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Critical Functions Exercise

Seedlings on Windowsill

Checklist of Function ExerciseThe purpose of this exercise is to clarify the critical functions of the proposed food council.  This exercise provides a way for groups to see where, and to what extent, there is agreement around the critical functions of a council or network.  By critical function, we mean the function that this group exists to do, usually because there are not other groups doing it.

Participants should represent a cross-section of stakeholders.  Ideally, participants will have learned about food councils to have some idea of a typical functions.

Materials Needed

  1. Explain the purpose of the exercise.  Post the red signs at either end of a long wall.   Ask the group to stand along the wall.
  2. Give someone in the group one of the critical function statements.
    Ask the group to to what extent they think this statement reflects something that is vital, essential, at the core of this new group’s work for the foreseeable future (say first 5 years).
    Have them vote with their feet, moving so they are standing in relation to the red signs.
    If possible, take a photo while they are moving in front of the wall.
  3. If there is a significant disparity in the group, ask if there is a particular word that is causing them to feel that way.
    Work with the group to find language that brings them to agreement, if possible.
    If at an impasse, try changing the timeframe for when the function would be appropriate.
    Record any changes or conditions on the sign with the marker and stick the sign up on the wall where the group generally agrees it should go.
    On the sheet, record with the pen a score for that item that correlates with where on the wall the sign was placed.
  4. Repeat steps 2-3 with each question until all statements are discussed.
  5. Have the group step away from the wall once it is complete and look at what they have identified as priorities.
    Are they surprised?  Have them look at what fell out as not important.  Is that what they expected?
  6. Take a photo of the wall for documentation purposes.  If possible, take a photo while they are moving in front of the wall.  Take a photo of the completed scoresheet for documentation purposes.
  7. Collect all the signs; document in a Word document the 2-4 most critical functions of the group.
    Document any functions that were clearly not important.
    Document any that may have been identified as a secondary function or a future function.
  8. The photos and the Word transcription (from step 7) serve as documentation of the exercise for the group.

NOTE.  The Function Assessment scoresheet can also serve as a way for people who miss the meeting to participate; it allows them to fill in their answers, but due to the nature of the exercise, this needs to be done IN ADVANCE of the meeting.