Since I’ve been at the Community Food Security Coalition Conference, I’ve met lots of wonderful people all working towards creating a more reliable, democratic network of healthy food. The rooms are full for sure. It’s wonderful. People have come from near and far to share their successes, their challenges, their hopes and their fears.
What concerns me is that I am not seeing a lot innovation. Real innovation. The type of innovation that happens when people outside the traditional spectrum of thought leaders on any one topic are included.
As someone who has had the advantage of a varied educational and work background, it always amazes me how myopic these types of conventions are in terms of who is invited to the table to discuss solutions. The conference is taking place in the Bay Area. The West Coast is home to some of the greatest minds in such varied disciplines as: technology, advertising, education, business, finance, architecture, and design. Yet, when I listen in at the general session or attend the break-out sessions, it concerns me to hear the same tired discussions rehashed as signs of movement.
We have reached a threshold with the number of white papers and research that tells us that there is an obesity epidemic in America. We know there are food deserts where liquor stores reign. We know that farmland is disappearing at an alarming rate and the corporate land grab threatens individual ownership and local ecosystems.
You’re preaching to the choir. We don’t need to hear more statistics about food scarcity, about trucks that move food around, about how Walmart is evil, or about how bad foods are marketed toward poor people. Newflash: Bad food is marketed toward everybody. Children, middle class, African American, white, Latino, students…
This movement needs to invite more people to the table to come up with viable solutions to solving these growing problems. Right now there are groups of people developing solutions to problems on other continents that are more innovative than anything I’ve heard so far at this conference. America used to be the place people looked to for inspiration. Instead, we’re spiraling towards being one huge continental cautionary tale. Time to start thinking outside the box.
There are bankers/investors who have stepped outside the confines of traditional models to explore alternative solutions to finance.
There are companies who have created new systems that have radically altered how health care is approached.
There are people like James Harris who is now working on mobile technology but who also ran a store with his wife that specialized in local food.
There are advertisers who understand how to quickly propagate the most aggressive message to activate people to switch what they are doing to something new.
There are entrepreneurs who know how to motivate and make projects happen.
There are people who know about systems change and know how to tap into not only a resource network that is less risk averse than even the philanthropic institutions that are funding this cacophony of nonprofit discontent, but also how to grow that network either through social cache or pure leadership.
But until all these people are engaged, this movement will lag behind in achieving its goals.
It’s time to wake up and start drawing up a new invitation list for the dinner party. Don’t wait for these people to find you. Find them first. Seek them out. Engage them with the passion that you have. Invite them to give a keynote at your next conference. Cross-pollinate. Innovate. Create. Let’s celebrate collaboration and change the entire system while we’re at it.
© 2012 The Boxcar Grocer.