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Make Sense of the System

Green Tree Canopy

During the expansion phase, a council moves from governance and structural focus to taking action within the community.

Why does this matter?

Learning about the food system is important when:

What does this look like?

Community-based food systems have many interconnected parts.  This complexity makes it difficult to determine cause and effect.  Conventional planning is less beneficial, as it is difficult to predict the results of any action.  A systems approach to strategy is called for:

  1. Take time to learn more about all aspects of the problem – identify all elements of the system and all possibilities for change
    – What are the issues, barriers or challenges?
    – How does it currently work?  Which aspects are working well?
    – Who are the actors?
    – What interventions have worked before? Which have been less effective?
  2. Convene the network to analyze the system
    – Look at connections between elements – how do they impact each other?
    – Map the system
    – Identify intervention points with the greatest potential impact
  3. Convene the network around intervention points
    – Identify how participants’ activities affect the intervention point
    – Identify critical collaborators to affect the intervention point
  4. Experiment with intervention points
    – Form small groups – include critical collaborators
    – Engage in collaborative experiments around selected intervention points
    – Ensure related projects communicate regularly
  5. Make sense of what changes
    – Convene groups on related projects
    – Look for patterns of success
    – Look for linkages between intervention points

What else should you consider?

Here are helpful tools and resources for learning more about food systems