This webinar will share the experience of the Central Appalachia Food Systems Working Group, a partnership between the Appalachia Funders Network and the Central Appalachian Network (a group of practitioners), to explore of the potential for strategic collaboration between food system funders and practitioners. Through this partnership, sub-regional groups of funders and practitioners work together to analyze their local food system, identify capacity caps, and prioritize collective strategies. The results of these conversations were channeled into a USDA Rural Development grant, the Rural Community Development Initiative, which if successful, will support the strategies developed by these funder-practitioner collaborators.
So what for funders? Funders are generally hesitant to work together on concrete projects, and are even more reluctant to partner with practitioners in developing grantmaking strategies. This tendency limits opportunities for funders to engage candidly with the work on the ground, constrains their ability to explore new strategies, and ultimately holds back their effectiveness at supporting food systems development. With the encouragement and structure of the Appalachia Funders Network, numerous funders have broken this pattern to engage with practitioners, deepen their analysis of the food system, and participate in collaborative strategy development that is coordinated and connected across the region.
Our hope is that this example can inspire and inform other food system funders to explore collaborations with practitioner groups or networks. We will share a network collaboration model and a strategy development process whose lessons can be adapted for use in other regions besides Appalachia.