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The Staple Foods Network Project | Lessons Learned from a WEB Network Innovation Seed Fund Project

 

By MaryAnn Martinez


 

MaryAnn Martinez is a non-profit director and interdisciplinary food systems scholar. She is currently aPhD candidate at Antioch Graduate School of Leadership and Change. Her work is in place-based food systems, and community-based food networks as catalysts for social innovation and transformative change. In addition, MaryAnn has over 10 years of experience as a vegetable and livestock farmer, in both for-profit and social enterprises -http://maryann-martinez.squarespace.com

 

The History

In 2008, the Appalachian Staple Foods Collaborative began to assess what was necessary for a regional organic staple grain and bean value chain in Appalachia. Michelle Ajamian who, along with her partner Brandon, runs Shagbark Seed and Mill in Athens, OH, had the vision, and began to reach out and form relationships with others interested in staple foods. Ten years later, this informal collaborative had grown from a handful to several hundred farmers, bakers, millers, and others around the country who are focusing on local, heirloom and organic grains and beans. 

 

Now a for a bit of a necessary segue.....

 

Why a staple foods network? 

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LLC Webinar Series | Confronting Wicked Problems: 5 Strategies for Reimagined Leadership in the Social Sector

 

Confronting Wicked Problems: 5 Strategies for Reimagined Leadership in the Social Sector with Lynn Fick-Cooper

 

July 23, 2019

10:00 - 11:30 PST | 1:00 - 2:30 EST

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What We Are Learning From Our Work with Networks

LLC has been providing network building support to a number of emerging networks, and we ourselves are on a journey to be more network centric in our own work. Ericka, our fabulous new Co-Director, recently asked a great question, “How are we applying (or not) what we are learning from our work with other networks to ourselves?” Time to take a look in the mirror. Hopefully these three lessons and the strategies that suggest will be helpful to you as well.

Realistically, we are still a spoke and hub network, not where we would like to be at all. In the diagram below, notice the network image that looks like a bicycle wheel where most communications occur between the center (staff) and members of the network, rather than among members of the network. This image is a fair characterization of LLC at this point because most of our work is still directed by our staff with some experiments in supporting network driven initiatives intended to help move us along this spectrum to become a stronger multi-hub network with the ultimate goal of being a systems shifting network contributing to justice and equity.

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What it takes to shift Power

Perhaps because my background is in organizing and advocacy, for me the purpose of my work supporting leadership is to shift power. Looking at who has power and who doesn’t and then shifting that balance. 

 

I think we accomplish shifting power by actually creating opportunities for people with less power, marginalized and directly impacted people, to have real power over the conditions which impact their lives, not just “a voice” which power-holders can choose to hear or not. If we are to build leadership support structures that value equity we must intentionally assess and question how power and authority are distributed, in our society and in our institutions. 

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LLC Webinar Seriesl A Conversation with Mujeres Unidas y Activas: Shifting Power from the Inside Out

 

A Conversation with Mujeres Unidas y Activas Shifting Power from the Inside Out: Lessons on Centering the Leadership of Impacted Communities

 

June 20, 2019

10 - 11:30 PST | 1 - 2:30 EST

Join us for a Bilingual (English/Spanish) Webinar featuring Mujeres Unidas y Activas (MUA).  MUA is an intergenerational grassroots organization led by, and for, Latina immigrant women with a double mission of promoting personal transformation and building community power for social and economic justice. MUA is an intergenerational grassroots organization led by, and for, Latina immigrant women. MUA’s innovative leadership development model trains members to plan and implement their programs and campaigns at all levels. MUA is proud to be a national model for Latina immigrant empowerment and organizing, and to have created a healthy, sustainable, grassroots-membership led organization.

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Creating Space 2019 - Tell us what you think!

The LLC team is excited to be working on the next Creating Space event, tentatively planned for Fall 2019 in Detroit, MI. Creating Space was

first held in 1998 to test the idea that people doing leadership development would benefit from connecting our learning and that first Creating Space became the mandate for LLC's formation two years later. Creating Space is a truly innovative event which brings together practitioners, funders, evaluators, students, and others passionate about leadership. This event is unlike other conferences, and is more akin to an “unconference.” Creating Space is a gathering that allows folks to build authentic relationships and think differently while learning and sharing new tools, practices, and ways of being. Since LLC strives to walk it as we talk it, Creating Space intentionally embodies LLC’s core values. Because equity is an essential value for LLC, we intend for Creating Space to be a convening which pushes the edges of centering equity, particularly centering directly impacted people.

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Leadership and Governance

Leadership is at the very heart of the ways in which we work, the processes through which we act and learn. We talk

about what it means to center equity in leadership and this week I had the opportunity to delve more deeply into

what this actually looks like with a wise group of people tackling questions of governance, for us the context was networks, and yet the questions are real for all justice loving people.

 

 

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How do we practice collective leadership when some parts of the leadership development practice feel individual?

 

LLC has spent a great deal of time and energy encouraging leadership funders and practitioners to expand and evolve their thinking on the very concept of leadership. To think about leadership not simply using what is called the “lone hero” model or lens. When the story of social change is told, it usually involves a few brave men, and occasionally women, who through grit, determination, and perhaps a superpower or two, save the day by individually ushering in change. This approach often excludes many from participating, upholds hierarchical, and often oppressive systems, and is frequently ahistoric, invisiblizing all of the non-household names, often less-privileged folks, who labored to make change possible.

 

Instead, LLC has supported efforts to think about leadership in more expansive, accessible, equitable, inclusive and democratic ways. Networked leadership is one example, creating a broad base of leadership rather than one leader to lead them all.

 

But the actual practice of inclusive and networked leadership is challenging. Often, supports are provided to or experienced by individual people, not whole communities, networks or demographic groups simultaneously. Smart and effective leadership processes encourage participants to engage in personal internal reflection, to build authentic relationships with other individuals, attend skills-building training sessions where a person individually chooses to show-up, etc;  So how do we practice collective leadership when some parts of the leadership development practice feel individual?

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Three lessons on Leadership Development From Reverend William Barber and the Poor People’s Campaign

 

As three full days were coming to close at the Othering and Belonging Conference, I could not imagine that there was any space left in my overflowing brain or heart, that was, until Reverend William Barber of the Poor People’s Campaign took the stage. I was riveted for the next hour, and my thoughts have returned repeatedly to several lessons about leadership. I encourage you to listen to the video of his speech yourself.

 

First, as context, the leadership that Reverend Barber inspires is squarely anchored in the pursuit of our full humanity, without pulling any punches. He resurrected what he describes as the often forgotten tenets of Martin Luther King Jr.’s struggle for wholeness, the fight against systemic racism, poverty and militarization. As someone with a passion for social justice leadership, I found myself listening for ideas about leadership, who leads, and how.

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