The second step in the start-up phase of food council development is to build food council knowledge among organizing group members.
Why educate the organizing group?
The purpose of the organizing group is to determine what a council might look like in a given community. This requires some degree of expertise on the subject of food councils. Organizing group members often have varying degrees of knowledge about food systems and councils. Taking time to learn what has been done elsewhere establishes a common understanding among participants. This shared baseline improves the quality of later collaborative decisions; and it can also help decision-making more efficient.
What does education look like?
Much work has already been done on food council development – there are many examples, studies, and best practice guides out there. Here are some helpful hints for creating a collaborative learning environment.
- Assign required homework between meetings. Create time in meetings to discuss points of the homework.
- Keep assignments reasonable – let the group determine what is a realistic amount of reading or research that everyone can commit to and budget time accordingly.
- Divide up learning when appropriate. For example, if the group wants to learn about several councils, divide into teams to do so, and report back at the next meeting.
- Partner up for learning – strengthening relationships among group members helps when it comes for working together.
- Consider working with another community that is approximately on the same development schedule,expanding on the capacity of a collaborative learning process.
- Use a mixture of learning opportunities – reading works great for some people, but videos or podcasts are better for others.
- Consider a group field trip to meet with an established council nearby. This builds the groups knowledge base and builds relationships within the network of networks.
What else should you consider?
It is helpful to start learning more about food councils during these early efforts to strengthen the group’s interactions in working together. This collaborative learning process prepares the organizing group for engaging in group decision-making while not solely focusing on process.
Here are some helpful tools and resources
- Exercise – Reflect on Research
- Community Food Councils – Webinar
- Doing Food Policy Councils Right–A Guide to Development and Action – Report
- Creating Local Food Policy Councils–A Guide for Michigan’s Communities – Report
- John’s Hopkins Center for a Livable Future Food Policy Council Resource List
- John’s Hopkins Center for a Livable Future Food Policy Council Directory
- Institutionalizing Change: Points to social capital as the single greatest predictor of success in making change in a system.
- Community Food System Action Plan: Defines community food system and explains the importance of a whole systems approach to community food systems development.
- Chatham Food Council Task Force list of Resources
Additional resources are available regarding local or community food systems.