During the mature phase, a council seeks to continuously improve its work. It is also stable enough to invest some energy in coordinating with other councils – at the same level, or in a higher-level context.
Why coordinate with other councils?
From a council development perspective, coordinating with other councils provides:
- An opportunity to share resources – for example, hosting joint training
- An exchange of ideas – to keep council work fresh
- Motivation – peer pressure can be a good thing!
- Social capital – which helps strengthen the overall network
From a community food system development perspective, coordinating with other councils provides:
- A bigger view of the system – but in an easy-to-incorporate fashion (when sharing a reporting process)
- A louder voice – for effecting change at a state or national level
- Improved results – competition between communities can inspire greater engagement
- Smarter interventions – learning from each other about what works can leapfrog efforts
- Better use of regional resources – each community can invest a cross-section of projects, instead of each repeating the same feasibility study
What does this look like?
Councils can always take the initiative to reach out to other councils. However, many councils exhibit an inward-focus which makes this type of external view challenging.
The Community Food Strategies team addresses this issue by creating opportunities for councils to collaborate. Councils are invited to:
- Participate in training sessions which develop council member skills.
- Learn what works in approaches other councils have taken, and amplify these aspects in their own work. This information is communicated via the Community Food Strategies website, the foodpolicycouncil listserv, and occasional webinars.
- Implement a shared convening process – to create shared understanding across councils on how issues and community priorities are framed.
- Co-design a reporting process – to create a shared way of reporting what priority issues are, what activities happened, and what results occurred.
- Shape a shared annual schedule of critical council operations, so that training for new members, analysis of annual reports, and convening support can be delivered more efficiently.
- Provide input to inquiries from the state food council – to inform state policy and programming.
- Participate in learning communities organized around issues that are of importance to councils in the network.
What else should you consider?
- Use results – not activities – as a basis for comparison.
- Make sure you know how well an approach is working before copying it.
- Each community is different – what works in one community may not work in another.
- Consider a council’s purpose and strategic plan when comparing practices.
- The Community Food Strategies team can serve as a matchmaker, as they have connections with many councils across the network.
Tools & Resources
The following tools and resources are helpful in coordinating with other councils.