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Community of Practice conversations over 5 weeks of COVID-19

Image credit Nitya Wakhlu

 

Our Community of Practice was regularly scheduled to come together on March 17 – but of course, by then we knew nothing was going to be “regular” about our conversation. Tomorrow, we’re coming upon 5 weeks since that conversation as food security, sovereignty, and justice efforts have been incredibly (re)deployed across so-called BC towards food access in a COVID-19 context.

Below are gentle recaps of these conversations as we send them to the CoP list after our calls along with the slides we use to guide the sessions and any resources. We are welcoming any new folks to the CoP who fit our membership scope, please direct anyone you would like to invite to our Community of Practice info online.

 

A reminder we are gathering and sharing COVID-19 food security resources here

March 17 Conversation Recap

March 17 Community of Practice Slides

Message to the CoP Listserv:

Spending time in conversation with those of you who were able to join us for last week’s gathering was certainly an anchor for us in these uncertain times; how grateful we feel to already have a CoP practiced in coming together and supporting each other virtually.

We adapted our plans – lucky that we already had a call scheduled – to hold space for where folks were at over Tuesday’s lunch hour. We spoke about how to ensure there’s food access for folks in our communities right now, the tension in moving both slowly but also feeling a sense of urgency, and decolonizing care in pandemic times.

Folks expressed interest in exploring more on what mutual aid networks, community care, and social connection can look like over physical distance (the world’s Wicked Question!) towards community food security. So many of the systems within the food system are having both their resilience, vulnerabilities, and injustices amplified right now. We discussed the emergency food system and agricultural labour system as just two manifestations of this.

We heard that folks want to come together more often in this time of deep context change, uncertainly, and need for connection and resource sharing.

Let’s do it.

From now until the end of May, we’ll plan to hold time for the Community of Practice to come together twice a month.

We’ll keep open to adapting and shifting how we use this time as it serves folks showing up and our changing context. For now, we’ll broadly hold space and facilitate us through the question:

How do people working in food continue to do the core functions of community food security right now?

We ask that you:

March 31 Conversation Recap

March 31 Community of Practice Slides

 

Message to the CoP Listserv:

Thanks for the great virtual CoP gathering yesterday. A brief recap of the conversation follows along with details of how the CoP and Gateway is reorienting to support us coming together more frequently in this next stretch of pandemic context. 

While we pivot and respond to this new shared context, we are holding a Wicked Question, How can we both be feeling a sense of urgency to move and act while also feeling compelled to slow down and take stock?

As we make these shifts, we are also holding close the teachings of Adaptive/Emergent Strategy and the brilliant adrienne marie brown

 

 

We experimented with our first virtual Open Space yesterday and, thanks to a little Zoom magic and everyone’s patience, it worked! Three groups broke off hosted by participants on:

  • How to create a food security plan
  • Provincial support for local food security response
  • How can non-profits support schools in coming up with solutions for students who are food insecure

 

Our thinking to date for next week’s call is to do another Open Space. This would be an opportunity to continue/deepen conversation on these topics, or, offer others you would like to host.

April 7 Conversation Recap

April 7 Community of Practice Slides

 

Message to the CoP Listserv:

We took some time to lean into slowing down this week and began our time together with a few rounds of one-on-one conversation to ask:

What is the conversation you really need to have today?

What has been helpful to you, your organization, network, community in this time?

We moved from here into our third Open Space. Our conversations in the Open Space so far have included:

    • Activating emergency food access systems
    • Urban food growing in pandemic context
    • How to create a food security plan
    • Provincial support for local food security response
    • How can non-profits support schools in coming up with solutions for students who are food insecure

 

We had a subset of these again in our smaller participant-hosted conversations.

To close, we returned to a favourite closing round Liberating Structure, 15% Solutions:

15% Solutions show that there is no reason to wait around, feel powerless, or fearful. They get individuals and the group to focus on what is within their discretion instead of what they cannot change. You can reveal the actions, however small, that everyone can do immediately. At a minimum, these will create momentum, and that may make a BIG difference.

