Amidst the hustle and bustle of food systems leadership, getting together with friends and colleagues to talk shop over a cup of coffee or tea can be a rare treat. That’s especially true for connecting with peers working in other parts of the country… besides national convenings and conferences, our ability to connect with other food systems leaders is limited by time, budget, and distance. But when we do come together, we return to our work with fresh perspective, new ideas, and a renewed sense of purpose and connection.

The FSLN’s Coffee Chats offer members the space and opportunity to do just that – connect, learn about each other’s work, and share knowledge, ideas, and inspiration.  

Coffee Chat Logistics:

Every third Wednesday of the month from 3pm to 3:45pm Central time, FSLN members are welcome to join us for an informal, peer-to-peer conversation around a specific topic that matters to this community. Each chat begins with a brief “interview” with a special guest with expertise in community-based food systems. Following this introduction and technical background, chats open up to the wider group for comments, discussion, and Q&A.

Registration is required for each coffee chat. Keep an eye out in the Catalyst (our monthly newsletter) for announcements and registration links!

The line-up for future Coffee Chats is below; we've also had requests for support around effective meeting practices and DIY strategy retreats. What topics interest you that you’d like to learn more about? Would you like to share your knowledge and expertise with others? 

Drop us a line! We’d love to hear what topics are important to you and/or have you join our Coffee Chat line up. 

Past Coffee Chats:

May 20, 2020: In lieu of a May Coffee Chat, we invite you to join the North American Food Systems Network's Good Food Talk: A Sharing of Healing Works that the Wallace Center is co-hosting. This webinar will provide space to share creative, healing works fo poetry, music, artwork, or dance that have served as their anchor, guiding star, or nurturing inspiration. This will be a participatory experience with Karen Spiller and Curtis Ogden of Food Solutions New England leading us through discussions, including facilitated break-out discussions. Register here.

Past Coffee Chats:

April 15, 2020: Supporting Backyard Victory Gardens.
With schools and other community sites closed, garden-based programming is being adapted to build household food sovereignty and resilience. Hear from Deb Crockett and Beau Gromley from Garden Raised Bounty about how backyard victory gardens are supporting their community, and come ready to share the innovations and adaptations you’re creating in your community. We’ll share notes after the call if you aren’t able to join.

CSA Program Adaptations to COVID-19
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a key strategy to support farmers and provide critical access to healthy food during the COVID-19 epidemic. We’re seeing a lot of folks transitioning a variety of food access programs to a CSA model, incorporating home delivery, multi-farm boxes, and other creative approaches. During this month’s FSLN Coffee chat, we invite anyone managing or supporting a CSA program to join to share strategies for adapting and serving your community during this time.  

Facilitating Meetings
From leading community meetings to team meetings, facilitation is a key skill for food systems leaders. Facilitation is key to delivering our services, developing new ideas, and is a systems leadership skill for making change with groups. But it's not always easy to encourage people to speak up! In this Coffee Chat, we explored tools and practices that facilitate conversation amongst group members and enable all voices to be heard. We heard from seasoned facilitators on how they've used different techniques and gathered resources for all to use.

Fiscal Sponsorship - An Alternative to the 501c3
For both emerging and well-established projects and intiatives, fiscal sponsorship can be an effective alternative model to an independent 501c(3), allowing you to pursue your passion to make the world a better place instead of spending an inordinate amount of time - and resources - on becoming a registered IRS tax-exempt organization. Tamira Jones manages the fiscal sponsorship program at the Earth Island Institute, a Steering Member of the National Network of Fiscal Sponsors, and shared more about fiscal sponsorship including its benefits and things to consider when you're exploring this alternative legal model. 

Accessing and Leveraging Pro-Bono Support
Pro bono is a unique way to access highly skilled volunteers who will help you think through and complete strategic projects - for free - but it's not leveraged in our sector as frequently as it could be. In this chat, we were joined by the Taproot Foundation to learn more about pro bono and the Taproot+ tool that matches non-profits with volunteers.

Collaboration 4.5
Continuing with the theme of collaboration, we discussed a key component of working towards successful collaborations- facilitation. We explored questions like what tools can help build trust and how can we support facilitation when we're not the lead facilitator? 

Collaboration 4.0
This Coffee Chat explored what next-level, meaningful collaboration that goes beyond coordination and cooperation might look like. 

Board Engagement Skill Share

This Coffee Chat built on the momentum of last month's call on fundraising to discuss strategies for engaging board members in fundraising and resource development, challenges and tips for creating a board culture, and incorporating equity into your board structure. 

Fundraising Skill Share

FSLN members shared discussed pros and cons of planning fundraising events, shared examples of past and upcoming fun and creative event ideas, and offered tips for engaging board members throughout the event fundraising process.

Volunteer Engagement with Joe Bobman and Taylor Crotty of Food Forward

Food Forward, southern California's largest urban gleaning nonprofit, discussed their robust volunteer program (they work with over 4,000 volunteers annually and host close to 200 events per month!) and shared strategies, ideas, and resources for engaging volunteers in food systems work. 

Day Racial Equity Challenge with Karen Spiller

Karen Spiller, one of the lead facilitators of Food Solutions New England's 21-Day Racial Equity Challenge, offered background, insights, and advice for participants of the challenge.

Collective Impact with Rich Pirog

Rich Pirog from the Center for Regional Food Systems at Michigan State University explores all things collective impact: conditions, strategies, and examples of successful models.

Successful Campaigns with Sonia Singh

Sonia Singh, Leadership Development Coordinator from the Food Chain Workers Alliance, discusses the work of the Alliance, their vision for an intersectional good food movement, and tips and strategies for leading campaigns to shift the food system. 

March 20: Food Landscape Assessments with Kathy Nyquist of New Venture Advisors

Kathy Nyquist discusses the tools NVA has developed for conducting food landscape assessments, practices for assessing your local food market and landscape, and landscape assessment pitfalls.