Peer learning is powerful. When we connect in solidarity with one another as peers and as comrades, we realize that we are not alone and that collectively we have the knowledge, wisdom, and skills needed to navigate the ups and downs of food systems leadership.

We’ve heard from many of you that one of the most valuable parts of belonging to this network is being able to connect and build relationships with peers who share your passion for and challenges in building community food systems. Whether it’s through in-person convenings, digital meet- ups, or online Discussion Groups, the Wallace Center recognizes the power of peer knowledge exchange and seeks to facilitate peer learning through the Food Systems Leadership Network as much as possible. One way we do this is through convening member-led Peer Learning Circles (PLCs).

About Peer Learning Circles
Peer Learning Circles are small groups of FSLN members who meet virtually to connect and build relationships with fellow food systems leaders, tackle individual and collective “sticky issues” and challenges, and provide encouragement and support to one another in a confidential and supportive environment.

Peer Learning Circles will be open to all FSLN members and will be organized according to shared affinities. PLCs work best when organized by “affinities”-- groups of people who are linked by a common or shared purpose, interest, identity, or challenge. Having a shared identity and experience helps create a strong container for conversations that are meaningful and relevant for circle members.

Previous Peer Learning Cirlce Topics:

  • Communications staff: E3 (Effective, Efficient and Easy-Access)
    • Kickoff Facilitator: E'licia L. Chaverest, Assistant Director, AAMU Small Farms Research Center
    • The E3 (Effective, Efficient and Easy-Access) Communication Circle has been designed for those who are actively engaged in or leading their organization’s communications and outreach strategy. Participants will connect with their peers to share ideas for effective communication strategies and discuss ways of engaging with multiple audiences, including with your peers, your organizations’ key stakeholders, the general public, and funders. Group members will discuss successful strategies and develop ideas for navigating existing communications challenges that you can adapt for your organization. Join this group to become an E-ffective Communicator x three!         
  • Cultivating Conscious Leadership
    • Kickoff Facilitator: Devona Bell, Director, Sustainable Agriculture & Local Foods, National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT)
    • This is a group for leaders, directors, managers, and others interested in developing their leadership style. We'll discuss conscious mindful leadership, servant leadership, leading from within, how rigid hierarchies stifle, fostering a collaborative culture of trust and openness, and the power of curiosity: creating a culture of continuous learning vs. a we-know-it culture.  We'll discuss topics such as building emotional intelligence, the power of deep listening and asking questions for clarity, radical candor, authenticity, empathy, boundary setting with kindness, empowerment, humility, the tools for tough conversations, and more.
  • Exploring healthy leadership transitions in grassroots organizations
    • Kickoff Facilitators: Neelam Sharma, Executive Director, Community Services Unlimited Inc., and Jessica Jane Spayde, Community Development Extension Educator, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Division of Extension
    • This is a group for those who are actively or soon to be engaged in a leadership transition at their grassroots organization. We'll discuss ideas for supporting transitions in a way that uplifts the founders and leaders of our organizations AND honors new energy and the spirit of change. Group members will share where they are in the transition process, look at past transitions in the movement as case studies, and develop ideas and guidelines to support transitions in grassroots organizations.
  • Food Hub Networks
    • Kickoff Facilitators: Cullen Naumoff, Co-Founder, Farm Fare and Gwenael Engelskirchen, Sustainable Supply Chain Analyst, UC Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education Program (SAREP)
    • Join us for an engaging discussion about food hub networks: best practices, obstacles, needs and visions related to both information-sharing and transactional networks. How can food hubs accomplish more by working together? What are the challenges to collaboration? And how are food hub network facilitators across the country supporting these efforts – and what support do they need in turn? The primary audiences for this session are food hub network coordinators AND food hub managers/staff with experience and/or interest in cross-hub collaboration. We aim to dig into topics from both a network facilitator's and a food hub practitioner’s point of view.
  • Fundraising/development staff
    • Kickoff Facilitator: Katharhy G, President and Co-founder, Kallamp
    • The Fundraising/development staff peer-learning circle is a place for those involved in/overseeing fundraising activities for emerging organizations in the food landscape, food production, education, entrepreneurship, social justice, equality, and related activities. We will identify and discuss issues relevant to this community, such as development strategies and plans, identifying funding sources, developing a donor base, and hosting fundraising events.
  • Running on Fumes: A Self-Care Discussion Group
    • Kickoff Facilitator: Chloe Marshall, Policy Specialist, National Farm to School Network
    • As we embark on the long, exciting journey that is food systems change, we must be careful not to become workplace martyrs - sacrificing our entire selves for "the work." Join others as we learn how to truly care for ourselves and each other in the midst of what is often challenging work. Participants will discuss methods of self-care with tools, intentions, and connections to help them refuel and reinvigorate their commitment to change.   
  • Operations Staff in mid-large organizations (>$250,000 annual budget)
    • Kickoff Facilitator: Ted LeBow, CEO, Kitchen Table Consultants
    • The Operations staff Peer Learning Circle is a place for those involved in/overseeing people and processes, including warehousing, distribution, processing, finance and logistics and supply chain related organizations, like: Aggregators, Distributors, Value Add/food Manufacturers, e-commerce. We will identify and discuss issues relevant to the group such as: People Management (hiring, incentive programs, leadership development), Creating Benchmarks and Metrics (by department or individual), Best Practices, Group Solutions/Case Study issues.  

How to sign up:
Fall 2020 Peer Learning Circles will be coming soon!