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Coffee Equity Design Challenge – Spring 2022

Posted by on Wednesday, January 5, 2022 in News.

Vanderbilt University Coffee Equity Lab Launches the Coffee Equity Design Challenge

Students and coffee professionals team up to co-create meaningful innovations for a more equitable and sustainable coffee industry for all coffee people.

With many of the coffee industry’s current challenges the result of historical and contemporary injustices and inequalities interacting across time and place, the Coffee Equity Lab at Vanderbilt University believes that finding meaningful resolutions to these problems requires knowledge sharing, thinking differently, collaborating and co-creating, and diligently assessing our progress. 

In January 2022, the Coffee Equity Lab will launch the Coffee Equity Design Challenge and respond to these circumstances by bringing together an inclusive network of students, higher education faculty and staff, and coffee industry partners in a collaborative research and design environment. Together, over the course of a semester, teams of undergraduate and graduate students at Vanderbilt University will take part in a series of coffee sustainability and equity workshops and learn to use equity-centered design and systems research to respond to an industry-identified design challenge. Through the process, teams will collaborate with a network of industry mentors to co-create and prototype educational tools that may support progress towards resolving an ongoing challenge in the industry. 

In the inaugural year, the Coffee Equity Design Challenge is guided by the belief that access to information and education is one of the greatest barriers to building a more equitable and sustainable coffee sector for all coffee people and communities. In response, participants will focus on designing opportunities to advance standardized understandings of key sustainability priorities in the global coffee sector. They will be guided by this question: “how might we standardize and advance industry understandings of key social, economic, and environmental sustainability priorities in the global coffee sector—and the interconnectedness between those priorities—through the creation of a visually compelling, easy-to-understand infographic or other visual educational resource?

Plans for the future include opening participation for students at other domestic and international universities and colleges; expanding participation among coffee professionals; and, establishing additional partnerships that lead to greater opportunities for collective action building and meaningful problem-solving on behalf of a more equitable coffee industry for all coffee people.

The CEDC is made possible by the generous and collaborative spirit of the Coffee Coalition for Racial Equity and with support from the Center at Sucafina, PJ’s Coffee of New Orleans and New Orleans Roast, The Well Coffeehouse, and Good Citizen Coffee. 

If you would like more information about this topic, please call Hanes Motsinger at 615-343-5878, or email

About the Coffee Equity Lab: The Coffee Equity Lab at the Wond’ry, Vanderbilt’s Innovation Center, combines research, teaching, and practice to pursue meaningful and coordinated resolutions to equity challenges for all actors across the coffee value stream.