This project depends on the active involvement of many stakeholders. Producers, distributors, community leaders, eaters of all kinds, educators, researchers and policymakers all have a part to play in our project activities.
We see outreach in two ways. The first is to reach out and bring in groups and individuals to be a part of our project. This is the "engagement" part. The second aspect of our outreach is "dissemination"—sharing what we learn with the academic community and others.
Our outreach activities include:
- An eXtension Community of Practice. The Extension system provides an online community for Extension personnel and others to share resources and information, respond to questions and foster discussion on a wide variety of topics. Our project has collaborated with similar projects as well as academics and others to develop an online community through the eXtension Community of Practice format. This Community of Practice focuses on local and regional food systems. It shares models, findings, best practices, challenges, conceptual frameworks and data. It is increasing awareness about regional food systems, and is enhancing the ability for Extension personnel to contribute to their development.
- Workshops and conferences. We hold at least one workshop each year in our region to highlight project work and explore related topics such as supply chain development. Our Project Team members also present project findings at other events. In the final year of the project we will hold a conference for policymakers, professionals and community stakeholders. We intend to bring groups and individuals to our project events to maximize input, learning, exchanges and network development.
- Learning communities. A learning community consists of a dedicated group of individuals who regularly collaborate around a shared learning goal. In this project, we will convene two types of learning communities.
The first type of learning community focuses on specific topics or interests related to the project, for example value chains or rural food deserts. Participants will be brought together via several Webinars each year. Participants will include project communities and partners as well as other interested people. The other type of learning community is based on location. For this project we will convene a learning community in each of our nine locations. Participants will include stakeholder representatives from different sectors such as planning, supply chain, and community members within each site. Participants may get together in person for an event or training opportunity, or via the Internet at least quarterly. In this way participants will share challenges and resources, learn how to collect and interpret data, and develop or strengthen outreach and communication networks in each project location.
- Educational materials. The project’s educational materials will be available in various formats. We will produce site case studies, fact sheets, briefs, and updates online and in hard copy. We have a quarterly project newsletter. All materials will be suited to both professional and community audiences.
- Web-based resources. A tremendous amount of learning takes place online. This project will create several web-based resources, including shared work spaces and a social network site. Our learning communities will feature webinars. We will link to NESAWG and other grassroots-focused networks’ websites to share progress, materials and findings.
Getting Involved. Currently, the best way to be involved is to keep up with project news via our website and newsletter. In time, as our Outreach efforts expand, there should be more opportunities for engaging with the project and we will share these opportunities here and in the newsletter.
During the summer of 2014, the Outreach Team launched a learning community around the topic of food system modeling. The purpose of this virtual community is to build and share knowledge, skills and tools related to food systems modeling.