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Report on Open Food Network Campaign Strategy Session

Report on Open Food Network Campaign Strategy Session

One of the outcomes of last Thursday’s Collaborating with the Crowd event was that a few folks put their hands up to support Open Food Network’s Crowdfunding Campaign. Open Food Network is an open source platform to help anyone, anywhere create a local food hub that connects local growers with local consumers.

About six folks met in the Ideas Tent at Hub Melbourne last night for a couple of hours: Kirsten and Serenity (the Open Food Network team), as well as two people they brought, two participants from the Collaborating with the Crowd event, and myself.

Setting the outcome for the meeting

At the start of the meeting, ask what outcome you are trying to achieve together. The outcome can shift during the meeting, but understanding the outcome can help you design appropriate activities.

Kirsten and Serenity basically said that they felt that there were many areas of campaign design where they felt uncertain, and that they generally felt they could benefit from fresh thinking. This made sense to the group, and resonated with their reasons for coming to the meeting.

Establishing shared understanding

By outlining progress and thinking so far, the knowns and unknowns, it helps the input of the group be more targeted. Spending time on shared understanding before brainstorming solutions makes the brainstorming more effective.

Serenity took about fifteen minutes to outline Open Food Networks current campaign strategy. She talked about their goals, who they were targeting, their broad plan, and some of their key challenges. I mapped this out on the whiteboard as she spoke. Kirsten added key details, and others clarified their understanding through questions along the way.

Brainstorming opportunities and challenges

Instead of brainstorming just ideas or solutions, ask for both opportunities and challenges. This achieves the same outcome of surfacing great ideas, while at the same time enriching the group’s shared understanding about the unique context in which they are operating.

Opportunities and challenges were flowing quite quickly, with some participants focused more on tactics, and others focused more on underlying dynamics. Some participants preferred to learn and absorb. Opportunities were written on the whiteboard and green, and challenges in red. Each idea provided an opportunity for Kirsten and Serenity to reveal more of the nature of their situation, thus providing participants a more nuanced basis for their suggestions. The best ideas didn’t belong to any individual, but rather were shaped up through discourse, in relation to constraints such as timeframes, resource limitations, and social dynamics.

Shift into ‘unmeeting’

Traditionally, meetings are used to plan the work, which then happens alone back at a workstation. With the advent of laptops and online collaboration tools, it becomes easier to progress the work while still in the room together. This in turn helps build momentum, and facilitate knowledge transfer.

As ideas shaped up, group members naturally started pulling out their laptops to examine the current campaign site, or look at other sources of ideas and relevant information. As a few really compelling ideas came into being, participants naturally shifted to taking action on them. For example:

  • Suggesting ways to improve the crowdfunding rewards
  • Researching high value organisations to reach out to directly
  • Establishing a ‘crowdfunding champions’ group on Facebook, to coordinate and amplify outreach
  • Finding examples of outreach tactics and social objects used by other campaigns

Next steps

I left before the formal conclusion of the meeting, but it was clear that some new thinking had taken hold, which would improve the chance of success for the campaign. There was discussion of continuing these regular strategy meetings throughout the course of the campaign, and the crowdfunding champions group on Facebook is already underway.

Anyone who is interested in supporting Open Food Network’s campaign, whether by attending meetings, joining the champions group, or otherwise providing support, should get in touch with the team through one of the channels listed at the bottom of their homepage.