What next - thoughts from the food world

A question that comes to mind: what organizational shapes could OGM evolve that meet a premeditated outcome?

Here is one example that just passed through, the ‘Food for Climate League’. It’s a 501c3 non-profit, but clearly they intent to not just self-finance, but also thrive in their endeavor. I love everything about it.

There is quite some energy in the Benefit Corporation space, again pros and cons. Also important to think that multiple such structures could come underneath an umbrella, with a coordinating function in mind.

Endless options; I’m solidly committed to the food space, generally agreed is low hanging fruit. It will be the most logical next battle ground, and any missteps on a macro level would be catastrophic, existential.

The Croatan Institute is focused on Fixed-Income Investing in Regenerative Agriculture and Resilient Food Systems.

NGOs are working to align themselves around topics that are dearly held, such as vegans vs. omnivores or animal rights activists against eating meat. This webinar organized by the Organic Consumer Association, one of our members in the Regenerative movement, is the most intelligent approach I have seen yet to find alignment around a common objective. All 3 speakers explained their pov from a systems perspective; excellent insight into the complex issues surrounding the food systems transformation.

So what’s the practical task/action here and what would be the rough time horizon for its scope/completion?

can you join the discussion? Focus on: Soil, Agriculture, Food, Regeneration

I likely can technically, but are trying to apply/introduce some project management to this Action! category, (ab)using it as a task tracker more or less. So the action can come from describing some small/short/easy tangible steps for people to carry out over a limited time scope (of a few weeks or similar), after which the result and progress can be reviewed, if action/activity did actually take place or not (and if not, why so?). If Action! is not like that, then of course it’s always universally the case that everybody of us is already doing a whole lot of action/activities, and everybody can always join everybody else’s big crusade/project/mission/vision, and these large movements over long time frames are presented in all of the other categories. By contrast, the place of this category could be for many small, iterative steps adding up over time, especially for people to participate and contribute who don’t want or can’t commit to any vague or large endeavor, or are not used to such or want at first to experiment and play a little before they become more involved/engaged.

Another difficulty could be that the talk/discussion might not be the action/doing that changes things. We’re all talking all the time about many things, and discussion about many topics go on everywhere for a long time and even decades, but it sometimes seems like the hard part is the doing or changing, as talk is easy, cheap, convenient, but also sometimes of not much effect. I think the soil doesn’t care nor know what we think or discuss about it, but what does matter a whole lot is what we do to/with it. Sure there can be conceptual work, identifying/analyzing the problem, proposing solutions - for action, what’s the tangible steps one could carry out today? As it’s often enough the case that proposals for action can’t be followed by everyone, or some don’t want to, etc.

For sure the thinking has to change and the understanding has to grow, and we usually do that by communicating, updating one brain at a time, so this might hopefully lead to a change in behavior/actions. On the other hand, is also very slow, expensive, might fail, and there’s lots of it with the many complex problems we’re facing, nobody has the time/capacity/interest to even catch up with the many important things. Therefore, what would be your wants/needs, or the condensation/translation of the current understanding into tangible steps that would aid/help the cause, if one were to have an hour, a day, a week available to invest/contribute, or 1000$, or a piece of land, or a distribution channel to sell something, or a spare page in a magazine to promote/advertise an idea, etc. etc.?

Sounds good, yes/no? I read your proposal/invitation as calling everybody who reads this to join the discussion on soil, agriculture, food and regeneration, as one action/activity step that can be taken now.

I basically agree with your thoughts, but have to question where would all these smaller iterative steps lead to? Shouldn’t we have a destination in mind as a first step?

Yes, that’s right. So if we’re not entirely clear on destination or there are several of them, one practical first step could be to identify the destination (or at least the general direction towards such a place/goal), and describe it to onboard people onto such a path. Could be that your invitation and links above are already offering an overview and ways to engage, is that what you’re saying? Or is this proposal about doing some work for potentially figuring out how people could get involved with questions of soil and food production?

From the current OGM check-in call, I pick up that in these organizations/communities, there are some different groups concerned about different aspects, but it sounds like you’re already working with them for synergy and coordination. Are the/some of the problems already identified and analyzed (what’s causing them, etc.), and what the points are where practical actions/changes could be applied? Maybe just I’m not much aware of the current state of what the answers might be, and I think that could be the case as well for a bunch of other random people who are around.

