Systems LEadership retreats

Leading food systems change can be extraordinarily exciting and fulfilling while simultaneously complex and time-consuming. It takes dedication, persistence, and a holistic set of skills and tools to not only deeply understand the forces at play, but also to foster and facilitate the collective leadership needed to shift them. Having the space to explore new ways of thinking while tapping into the collective wisdom, strength, and knowledge of this community has the power to rejuvenate, inspire, and create a lasting support network.

The FSLN’s Food Systems Leadership Retreats provide FSLN members with the time and space to learn, practice, and refine the tools of systems leadership, reflect upon their personal and professional leadership journeys, and build relationships of solidarity with their peers.

What has most changed about my understanding of systems leadership since this retreat is that I always knew it would take broad based collaboration to make change, but I didn’t really see any movement big enough to actually have the potential to accomplish that change. This retreat is the first time I’ve seen sparks of that potential.
– New Orleans Food Systems Leadership Retreat Participant (2018)

Together we will explore three interconnected skills of food systems leaders: 

  • The ability to see and understand the whole system we are trying to change (systems thinking);
  • The skill of enabling others to see the system for what it is (facilitation of reflection and dialogue); and
  • The ability to serve as a leader grounded in racial equity, inclusion, and a shared vision for the future (leading from the future).

Food systems leaders must be grounded in racial equity and inclusion; progress is not possible without actively and consistently addressing and dismantling inequities through the work we do. When we embody this, we can more meaningfully engage our communities in the process of transformative change and collectively create the world we want to live in. As we develop new eyes for seeing the systems in which we work, we’ll look to the core of the patterns we seek to change, challenging popular ways of thinking and doing. It’s a tall order, but the results of this approach to leadership are truly profound. 

  • High five for an insightful and transformative few days together during the 2018 Kansas City Leadership Retreat!

What You’ll Gain

Over the course of the retreat, you can expect to walk away with: 

  • Inspiration: a new way to see your work and your leadership from a systems-change lens.
  • Strengthened facilitation skills: whether you have led one meeting or hundreds, you will have the opportunity to practice facilitation skills that you can take home to help you bring your community together.
  • Systems thinking tools: moving beyond theories of change, you will get tools that help you diagnose the vicious cycles that keep your community from creating the future it wants – and how to change that.
  • Methods of unlocking the learning and wisdom of individuals in groups: you will experience peer coaching strategies to help leaders and community members answer their own questions with support from others.
  • A peer support network: you will meet and spend meaningful time with fellow food systems leaders who share your passion for change and wrestle with similar challenges. In the months following the retreat you’ll have opportunities to remain in relationship and solidarity with your peers.

It provides crucial reflective time … to engage in understanding anti-racist work and visions what you want for yourself.
– FSNE Network Leadership Institute Participant (2019)

The Retreats are co-designed and facilitated by the Wallace Center and 10 Circles, a leading consultancy in systems thinking and systems leadership that has worked with a wide diversity of organizations to successfully facilitate change and collaboration across the food system. Together, we have convened over 80 FSLN members for Food Systems Leadership Retreats in Detroit, MI in 2017, New Orleans, LA and Kansas City, MO in 2018, and Durham, NH in 2019. Read more about 10 Circles here.

Because we believe these skills are so important for leaders on the front lines of systems change, all participants receive full scholarships covering tuition and room & board for the duration of the in-person retreats. We have a limited number of travel scholarships available to those where these costs present a financial hardship and would limit their ability to participate. This year, we are working to translate the retreat curriculum into a virtual setting so that more network members can participate. Stay tuned for more information!

Interested in Learning More?

  • Read up on systems leadership with this introductory article
  • Explore systems leadership resources and join the conversation in this Systems Leadership Discussion Group
  • Learn from the Non-Profit Boot Camp eLearning Series on Systems Leadership

Hear from previous retreat participants about their experiences

“I hope to be able to share some of the tools with my team and implement them individually. For example, I know I can utilize the Dialogue Walk right away. Other tools, like Forcefield Analysis, Mental Models and the Iceberg Model, are things that I think can be incorporated into our theory of change process and strategic planning.
– New Orleans Food Systems Leadership Retreat Participant (2018)

“It reiterated the importance of taking a step back to really understand causation at a deep level. It is easy to get caught up in the day to day, but a real systems leader will take the time to step back to assess the root cause of the problem.
– Detroit Food Systems Leadership Retreat participant (2017) 

“It has changed the way I do my day­ to­ day work and how I think about myself. 
– FSNE Network Leadership Institute Participant (2019)

“I did not know what to expect and left feeling like I had received something I had so needed and did not realize.
New Orleans Food Systems Leadership Retreat Participant (2018)

Email with ‘Leadership Retreats’ in the subject line, or call Susan at (501) 280-3076.