The Network Activation Series
Networks are a powerful force for systems change. The 21st century has given us incredible new tools for connecting with others and building networks in ways once thought unimaginable. But the work of building and sustaining networks isn’t easy, especially when that work is being done through a computer screen. Building strong, trusting relationships, aligning around shared values and common goals, maintaining commitment to a network as it evolves, funding network development work… these are complicated undertakings. And yet doing this work thoughtfully and intentionally is essential to building impactful networks for change.
The Network Activation Series, hosted by the Food Systems Leadership Network, is a space to learn with and from peers about strategies and best practices for dealing with some of the common challenges of building and sustaining impactful networks. Embracing an emergent and highly participatory design, we intend to model and practice network leadership and emergent strategy through the series. Through this shared learning journey, we aim to increase our collective capacity to accelerate food systems change through networks. Explore the series below!
February 2021: The Why and How of Building & Sustaining Networks
During the first call in the series we explored why networks are important tools for building equitable food systems and discussed common challenges and successful strategies for creating and sustaining networks.
March 2021: Trust as the Foundation to Impactful Networks
In our first call, trust emerged as being foundational for network building. So in the series’ second call we brainstormed strategies for building trust between groups, and shared situations that challenge trust between partners and how to deal with those challenges.
May 2021: Fostering Alignment Within Networks
In the third call of the FSLN’s Network Activation series, we explored how to foster alignment amongst a network’s participants by workshopping real-world challenges faced by FSLN members. Cases explored developing inclusive food systems action plans, building and maintaining member-led networks, and how food policy councils might support equitable access to funding opportunities. Notes and ideas generated can be found here.
August 2021: Embedding Racial Equity in Networks
This call offered space for network members to dig into what it means and looks like to operationalize racial equity in our networks. We explored four dimensions of change within networks that can be leveraged for lasting impact: the how (operations), the why (communications), the who (people), and the what (programs) and shared strategies within each that networks can take to foster equitable opportunities and outcomes. Check out the notes and add your ideas here.
October 2021: Sustaining Engagement in Networks
We spoke with folks from Community Food Strategies, Black Church Food Security Network, National Young Farmers Coalition, and Alabama Sustainable Agriculture Network to explore what it takes to sustain interest and energy in networks, and the different approaches to doing so.
December 2021: Communicating the Value of Networks
Measuring and communicating the impact of a network can be complicated and complex. This call crowdsources challenges and strategies for telling the story of your network. Notes here.