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NAFSN Transition Team Update, June 14, 2016
"Out of the Greenhouse"
As we are in the time of the year when root and shoot meristems burst forth, I am happy to report NAFSN is growing beyond the first embryonic cotyledons and into its first true leaves. We have created processes and draft policies for governance and member communications and engagement. We have adopted dynamic governance with the intention of inclusive and transparent decision-making at all levels. Orientation packets and formation guides have been created for the virtual work teams (currently Admin/Governance, Fundraising and Certification, and the Transition Team serving as the “general circle”). In June we will launch the Communications and Policy and Governance work teams. Equity and social justice will guide the heart of the organization as a core element of policy and governance. Last week, the Transition Team recommended all work teams proactively begin using “Choice Points” equity assessment tools. Race, equity and inclusion in the food system have also been identified as some of the key issues to attend to in the landscape of food systems professional development.
Our immediate priority is fundraising. NAFSN aims to address the very real professional development needs of thousands of people on the ground and in academia working for better local and regional food systems. To roll out online accreditation and certification of the many institutions that offer food systems training will be particularly financially demanding. Thus, we have hired a short-term contractor to help administer our stellar fundraising work team and create financial documents needed for projections and grant applications.
Building organizations and programs toward measurable member engagement is a particular pleasure of mine. If you, too, have a fondness for checking off the list as we grow, below are the goals for 2016. We have established much of the functional elements listed under A. Now we are moving on to B, C, and D — all at once!
NAFSN Development Goals: 2016
A. Develop the organization as a functional body, including virtual work teams, board elections, policies for governance, work plans, and inclusive and transparent decision-making.
B. Create forums to meet in person and/or online for members to give input on the white paper and policies, organizational structure and governance, the roll out of certification and accreditation, to test online tools, and to begin sharing resources.
C. Set forth fundraising plans and efforts, and realize initial operating income via grants, sponsorships, scholarship drives, membership fees, and advertising.
D. Establish key communications and marketing infrastructure, and online networking and program platforms to meet current needs (saving key program and activities infrastructure until late 2017, when projected capacity and funds are available).
NAFSN as the tender plant we have cultivated is out of the greenhouse and into the warm spring air. Surrounding it are the many pollinators — you, and the thousands of supporters of this food systems work — all humming.
Transition Team Chair
The initial charge of the Transition Team members was broadly to make decisions regarding the implementation NAFSN’s big vision and mission, set forth in the 2014 White Paper on the Proposed North American Food Systems Network.
As group of people new to working together and new to NAFSN, we first set up communications structures and expectations for our virtual team. We read the background history and agreed on the draft NAFSN mission statement established by the previous steering committee, but quickly realized a need to identify decision making processes and create transparent systems that would be functional for small groups and the organization as a whole. We established online sharing and meeting protocols, agreed on using consent governance in our meetings, and have a running open source document for minutes and agendas. Phases of organizational development have been mapped and prioritized based on the member survey data, and best practices for virtual work teams have been established.
Now, with the NAFSN workplan, decision making processes and clear path toward member engagement, we are excited to start the dynamic process of working with all the members.
We are currently in Phase 2 of 4 phases of organizational development. (Phase 1 was led by a steering committee and working group, who established the organization’s research, drafted vision and mission, invited founding members and then passed it off to us, the Transition Team.) Objectives for Phase 2 (the “transition phase”, which we expect to run through spring of 2017) include:
a) to develop the organization as a functional body including virtual work teams, board elections, policies for governance, and inclusive, transparent decisionmaking (such as sociocracy/dynamic governance).
b) for stakeholders to meet in person and online to discuss the white paper, workplan, certification/accreditation, organizational structure, and to begin sharing resources.
c) to set fundraising plan and member drive efforts, and to realize operating income via grants, sponsorships, scholarship drives, membership fees and advertising.
d) establish the key communications and marketing infrastructure of the network, and initiate online networking and program platforms to meet current needs (though key program / activities infrastructure will not be fully developed until Phase 3).
Phase 3 is the build out and soft launch phase and it includes intensive fundraising, hiring staff, and the initial launch of programming and activities such as certification and accreditation. Depending on organizational income, infrastructure and the accreditation process with partnering institutions and organizations, we expect NAFSN development to advance to Phase 3 in approximately one year. We will know we’ve reached Phase 4 when the organization is fully funded and the programs and projects are fully functional.
How Members Participate
Based on the resilience of network ecology and on best practices of member engagement, we are building NAFSN as an organization that values and implements an inclusive and transparent structure. Founding member’s varied skills and talents are vital social capital for NAFSN, particularly in these start-up phases. We aim to create a virtual local economy (if you will pardon the extension to the virtual world) wherein neighbors cherish and participate in our community’s mutual goals. Members will give input and shape to the organization via leadership circles, work teams, communities of practice groups, surveys, and online via social networking.
Circling back to our goals for Phase 2, in the next few months each of you will be invited to bring your vast skills to help breathe life into dynamic work teams. Members will nominate work team leaders, make decisions and complete work plan milestones in conjunction with the Transition Team. Best practices in terms of breaking down silos, creating inclusivity and transparency have been developed and will be offered to each group. Member newsletter content will be penned by work teams as they report on their team experience and progress.
