The Food Systems Leadership Network is a national peer learning community that connects current and emerging leaders, strengthens individual and collective leadership capacity, and fosters collaboration across communities. The goal of the network is to accelerate the realization of a just, equitable, and sustainable food system that generates good food, health, and opportunity for all.
The FSLN is facilitated by the Wallace Center at Winrock International to serve and support the growing community of individual leaders, organizations, businesses, and public agencies involved in building a good farming and food system in the United States.
We see a dynamic, resilient, racially-just and sustainable food system emerging in communities across the country. Leading this change are thousands of individuals, organizations, and businesses working in all parts and at all scales of the food system.
We envision these leaders linked through a living network of shared purpose, learning, and action that advances social justice locally, regionally, and nationally.
The FSLN cultivates relationships of trust and solidarity among food systems leaders – at the local, regional, and national level – and provides a platform for sharing knowledge and skill, building collective power and purpose, and acting collaboratively to transform the food system.
Our programs, online presence, and engagement across the US offer food systems leaders, organizations, and businesses opportunities to work more effectively, better utilize existing resources, and gain access to new models, learnings, and experiences to advance their work.
We develop and offer an accessible and varied suite of opportunities for leaders to deepen their professional and technical skills and organizational capacity via virtual and in-person learning settings that are both peer- and expert-led.
We facilitate an inclusive, diverse, and robust network of food systems leaders, and encourage relationship building, information exchange, collaboration, and co-learning through stories, examples, and mutual support.
We collaborate with community-based, regional, and national allies to align movement strategies, leverage our resources and skills, and increase access to ideas, expertise, and innovations.
modeling elements of a better food system
We demonstrate, scale, and share desirable and viable elements of a better food system so others can clearly see what’s possible.
Our work is guided by a deep belief in and respect for the lived experience, expertise, and creativity of the people and communities working to build healthy, equitable, racially-just and sustainable food systems, especially those most impacted by the dominant, extractive, industrial system.
We advocate for “leadership in every seat.” Everyone has the capacity to lead using their own unique talents and aspirations, regardless of their position, age, gender, physical ability, class, or race.
We believe that food systems leadership is realized when a group of people harmonize their vision for the future they want to create and align their actions so that the sum of what they do together far exceeds what any one individual or organization can do alone.
To achieve this kind of transformational, systems leadership, we believe a unique set of skills must be cultivated and nurtured in every person: the ability to see and understand the system we are trying to change, the ability to facilitate reflection, dialogue, and coordinated action, and the ability to serve as a leader grounded in racial and social equity, radical inclusion, and a shared vision for the future.
We see networks as a key strategy for realizing this kind of collective action and systems leadership. We strive to democratize access to all opportunities created through this network, emphasizing support to leaders and organizations from black, brown, indigenous, and other communities of color as well as historically disinvested communities.
The Food Systems Leadership Network is a growing community of leaders and organizations working to realize a just, equitable, and sustainable food system that generates good food, health, and opportunity for all. Network members represent rural, urban, and tribal communities in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia and work across the food value chain. A majority of FSLN members are on the ground food systems practitioners working at non-profit organizations and food and farm businesses, with consultants, government and extension agents, and funders also contributing to this community.
The Food Systems Leadership Network was established in 2018 by the Wallace Center to support organizations and individuals working on food systems change and provide them with opportunities for peer-to-peer learning, professional development, and relationship building. The Wallace Center plays an active role hosting the FSLN as a supporter, facilitator, weaver, and capacity builder. The FSLN backbone team at the Wallace Center organizes learning opportunities and resources; connects members to one another to share learning and support, deploys mentors, weavers, trainers, and experts to share their knowledge and experience with FSLN members, and develops and disseminates models and cases about what works.
In 2020, the FSLN pulled in the resources, expertise, and partners from the Wallace Center’s National Good Food Network (NGFN), a community of practice for food hubs and food-focused social enterprises focused on scaling up good food. With the FSLN’s focus on systems leadership and racial equity is complemented with the NGFN’s technical and business expertise, the FSLN is becoming a stronger, more effective, network for food systems practitioners working across the value chain.
By uniting these two distinct yet overlapping networks under the FSLN umbrella, the Wallace Center aims to create a stronger, more diverse, and more connected community of leaders with easier access to opportunities for learning, new potential for partnerships, and a larger network of peers to tap into.