You are here

Assessing Network Health

In June 2017, Food Solutions New England (FSNE) conducted its first Network Health Assessment. The Assessment was developed to help FSNE organizers better understand network participation and impacts. Over 200 people participated in the assessment, which was distributed through our newsletter list and social media channels.

Results from the survey highlight a number of important findings for FSNE. These results will be used to help improve the network so that it better serves individuals, organizations, and the regional food system. 

For example, we learned that the 21-Day Racial Equity Challenge has been impactful for many. According to one respondent,

“I participated in the 21-Day Racial Equity Challenge and shared it with everyone in my organization. It has helped bring conversations about race and intersectionality to the forefront of our discussions about the food system. We've continued our efforts and are hosting a racial equity training at our offices this fall.”

Others commented on the usefulness of A New England Food Vision. As one respondent said,

“I have used the Vision to provide a context and a justification for efforts to secure the long term viability and expansion of agriculture in my home state. I am using the Vision to as a strategy to decrease greenhouse gas emissions from the food sector and thereby contribute to meeting goals established in state law for green house gas emissions: you can't get to those goals through the dominant food system.”

Major findings and recommendations of the survey are highlighted below; to review the full set of results, click here.

Findings

Recommendations

 

1. Respondents were most representative of agriculture and urban agriculture, education, and health and nutrition, while sectors such as food enterprises, business development and financing, processing and value added, and distribution, were poorly represented. In addition, a major area of the food system—fisheries—was poorly represented.

 

  • Increase efforts to expand network participation among representatives from fisheries
  • Increase efforts to engage more value-chain actors and entrepreneurs

 

 

2. Respondents appreciated learning and sharing opportunities, both virtual and face-to-face, including the 21-Day Racial Equity Challenge, blogs, stories, newsletters, and social media. Respondents would like to see increased communication and education efforts, as well as opportunities for networking, learning, and sharing.

 

  • Prioritize communications and education, focused especially around providing a regional food system and racial equity/food justice perspectives
  • Facilitate networking opportunities, particularly those that are solution-oriented and foster learning and information sharing

 

 

3. Many respondents expressed appreciation for the 21-Day Racial Equity Challenge and noted that FSNE’s commitment to racial equity in the food system has impacted the way they think about and conduct their food system work.

 

  • Increase network weaving and leadership development opportunities (such as the FSNE Network Leadership Institute), particularly in communities of color
  • Continue offering the 21-Day Racial Equity Challenge and/or related learning opportunities, especially those aimed at dismantling white supremacy
  • Continue and seek additional support for the FSNE Racial Equity Ambassadors, especially in the northern states

 

4. Respondents benefited from applying a regional food system lens to their food system planning work at the state/local level.

 

  • Increase availability of a regional food system perspective among state and local advocates through communications, including stories and social media
  • Facilitate opportunities for face-to-face networking and sharing across states

 

5. The FSNE Vision and values are generally viewed favorably. Respondents are using the Vision in a variety of ways. Some seek next steps to actualize the Vision, including outreach, tools, and actions.

 

  • Develop educational/training toolkits, facilitate practical problem solving on obstacles to achieving the Vision, and conduct research in support of advancing the Vision and values

 

El Farrell is a Project Director at the UNH Sustainability Institute.

Featured image of UMass Amherst Dining courtesy of the Henry P. Kendall Foundation.