Robbie Francis is a young woman who has packed a lot into her life. Having lived with a physical disability since birth, her achievements have been recognised with prestigious awards, which she has used to advance her academic, professional and life's experiences. Robbie has worked in the disability sector for over a decade as a support worker, documentary maker, human rights intern, researcher, consultant and as an advisor. She has experience working with people with disabilities in France, Bangladesh, India, Mexico, and Ecuador, and has also spearheaded research on gender, war and disability rights.
In 2010 Robbie was appointed as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar and spent 12 months in Israel studying diversity and inclusiveness.
In 2014 Robbie co-founded The Lucy Foundation, a social enterprise committed to empowering people with disabilities by working with local communities to promote education, employment and culture of disability inclusiveness through sustainable trade.
The aim of the Pluma Coffee Project is to transform the global coffee industry by developing a sustainable value chain of coffee that is not only good for the environment, the community and the economy, but is also inclusive of disabled people, from seed to cup.
To do this, they work with indigenous coffee-farming families, all affected by disability, to help them increase the quality and quantity of their coffee. They also help disabled family members to become trained and employed within the local coffee industry through beekeeping, barista coffee training, coffee tours, coffee harvest, and agricultural workshops.
Between The Lucy Foundation and New Zealand business partners, they have developed what they believe to be the world's first inclusive value chain of coffee - from the farmer in Mexico, to the consumer in New Zealand.
Having lived and studied International Conflict Resolution and Mediation in Israel-Palestine, Robbie is now nearing the end of her Ph.D. at the University of Otago National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies in New Zealand, where her research has focused on inclusive and accessible research methodologies and the experiences of people with disabilities during conflict and displacement. Her field research was based in Ecuador, where she interviewed asylum seekers and refugees with disabilities escaping from violence and conflict in Colombia and Venezuela.
Robbie is also on the Expert Reference Group advising the New Zealand Government on the 2016-2026 Disability Strategy, a committee member of University of Otago Disability Matters and a member of Rotary New Zealand.
Other achievements include:
- Speaking at the opening ceremony of the St Gallen World Leaders Symposium in front of 800 world leaders, in Switzerland in 2017. Robbie was also a panelist at the diversity session at the same event.
- Speaker at the Ethical Enterprise Conference in Melbourne 2017
- Keynote at Rotary Conferences
- Attitude Entrepreneur of the year 2017
- Named in the Spinoff's top 10 women in business to look out for.