Just a few blocks from the Askinosie Chocolate factory is Boyd Elementary School. Classes are back in full swing which means so is Chocolate University! This our fourth year of working with Boyd Elementary, where we are involved in every unit of study throughout the school year. The first unit of study is “Let’s Negotiate!” and the next unit is “Exploration.”

Later this year students from Boyd will visit the factory to experience chocolate making hands-on, but today, this class of 5th graders received a special visit from Shawn Askinosie which made learning even sweeter.

What better way to tackle the topic of negotiation than through the perspective of chocolate? And of course, before the lesson began the students prepared their thinking caps by enjoying some Askinosie chocolate.

Negotiation is constantly occurring throughout the Bean to Bar process at Askinosie, whether it’s with farmers, employees, customers, and beyond. So Shawn outlined a few different aspects of negotiation for the Boyd students to consider:

  • People and organizations with whom Askinosie negotiates
  • Different methods of communication
  • Reasons for negotiating as well as problems that can (and do) arise through this process

For example, Shawn discussed how language barriers as well as contacting people in an area without electricity are all common challenges when negotiating with farmers. The students brainstormed solutions for these problems: translators, language study, internet cafes, etc (these students are whip smart, by the way!)

The students were right, in many of the regions from which Askinosie sources cocoa beans, internet cafes are a popular means of keeping connected. But if there is no electricity, there still is the problem of keeping phones and computers charged. Shawn explained how village members will take turns turns biking to a nearby town where they will charge a backpack full of cell phones for their fellow villagers.

Shawn then talked about the new feeding program at Malagos in Davao, Philippines. Askinosie has partnered with the Malagos PTA on a product called Tableya. The PTA will make the Tableya in Davao, Askinosie will sell it, and 100% of the proceeds will provide lunch for every student at Malagos throughout the school year. That’s 579 elementary students who will benefit from this!

As Shawn explained this new program to the Boyd students, they considered all the negotiation that must occur to make something like this possible–working with the PTA in Davao to negotiate production, costs, shipping logistics, and so on.

The lesson on negotiation concluded with the spelling word for the week “stakeholder,” an essential word in the business philosophy at Askinosie Chocolate. A great example of a stakeholder is each one of our farmers. They have an incredible influence on the quality and flavor of Askinosie Chocolate. This is why we offer them a Stake in the Outcome, 10% of our net profit in addition to above market prices for their beans. At Askinosie, it’s so important that our farmers, as well as everyone through the Bean to Bar process, are valued and compensated for their work.

And while that might require quite a bit of negotiation, it allows us the opportunity to connect the dots, and make chocolate to make a difference.

We are looking forward to our next visit to Boyd as well as our other Chocolate University schools.