The stronger our networks are, the more effective we can be in this pandemic

Author: Rich Pirog, Director, MSU Center for Regional Food systems
A strong collaboration infrastructure across non-profit, government, university, and business partners is essential to achieving systems-based change. With lines of communication and trusted relationships already in place, a strong collaboration infrastructure composed of networks within a region, state, or nation  can adapt and pivot swiftly when faced with significant food system challenges or provided with new opportunities.  The Coronavirus pandemic and its influence on our food system is one of the biggest challenges many of us have faced.
We know that strong food system networks can make our work more effective and less redundant in dealing with the Coronavirus pandemic.  It’s important to note, however, that not all networks are the same in how they operate.  According to Vandeventer and Mandell in the book Networks that Work(1) the higher level of risk that partners take with each other and with the network itself, the higher the likelihood of systemic change. These authors characterized three types of networks (see image).  Collaborating networks have the greatest potential for systemic change but require the most risk and effort.  Food for thought as you engage your networks.

1. Vandeventer, P, and Mandell, M. (2007). Networks that Work: A Practitioner’s Guide to Managing Networked Action. Community Partners, Los Angeles, CA. ISBN 978-0-9763027-3-5

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