning well and the related technical problems had been resolved.

4.5 The IWA would finance the technical costs for this changeover.

4.6 Maintain open and transparent communications between all WWOOF groups. Groups could choose to have all IWA communications copied to them.

4.7 Donations should not be given directly from one group to another. They should be channelled through the IWA.

4.8 Produce and maintain an international list of hosts in countries without a national organisation. Australia and Independents will stop producing international lists and hand over these hosts to the IWA.
Progress with this will happen once the IWA is up and running.

4.9 Seek engagement with other groups and bodies for the common good.

4.10 Be a united voice with regard to issues relating to national tourism, environment and ecology.

4.11 To mediate contentious issues between members.

4.12 Arrange future international coordinator meetings - every 3 - 4 years.

4.13 Promote organic growing, food preparation, lifestyle:
Whilst considered a valid point for the IWA ‘s attention this was felt to be beyond the remit of the meeting.

Part 5) Running the IWA
After a rough calculation of the expected costs
$   600 - Newsletter
$ 1000 - Website
$ 2000 - unforeseen
It was estimated that each national organisation would contribute 0.50 c per host. Each national org. was free to give discounted host membership but would be responsible for the full amount to the IWA.
Nat organisations with less than 100 hosts would not be obliged to contribute but were free to choose to do so.
It was agreed that the hosts count would be as at 31st. December each year, with payment to be made in advance when required for the forthcoming year. It was accepted that this cost could increase when the true costs of the IWA were known.

5.1 The IWA would pay for it’s own staff but until it starts operating it would not be possible to estimate these costs.

5.2 The operating principles and structure of the IWA (President, Secretary, committee, treasurer) would be defined in the IWA charter which would be prepared during the coming months, and distributed for consultation and approval.

5.3 It was agreed that each national org would either file a current copy of their host list with the IWA or provide contact details of successor/support staff, at the discretion of each individual WWOOF group, in order to guarantee continuity in the event of a serious problem causing an interruption of the national organisations ability to function.

5.4 Open an account with a financial institution when it is formed. WWOOF Japan is currently holding the IWA funds and will transfer the balance as soon as this is done.

Part 6) Start Time for the IWA
It was agreed that Sue Seymour (UK) would handle the first round of the consultation with all other WWOOF groups regarding the setting up of the IWA. Leo would coordinate the second round of consultation ending in April. The IWA would cover his expenses.
An official mailing list will be created for this purpose.

Part 7) IFOAM – International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements.
A precis of the possibilities of affiliation with IFOAM, resulting from IFOAM’s initial approach to the IWA. Once the IWA is officially formed (April) this will continue.

Part 8) The Official Status of IWA
It was agreed that the IWA’s formation should be as formal and as correct as possible with regard to the laws governing international associations. After examining the procedure it was decided that further research was required before this could be embarked upon.
A sub group of
Canada - John Vanden Heuvel
Italy - Alan Pink
New Zealand - Andrew Strange
UK - Sue Seymour
was set up to work on the operating structure of the IWA. Alan - WWOOF Italy, had already done some research on this and volunteered to take on the task of preparing the rough draft of a charter. Each national organisation has been asked to research their countries laws regarding associations/N.G.O’s. with a view to finding the most suitable country to register the IWA.

 Other Discussions

It was agreed that WWOOFer insurance was desirable but it was left to each national organisations’ discretion.

Returning to this item which had been raised the previous day it was suggested that Glen (Japan) pursue this as it referred directly to WWOOF Japan and that Glenn would contact Korea for clarification.
A “Rogue” WWOOF Canada book was shown round and the opinion expressed that this could also be the work of WWOOF Korea.
John Vanden Heuvel (Canada) was letting it ride for the time being.

It was recognised that as the IWA has not, as yet, been officially formed and agreed that it does not exist at this point in time.
It was agreed that www.wwoofinternational.org should remain on-line and it was suggested that the www.wwoof.org domain would present the same opening page. Concerns were raised that this would entail changes (possibly drastic) to the web pages currently under the wwoof.org domain and that this would be carried out when technical issues had been resolved.
After much discussion regarding the information that should be published on these websites it was agreed that for the time being this information should be limited to the statement “The IWA is in the process of being formed” and that any contact regarding the IWA should be replied to with the statement “The IWA is in the process of being formed and should be active by April 2007, please be patient and bear with us until then.” Any enquiries regarding individual national organisations should be replied to with the suggestion to contact the national organisation directly.
It was noted that the International Wwoof Association, as a name, implied that people could join this association and go WWOOFing anywhere in the world. It was agreed not to use the phrase International Wwoof Association yet but to use the letters IWA on all websites. Input is welcome from all groups regarding the website.

A concern was raised at WWOOF Ltd. making international decisions on behalf of WWOOF as a whole. It was pointed out that, with no IWA formed and no one else to turn to, WWOOF Ltd. had become the default organisation to contact for new national organisations and that with the advent of the IWA this would no longer be the case.
*Note A query has been raised that the above statement is incomplete. The recording of the minutes is being studied and if any changes are made to this statement will be issued as an addendum.

At present WWOOF Hawaii is run by John (Canada) and WWOOF USA and WWOOF Independents also lists Hawaiian hosts. After noting that although Hawaii is part of the USA, WWOOF USA did not exist when WWOOF Hawaii started and that Hawaiian hosts consider themselves independent Hawaiian and not part of the USA, John (Canada) and Jessica and Leo (USA) would work together to find a solution to this situation that would be in the best interests of the hosts and WWOOFers.
It was acknowledged that everyone is entitled to run their own national organisation as they see fit providing they adhere to the general principles of WWOOF and that we should:
Operate within our own countries in the best interests of our own hosts and WWOOFers.
Not interfere with other countries operations.
Strive to get rid of territorial issues.
Refer any dispute to the IWA rather than take personal initiative.

Organic Volunteers
After some discussion it was decided that Organic Volunteers, however valid they are, are not an official WWOOF group and will be removed from WWOOF mailing lists.
John (Canada) was willing to contact them with this news and was asked to do everything possible to maintain good relations.

WWOOF France
David and Alex (France) gave a précis of the difficulties they had faced and the progress that had been made towards setting up WWOOF France.
The starter pack received from WWOOF NZ was useful.
They are now in discussion with and have the support of WWOOF Independents.
Have been supplied with the contact details of French Hosts by Australia and Independents they are comparing the two lists and are in the process of contacting the Hosts.
They are currently working to resolve some legal issues.
Their website is now live It was agreed that Australia and Independents would, after further discussion with David and Alex, stop listing French hosts when David and Alex have their administration system set up and able to provide a list of French Hosts for people wanting to WWOOF in France.

Progress toward forming the Association
There was strong support for the agreements made in Sapporo and a large majority have endorsed the formation of an association.

Some groups outlined other benefits that hadn’t been look at yet. WWOOF Sweden commented, “It is important to legitimize WWOOF, to get the support of the UN, for example”. WWOOF Spain commented “Maybe create a common ground for ideas, activities, setting precedents and reference for all the WWOOF community.  Maybe to reinforce WWOOF organisations’ rights?”
Some groups were concerned about bureaucracy so this needs to be taken in to account when drafting the charter for the association.
Revenue from the IWA International list will generate significant funding for the association, which is something that hasn’t been considered yet.

Currently groups are being consulted on what type of structure the association should have – we’ll keep you posted!

Thank you to everyone for so much support.

Glenn and Kyoko
Convenor of the 2nd WWOOF Coordinators’ Conference
WWOOF Japan  Honcho 2-jo, 3-chome 6-7, Higashi-ku, Sapporo, 065-0042  JAPAN
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