The following post is taken from a message I recently posted on the Community Food Security Coalition listserv. I have already heard from a few people and am setting up conversations with them to hear more about what they are doing process and form-wise to advance the work, and look forward to sharing what I learn from them in this space. While the topic of this blog is networks focused on just and sustainable food system development, reactions are welcome from those working on new structures to address other social change issues . . .
IISC currently works with a number of food system-related initiatives around the country, providing process/structure design and facilitation support to collaborative multi-stakeholder approaches to change. As we strive for more healthy, just, sustainable, and community-enriching food systems, part of our role is to hold the stake for the “how” of the work, to ensure that it aligns with the multi-dimensional ends we seek, and to fine-tune this to the essence of the particular geographic and social locale (municipality, state, region). Read More
At the second Vermont Farm to Plate Network Convening two weeks ago, my colleague Beth Tener and I facilitated a conversation about the value the nearly 200 people in attendance see the network adding to the food system. From where they sit, what do they see net work enabling that they have not been able to accomplish in the “old way”? Here’s a taste:
As I prepare to do a couple of trainings for leadership in multi-stakeholder networks in the New England region (focus being on the skills of facilitation, process design, and managing decision-making), I intend to frame our conversations with some exploration of the differences between traditional organizational leadership and what is required to steward networks towards positive impact. I begin with the presumption that network form and function are chosen strategically for the ability to accomplish something that could not be done at all or as well through other approaches. Whether trying to develop a food system to eliminate food insecurity or change an educational system to yield more equitable opportunities and outcomes, the attraction to a network approach is likely due to a desire for some combination of the following: Read More
Blogging this morning from the Building Energy Conference, New England’s most established cross-disciplinary renewable energy and green building gathering. If you are here, come visit us at our IISC booth! One of the big topics of this year’s conference and trade show is thinking in terms of systems. In this spirit, the following post draws from an email that I recently sent to the convenor of a state-wide system change initiative that is poised to identify strategic points of leverage within the system and its component systems to nudge it in the direction of serving all people equitably in the state and ensuring community food security. Related to this goal is the desire to support a more robust local economy and to work synergistically with ecosystems. I believe the questions listed pertain to any complex dynamic system change effort, whether one is talking about food, education, or community energy use and production, and I welcome your thoughts . . . Read More
“I just wanted to tell all of you that I feel truly honored to have played even a small part in what transpired today. In fact, I would go so far as to say you are the best, most fun, most highly evolved group of humans I have ever worked with.”
This is not the kind of email you get everyday. It comes from one of the participants in the process design group of a state-wide food system building effort with which I have been involved for the past year and for which I am the lead designer and facilitator. To be clear, the purpose of this post is not to blow my own horn. It would be outrageous for me to take credit for something the size and complexity of which goes well beyond my individual talents and contributions. Rather, I am very eager to explore what stands behind this comment, as it reflects a commonly held feeling that something special has been going on with this initiative and group since it was initiated and led up to the launch of a Food Policy Council last week.
“Networks are not just about sharing the pie. They are about growing the pie.”
– Ellen Kahler, VSJF
It has been a privilege and an inspiration to spend the past two days working with my colleague Beth Tener and the amazing team at the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund (VSJF) to help launch the Farm to Plate Network. Over 150 people came together to connect and take the conversation deeper around how they want to work together to double local food production in the state over the next 10 years, as a way of boosting economic development, increasing jobs, and ensuring that every resident has access to healthy food. A big rallying cry has been the devastation that Tropical Storm Irene wrought on the farming community. And as we learned from former Secretary of Agriculture Roger Allbee during a very enlightening presentation about the Great Flood of 1927, once again Vermonters responded in ways that have impressed those (including the American Red Cross) who came to help, with their self-organizing and neighborly efforts to get one another back on track.
In an encouraging speech to launch the proceedings, Governor Shumlin highlighted the challenges and opportunities that stem from the changing climate that is predicted to increase precipitation 20% in the state in years to come. “Our best days are ahead of us if we can pull together,” he said. Read More