 

This was contextualized in white supremacy culture and a consideration of how its characteristics of perfectionism, sense of urgency, and bigger/more progress, are manifesting right now.

 

 

Some of what folks offered as their 15%:

  • Checking in with people, what resources they might need, and offering to help co-facilitate a Zoom meeting
  • Deep listening at the local community level and conversation at regional and provincial level grounded in local need
  • Growing food and making videos on growing food at home
  • Shift attention to community need and resist being pulled in so many directions
  • Facilitate and bring partners together behind the scenes
  • Creating partnerships tending to those already burgeoning that can last beyond this
  • Continue to keep in touch and support partners we are funding
  • Going for a walk with my kid
  • Sharing back notes from what is heard in conversations but keeping it small
  • Soft launching a series with women with lived experience on true face of food insecurity in our communities

 

April 21 Conversation Recap

April 21 Community of Practice Slides

We welcomed a cozy group this week of folks from the settled lands known in colonial geography as the Kootenays, North Okanagan, Kamloops, Bella Coola, Powell River, Victoria, and Vancouver. This offered the opportunity to spend the call time all together and pause the smaller Open Space conversations of the previous weeks.

 

Our CoP conversations to date have been marked by many themes, including community care. To open, we shared guiding questions from the brilliant writing of Susan Raffo on community care in COVID:

 

 

  • What can be deepened and supported that already exists?
  • What can be built in response to this moment, something quick and temporary that will be dismantled on the other side?
  • What can be started now that will be carried forward into ten years, twenty years, two generations and more? 

 

 

These questions are incredibly alive within the CoP as community food security and sovereignty is addressing all of them in COVID-times; supporting existing systems and relationships; building new food access points that might be dismantled on the other side; and, thinking into what this context has to teach us for long term food systems planning.

 

As we sometimes do with a smaller group, we slowed down to do an opening round asking folks to share what they have been noticing, and what they’re proud of looking back on the 5 or so weeks we’ve been in pandemic context. Some of what was said:

 

What we’re noticing…

 

  • Vulnerability of long supply chains across food systems
  • What has always been essential is actually now being named as such
  • More people interested in gardening
  • Emergency food and community food systems are being collapsed into the same thing
  • My community is finally recognizing we’re really vulnerable and need to put a food policy plan in place
  • Food bank demand is up 30% in my community
  • My organization doesn’t have the infrastructure to feel connected right now – we need to pump the brakes and do relationship building work
  • Disaster capitalism and the entrenchment of power is rearing its head
  • The charity narrative is dominating and being funded by the charitable disposition of the public although community food systems are filling all the gaps with much less funding

 

What we’re proud of…

 

  • The infrastructure and relationships woven into community food security giving us something to lean on right now
  • Being part of the Community of Practice and the foundation that’s been laid around community food security and food sovereignty
  • Farmers market that was started last summer is coming together in my city
  • Being able to support emergency food group in my community and co-facilitating an online meeting of farmers with social planning
  • Policies we’ve been talking about for a while are flying through city council approval
  • The small neighbourhood responses getting food to folks in low barrier dignified way

 

Coming out of our round, the conversations folks wanted to dig into were:

How do we create a food security strategy that is actually going to be implemented?

What are our campaign/communication ideas on the value of a local food system knowing we have an opportunity right now and big food will fight back?

How do we amplify and organize voices on the ground at the provincial level?

What do equity frameworks have to offer to food system efforts towards decolonization, unpacking white and settler privilege, and anti-racism?

*(We collectively shared some resources around equity frameworks in food: King County Equity and Social Justice Strategic Plan, Racial Equity in the Food System webinar, and Racial Equity Implementation Guide for Food Hubs. We’ll keep adding racial equity + food resources to the Gateway here.)

 

We had an amazing intimate conversation that at least tugged on most of these threads. We offer these questions to give a sense of the discussion without trying to do every detail of it justice in a recap.

 

We’ll gather again as the CoP for our biweekly conversations on May 5 and 19, and go back to our regular third Tuesday monthly sessions in June.