Or to get very specific and practical: for your question on the very top, I think there are several plans/ideas posted elsewhere how OGM could be set up and organize itself, which is not only and exclusively around food, but might support that domain, and the other way around, not all activities and supporting functions necessarily need to rely/depend on the OGM organizational structures to support OGM or food concerns. Could be that you’re suggesting OGM could/should be set up as a benefit corporation, and people should help with investigating this option or help with setting it up. Who knows, OGM organizational stuff seems to be mostly many different ideas and visions by different people, and much of it is discussed privately so one can’t really have any kind of overview where things are currently at, and then I would assume that neither you nor me nor other people have some kind of formal affiliation with any kind of organization called “OGM” or a particular benefit corporation for this purpose. I’m personally not a business, not an investor, not an attonery, not a policymaker, (and others might not either), so I wonder what I would be supposed to do with/for it.

With the Food for Climate League, their landing page says they’re mostly doing research and promotions. I have trouble figuring out what they want/need or what they offer, as I do not have a new sustainable food product I’m producing to report to them (I’m not producing any food sustainable or not, which likely is also true for some other people), not a menu concept as I’m not operating a restaurant or offering services to the gastronomic industry, and for awareness, I’m not doing any campaigns myself, would be more of a not terribly aware consumer myself and a customer for what the league does at best. And this way, I’m not much sure what the league is offering/providing, except material to read like the books from the book shop or some report/magazine. And then with information overload, I have plenty, just a massive amount of other things to read, listen, watch, so that’s kind of a problem. In the same way, you’re probably not reading all the reports and books and what not by all of the other people and initiatives, and that’s where we’re all commonly at.

Apologies for length, but it’s just another example of the very problem, lots to talk, discuss, learn, very little time/capacity, and - caused by overload - very little practical action/progress on all fronts unfortunately.

Can we accept that photosynthesis is on par with energy, meaning that we cannot restore nature simply by reducing our energy footprint, but also have to pull carbon back into the soil where it belongs. That implies the need for behavioral adaptations in the way we interact with nature that are equal in scope to how we use energy.

There have been behavioral modifications in the energy sector, turning down the thermostat, insulating the home, driving an energy efficient car, changing the light bulbs etc. Go to Lowe’s and we find shelves full of products that help us lower our energy footprint. Cars display their mpg’s, homes their insulation factors, long list of initiatives developed over several decades to influence our behavior.

The carbon content of soil, soil health as measured by soil organic matter (SOM) is not yet on most people’s radar. The most effective way to influence the natural system would be to modify the way we eat. What we buy where, from whom.

A good starting point for our own personal journey would be to pick a spot in the diagram of Theory U, and then engage accordingly. Here is a small [collection] of related topics to provide an introduction and overview, next to another view of Theory U:

To move forward we have to join up in Presencing, seeing reality for what it is. This is a journey unique to each of us, because of our individual backgrounds, and a host of things that have shaped our personality.

We may all be in different stages of discovery, and there may have to be a separate effort to have us come together in Presencing. Moving forward into the Crystalizing phase then has us turn around, from looking at the system for what it is to what it wants to be. That process opens pathways and in fact the need for many skills and talents to join. The applications one could envision are as many and as diverse as there are in the energy sector. The food system is a corner stone of the economy, it encompasses every professional discipline, from tool making to systems design to the humanities.

Designing this next phase should include an opportunity to generate an income. My experience with many non-profit groups leads me to that conclusion. In fact, if the markets are allowed to function and support innovations to go to scale, it is the most powerful organizational structure to move things forward.

Does that help?

A good starting point for our own personal journey would be to pick a spot in the diagram of Theory U,

So pick a spot to start.

What I propose is to pick Crystallizing as the spot to start. Shifting focus from the past, learning from the thousands of years of consciousness awakened and passed forward, and leaning into the future. We pretty much know everything one would need to know; now it is a process of consolidating, defining intentions, and matching available resources with actions.

here is an example of the informal building of relationships between autonomous units that simply step up a do things that need to be done. The Growing Climate Solutions Act that we at CCL/BCL support has drawn a lot of criticism from social justice focused groups. The team collectively learned that unless these incentives are not carefully tailored to the needs of the farmer, this could end up supporting mega farms and large growers only, jeopardizing organic farmers. The Bipartisan Business Council took it upon themselves to organize this amazing conversation that makes it very obvious what needs to be done.

I came across this article 'the role of innovation brokers in agricultural innovation systems’, and have tried to act as if this was my role. Considering the innovations now in process, which could move the markets into the wrong direction, that could be a role to reflect on. It does not require Food systems specialists, just systems thinkers.

I would love to see pictures that represent what success at a proposed approach might look like.

the best visualization I can think of is this farmer telling his story.

But there are other examples:

Farmin’ in the Hood

Empty City Lots turned into micro farms