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Infusing Value in Supply – SELRS Update December 23, 2011

Posted by gfsa in Community Stories.

It’s almost the end of the year and a natural time to reflect on the year past.  Our project (SELRS) really only kicked off in the last 6 months but there is much to consolidate and reflect on. This blog is about just one part of the many insights we’ve gathered in this short time.

As we’ve mentioned before – on the 12th December we gathered together our guiding group and community animators from GFSA for a ‘sense-making’ workshop: to consolidate what we have learned so far with our asset mapping and plan next steps for SELRS. One of our key objectives for this workshop was to understand what a food system is.

Our last two blog posts shared parts of our inquiry into the second ‘S’ in SELRS – the System for food. In the first blog (https://gfsa.wordpress.com/2011/11/15/digesting-the-global-food-system-selrs-update/)- we reflected on the complexity, confusion and the convoluted-ness of the global food system as it is right now. In the second (https://gfsa.wordpress.com/2011/12/05/destination-sitopia-selrs-update/) we started to look at what a different kind of food system could be – one rooted in local, in place and then growing outward from there.

Reflecting on our workshop, we feel we reached our objective (many times over!) as we were able to build an understanding of what the food system is that we are working to build, how it relates to our current food system, how it is different from the current food system, and a sense of where our work is taking us – globally as well as locally.

And thanks to Shelley Keyes of SK Transitions who joined us as graphic facilitator for the workshop – we are able to illustrate our understanding and see this conversation more clearly.

We realised that we are aiming to build a food system that is based on values and with the goal to feed people, where money is a tool in that system – but is not the commanding purpose of the system (middle part of the image – titled Values Chain).

We have called this a VALUES based food system where the values are the principles and pillars that uphold the system. These pillars are the Sustainable, Equitable, Local and Regenerative identifiers in SELRS. We know that relationships between people are necessary and are the foundation of the model. In the diagram we have used the acronym ‘CFS’ – for community food system: it is system rooted in place and in the relationships of the community that it feeds.

Contrast this to today where people are cogs in the wheel of the system, a system where the goal is to make money and food is simply a commodity, a tool to make that money (left side of the image – titled Supply Chain and GFS for global food system).

People and relationships between those people don’t matter as long as the the supply chain keeps working and money keeps being put in the pockets of the people who are running the system. In one conversation we had during our asset mapping, someone put it bluntly but clearly, “There are a lot of ‘pimps’ in the system and they are the ones who benefit from this it, not the producers or the eaters.”

We acknowledged that today both systems: the supply chain food system and values chain food systems are trying to co-exist but there is a disconnect and a clash between them. We also recognised that the only reason they are both in place is because of cheap energy – – which is a changing reality.

The third panel (right side of image) of our discussion board acknowledges that there is the possibility to have a values chain that is also a global food system but we see it is path that is still a bit foggy.  To have a values chain at a global level, we must base it on our experience of values chains at a community level. As we work at the local level – we build the capacity and the infrastructure to support a global food system that is values driven.

So what we have now is a key part of the SELRS framework because we need to understand where we are – what kind of food systems are present in our world, where we want to go, and how those things are related to each other. And we worked all that out in the first 1/4 of our day together!!! Whew! We said we reached beyond our objective!

We are working to put together the complete output of the workshop which includes a more detailed definition of what Sustainable, Equitable, Local and Regenerative mean and look like in our context as well as the beginnings of our action planning for those steps we are taking along the path to a value chain based food system at a community – and then at a global level. Once that is expressed in tangible terms we will share it here.

In the meantime – we wish you all a wonderful holiday season and happy new year!  We are looking forward to walking the path and building a values based food system with you!

Many blessings and much love,

Rene Michalak and Brenda Barritt



1. Angie Dedrick - December 29, 2011

Wow, fantastic work! Bravo to the SELRS Facilitators, Guiding Group and the GFSA Animators for bringing some clarity to our very confusing and frustrating food system. It gives me great hope to see this work!

2. Equity vs. Equality; differences & discoveries – SELRS Update « GFSA News - February 10, 2012

[…] Infusing Value in Supply – SELRS Update […]

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