If your community already has a food council and you answer ‘No’ to any of the following questions, you may be in the expansion phase of food council development.
- Has your council expanded to include community members on sub-committees?
- Does your council know where the community’s priorities are around its food system?
- Has your council begun taking action? If so, do these actions directly support the community priorities?
- Does your council have a process for learning from prior activities? If so, does that learning inform subsequent activities?
- Does your council routinely and deliberately build its understanding of priority issues and possible solutions?
- Does your council regularly seek out opportunities to learn from other communities?
- Has your council identified the relationships needed to strengthen the council from within?
- Has your council identified the relationships needed to strengthen the council’s position in the community?
- Does your council have a plan for intentional and strategic development of its network?
Once a council is established with diverse voices and has an inclusive decision-making process <-LINK in place, it can start expanding.
When first starting a council, it may take 1-2 years to get expansion tasks in place. For mature councils, expansion tasks may become just the ordinary way things get done.
A Cautionary Note
Taking action is an important part of building momentum for a council. Taking action without connecting it to community priorities or a larger strategy can be a poor use of resources. In complex systems, especially those that involve human behavior, it is sometimes unclear what actions actually make a difference. Therefore, it is important for a group to look at what happens after action is taken, and identify what results have changed.
In addition, many councils have been swept up in the actions of the expansion phase without equal development of the council itself. If a council does not adequately invest in its structure and governance, the flurry of activity may soon lead to uncoordinated action and the eventual failure of the council. Just as a plant must develop its roots and branches to bear fruit, so too must a council develop its organizational structure to sustain productivity.
- Greater empowerment of members to take action by treating actions as experiments from which the whole group is able to learn.
- Greater awareness about what works and what doesn’t.
- Smarter actions over time, as participants continue to learn what works and what doesn’t.
- Stronger connections between council members.
- Broadening breadth of engaged membership.
- More connections between the council and the community.