Creating connections – using the Food Manifesto in your community

By Corinne Cariad

With so much change taking place in the world around us – with Brexit and Covid-19 challenging the status quo – we have the opportunity to shape and transform the way we live and in some places changes are already underway. I wanted to offer my experience of using Food Manifesto Wales as a framework to consider our local and national food system.

I was drawn to Food Manifesto Wales because the invitation to contribute and join the process of creating a ‘food manifesto’ felt genuinely open. Also, because it provides a starting point for talking about food with different people. I like the inclusive and cooperative values of Food Manifesto Wales, and I’ve used it as the basis for discussions with various groups. From people who are deeply invested in the food system, growing, producing and selling food in Wales to people who are interested in the food they buy and eat and to those who don’t give much thought to these things.

I think a national food manifesto is a good idea for all citizens, for our communities and all those directly involved in the food system – to determine with intention the guiding principles for the complex food system we are all part of. I like the simplicity of Food Manifesto Wales’ main point, ‘Everyone in Wales has access to high-quality, nutritious and safe food’. There are nine accompanying action points in support of this, included to cover the wide reach of food in our society now and into the future – considering environmental and economic impacts as well as social aspects from farmers, food workers and animal welfare to education and the enjoyment of food.

Using Food Manifesto Wales as a starting point, what follows are some activities for facilitating conversations about food in Wales. Participants may be drawn together in numerous and intersecting ways – they may be citizens with a shared cause, a community group or an organisation or business. These activities may be delivered as standalone, one-off exercises or you may choose to use some, or all, of them to delve deeper. The order can be varied to suit the group needs. Once the10 points of the Manifesto have been introduced, you will have a good framework and common language to work with.

The more of us working towards the aim of everyone in Wales having access to high-quality, nutritious and safe food, the more likely we will be to achieve it! We are really interested to hear how you’ve used Food Manifesto Wales, so please feedback by e-mail to hello@foodmanifesto.wales. .

Mapping

Mapping is to identify what is already happening in your local geographical area. Although you may already know, taking the time to review your knowledge can be helpful – possibly before planning further actions or activities, or to identify partners and allies, or to identify current or best practice. The detailed discussion usually works best completed by a small group or a large group divided into smaller groups which report back to the large group.

Consider the 10 points of the Food Manifesto and choose those most relevant for your group – you may choose them all! You may consider the points of the Manifesto together, however, to cover points in depth, I suggest discussing 1-2 points in small groups or (if already a small group) consider 1-2 points over different group sessions. For each point you choose:

  • Based on the Food Manifesto Wales points that you have chosen, identify what is available or already happening in your local area or organisation or business. This may be as simple as discussing it or you could look at a map, take an enquiry walk around the area and talk in small groups about what you encounter.
  • Document your discussion: If discussing in situ you could draw/write on a map, mindmap ideas on post-it notes, or nominate a note taker. If walking around the area you could, take photos, record audio/video/written notes.

Next steps: consider what (if anything) you will do with the ideas and information you’ve gathered.

Prioritising

I’ve found it helpful to consider with groups how the 10 points of the Food Manifesto intersect (do some points rely on or support other points?), and/or to identify the priority points for the group. It may be a stand-alone activity or used before/following another activity. In small groups:

  • Discuss the 10 points and consider if you can/want to arrange them in an order of priority and/or identify those most relevant to the group. You may also discuss intersections between the points. Remember, there is no correct or incorrect answer. The aim is to promote discussion and to encourage all participants to contributemultiple perspectives will enrich the discussion and everyone’s understanding.
  • If doing further work, it is helpful to document your discussion and/or priorities via photographs, notes, audio/video recording.
  • If small groups are part of a larger group, it can be useful to share a summary of the smaller group discussions with everyone else and see if there is any commonality with action points the group consider most important, this can help to identify the groups’ priorities.

Next steps: the priority and/or intersection discussion can be used to inform planning any subsequent actions.

Visioning exercise

Before starting a new project or action it helps to consider what all involved envision. Following this comes agreement on what you want to achieve collectively, your shared vision. This activity is useful before planning actions/activities to set the intention and aim. It follows on well from the Mapping Activity.

Identifying and discussing different perspectives to create a shared vision can help everyone feel heard and more likely to invest their time, energy and support. It can also help maintain motivation to ultimately achieve the ambition of the shared vision.

In small groups choose one or two of the 10 points to focus on. As before, you may consider more, however, to cover points in depth I suggest discussing 1-2 points in small groups or (if already a small group) consider 1-2 points over different group sessions. For each point you choose:

  • Encourage everyone to share their vision with no limits to the ambition of these dreams and ideas – there are no ‘wrong’ ideas! It’s important not to shut any ideas down, yours or anyone else’s. You may choose to do this individually to begin with and then share your visions in the group, or, begin visioning together.
  • Document your visioning in whatever way feels appropriate. Creativity can help here, such as creating a collage from magazines, newspapers, pictures or texts; drawing or painting; free-writing; recording your idea with audio or video; or more traditional ways such as putting ideas on post-it notes or note-taking from discussion.

Next steps: share and/or display your vision and use it as the basis for your next step (if you’re taking one). Refer back to your shared vision whenever you need to, as inspiration to help keep on track and aid motivation.

Make connections

This activity is useful to identify potential ways of making connections and/or when collaborating with others. For example, connections/collaborations may be with one or more of the following: citizens coming together; established community groups; local authorities and services (incl. public service boards); organisations; businesses; Welsh Government. It may be used instead of or with other activities here, following ‘Mapping’ or in conjunction with ‘Prioritising’.

Recognising that the food system in Wales is complex with numerous intersections, making connections and collaborative working is vital for long-term and sustainable change. However, there may be other forces at play in terms of competition for resources and sensitivities around sharing business or sector knowledge. A shared agreement to establish trust may be helpful (such as The Courtauld Agreement).

  • Each participant/specific group identifies which of the 10 points they are most focused on, interested in or have influence/involvement with. Take notes/document and share with others – this could be a simple aide memoire or a more formal presentation.
  • Each participant/group shares their specific area of focus, interest and/or influence/involvement. Take notes/document this for future reference.

Next steps: all participants/groups encouraged to identify how they would like to connect or collaborate with others. This could be used to take further joint action and/or to support each other. A shared aim will help, such as ‘To work towards realising the common purpose of, “Everyone in Wales has access to high-quality, nutritious and safe food”.’ 

Please have a look at the toolkit that Sustainable Food Places has produced – it’s a great resource for just this type of work.


Corinne Cariad is a freelance consultant, coach and writer specialising in food education, structural organisation and event facilitation. She is an experienced food teacher and has taught in mainstream schools, the secure estate, as well as family and adult education.