Transition Team members often express gratitude to each other in our weekly meetings. We are honored to serve the talented membership and to be a part of this growing community of food system practitioners. We look forward to interacting with and hearing from you via the work teams and our various communication channels: Facebook, this newsletter, the NAFSN website and listserv, and (coming soon) the online social neighborhood, too.
Transition Team Chair
With support from eXtension i-Three Corps the NAFSN Training and Certification Work Team gathered San Antonio in March to continue its work on the Food Systems Development Certification program. The participants included Craig Chase, Iowa State University, Katie Wright, University of Arkansas, Amy Christian, Lyson Center, Gil Gillespie, Cornell, Retired, Duncan Hilchey, Lyson Center, Jane Kolodinsky, University of Vermont, Joanna Lelekacs, North Carolina State University, Gail P. Myers, Farms to Grow, Inc., Oakland California, Brian Raison, Ohio State Extension, and Roxanne Richards, University of Minnesota-Duluth.
The first NAFSN Meet & Greet—held during the Smart Growth conference in Portland, Oregon, on Feb. 12—was an intimate kick-off to this series. Hosted by Julia Freedgood (American Farmland Trust, at far left) and Daniel Wallace (Coastal Enterprises, second from left), attendees included (L-R) Ruth Le'au (Hawaii Public Health Institute), Andrea Petzel (Broadview Planning, representing the APA's Food Interest Group), and Spencer Masterton (Oregon Food Bank).
NAFNS Members Head to San Antonio
to Work on Certification Program!
The Food Systems Development Certification Team (composed of members of both NAFSN and the eXtension Community, Local and Regional Food Systems Community of Practice (CLRFS CoP)) will be heading to San Antonio this March to be part of eXtension's i-Three Corps. In addition to training with other i-Three Corps participants, the team will wrap up its work on conceptualizing the certification program and begin drafting a funding proposal to underwrite its development and pilot projects.
During our initial meeting hosted by the Leopold Center and Iowa State University Extension in Ames, Iowa the Certification Team heard from existing certification and training programs as well as a focus group of ISU local food Extension professionals about their experiences and training needs, and began to sketch out how the program might work. Some of the ideals that emerged from Ames include:
• Providing multiple paths to certification (no one size fits all). For example, certification can be secured through an accredited college degree, an intensive training program, or an online self-paced program.
• Emphasizing best practices in community development (e.g., asset inventorying, engaging stakeholders, setting benchmarks, conducting meaningful evaluation and impact analysis).
• Offering multiple levels of certification, such as:
o LEVEL 1 Being able to Describe best practices (e.g., based on self-paced learning)
o LEVEL 2 Being able to Engage in best practice (e.g., based on evidence of experience)
o LEVEL 3 Being able to Teach best practices (e.g., based on experience as mentor or instructor)
• Offering both specialist certification (e.g., in production, distribution, consumption) and generalist certification (e.g., some training across all three domains).
• Being affordable and accessible to NAFSN members who live and work where the rubber meets the road.
The Food Systems Development Certification Team headed for San Antonio includes:
Craig Chase, Iowa State University
Amy Christian, Lyson Center
Gil Gillespie, Cornell, Retired
Duncan Hilchey, Lyson Center
Jane Kolodinsky, University of Vermont
Joanna Lelekacs, North Carolina State University
Gail P. Myers, Farms to Grow, Inc., Oakland California
Kim Niewolny, Virginia Tech
Brian Raison, Ohio State Extension
Roxanne Richards, University of Minnesota-Duluth
For more details about the outcomes of the Ames meeting and what is likely to be focused on in San Antonio see Draft Certification Concept Paper HERE.
FREE ONLINE COURSE BEGINS THIS WEEK!
Begins: beginning the week of January 11, 2016
Free, six week course offered through the Johns Hopkins University partnership with Coursera
Course Description: A food system encompasses the activities, people and resources involved in getting food from field to plate. Along the way, it intersects with aspects of public health, equity and the environment. In this course, we will provide a brief introduction to the U.S. food system and how food production practices and what we choose to eat impacts the world in which we live. Through several case studies, we will discuss some key historical and political factors that have helped shape the current food system and consider alternative approaches from farm to fork. Topics include food security, food animal production, aquaculture, food waste, and the farm bill. The course will be led by a team of faculty and staff from the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. Guest lecturers will include experts from a variety of disciplines, including public health and agriculture. A statement of accomplishment from Coursera is provided to participants who earn an average of 75% or greater across all quizzes. Verified certificates are available for a fee.
(Photo by Chelsey Simpson, National Farm To School Network)
NAFSN is a professional development association for individuals and organizations working at the forefront of food systems programming—on initiatives, programs, and research from beginning farmers and sustainable agriculture to food hubs, farm-to-school, food security, and healthy eating. NAFSN provides affordable training opportunities, resources, tools, and networking opportunities for its members.
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