Coffee Equity Lab

Coffee Equity Lab Presentation

The Coffee Equity Lab harnesses the power of collaboration, equity-centered design, and systems thinking to catalyze meaningful innovation for a more sustainable and equitable future for all coffee actors.

The Lab was incubated at the Wond’ry from August 2020 to May 2022. It was co-founded by former Assistant Director of Social Innovation at the Wond’ry, Hanes Motsinger, and Ted Fischer, Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Anthropology at Vanderbilt. The Lab carries forth the legacy of the Vanderbilt Institute of Coffee Studies.

You may access our full 2020-2022 impact report here.

New Participation Location:

This challenge has moved over to the program in American Studies, housed within the Vanderbilt College of Arts and Science. Click here to learn more. 


The Coffee Equity Lab maintains and collaborates with a global network of partners and program participants. From panelists and moderators in the Coffee Equity Conversation series, to mentors in the Coffee Equity Design Challenge, and student participants, this network is instrumental in our success.

  • 500

    Participants engage across all programs

  • 50+

    Coffee sector contributors

  • 30+

    Coffee mentors

  • 10+

    Program partners

  • 5

    Fiscal sponsors


At the Coffee Equity Lab, programs like the Coffee Equity Design Challenge, the Coffee Equity Conversation Series, and Mapping the Coffee System bring together Vanderbilt students and coffee sector professionals. Together, participants reflect upon current challenges and imagine, prototype, and co-create novel ways of thinking and doing that help build more sustainable futures for all coffee actors.

Images from the Coffee Equity Lab Program - Image 1: Finalists of the program; Image 2: Gautemala Bean Project

Via the Coffee Equity Design Challenge (above left, Team Gesha celebrates their CEDC win), more than 60 Vanderbilt students and 30 coffee sector professionals participated in a 12-week collaborative design studio. Together, they co-created novel educational resources that advance understandings of sustainability priorities in the global coffee sector. You can view their project here.

Through a course integration with Dr. Kevin Galloway’s How to Make (Almost) Anything and Make it Matter course (above right, students prototype a washing station with fresh coffee cherry) Vanderbilt students collaborated with the Del Fuego Project to prototype table-top coffee washing and drying stations. In future iterations, these prototypes may help increase small-scale producers’ access to processing equipment they can use to assess coffee quality. You may read about this project here.

Image 1: Roundtable discussion and Image 2: Pouring Coffee

The Lab also co-created and co-facilitated workshops for coffee professionals (above left, Re:co 2022 workshop). For example, at the Specialty Coffee Association’s Re:co 2022 Summit, 50+ coffee professionals engaged in a 3-hour workshop. Together, participants explored how they may help create a just and regenerative future for the global coffee sector. The workshop was co-designed and co-facilitated by Hanes Motsinger, Coffee Equity Lab Co-Founder and Samantha Veide, Associate Director of the Americas at Forum for the Future.

In addition, the Coffee Equity Lab offered regular cupping and tasting events, featuring local roasters like Good Citizen Coffee Company and The Well (above right, students participate in cupping event). Students also participated in Mapping the Coffee System and learned to use systems thinking to analyze complex challenges like climate change and racial injustice in the sector. Additionally, through a partnership with Grounds for Empowerment, Vanderbilt students learned about the important role women play in producing high-quality coffee.

Various graphics from events from the program

Last, the Coffee Equity Conversation Series (above) offered 10 publicly accessible events that engaged participants in dialogue about timely sector challenges. Talks explored topics like racial injustice, value creation, career pathways in coffee, and inequitable access to information. 7 of the 10 recordings are available to watch here.


After two years at the Wond’ry, we are reflecting on the Lab’s priorities and developing strategies for going forward. We are exploring new collaborations to achieve meaningful impact in the coffee sector. We are also engaging in conversations about how the Coffee Equity Lab–and/or its programmatic models–may bring the most benefit to the pursuit of a more equitable coffee sector.

Wherever you touch the coffee sector, we invite you to join us in asking these questions:

  • What does it mean to act as a systems change leader for the global coffee sector?
  • How could a program like the Coffee Equity Design Challenge bring more value to the sector?
  • How could we prepare other leaders in the sector to lead transformative action?
  • How can we, as a sector, bring people together to imagine and co-create coffee's just future?
  • Does the Coffee Equity Lab need to exist or could its model, IP, and concepts simply be shared?
Future Coffee Stat Graphics


The work of the Coffee Equity Lab was made possible by the support of countless individuals and many organizations. For all of you who joined us on our journey, thank you! And, a tremendous thank you to our sponsors who believed in our ideas and helped bring our dreams to life.

Logos of Partners


If you are interested in learning more about the Coffee Equity Lab or any of our programs or having an exploratory conversation with us about where the Coffee Equity Lab may go in the future, please get in touch with us!

You may contact Dr. Ted Fischer, Coffee Equity Lab Co-Founder, at You may also schedule a time to meet with Hanes Motsinger, Coffee Equity Lab Co-Founder at