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Greg and All: My Response at HH abt Food Story/excerpts from Greg's post on the project

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  • Janet Feldman
    Dear Friends, Hello and greatest thanks, Greg, for posting your own views and interests/needs as regards the Food Story project. I have just posted to Holistic
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 16, 2006
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      Dear Friends,
      Hello and greatest thanks, Greg, for posting your own views and interests/needs as regards the Food Story project. I have just posted to Holistic Helping on the same subject, so thought I would juxtapose some of what is in your mail with what I wrote, as it seems there are points of convergence or similarities of approach and viewpoint.  Hopefully you will add or clarify as needed, if you read what I have written and find it needs fine-tuning.
      Thanks much and hope we can proceed from here, especially with Steve and Sam working in tandem. And joined by Dante, Maria Agnese, Jeff, and many more!  With all best wishes and storied spirit, Janet
      This is from Greg today, to Social Agriculture:
      Both the technology and infrastructure discussions encompass issues that go well beyond the MyFoodStory project.  No doubt the workinginparallel group with Dante el al. will contribute substantially to this discussion.  For myself, I find it much easier to contribute when
      there is a well-defined goal and clear structure for contributions to help achieve that goal.  I'm not sure how others feel, but the current
      group structures completely overwhelm my ability to "keep up" and know how best to contribute.
      To be successful, MyFoodStory must directly serve the interests of people with knowledge of food production and those with a stake in the
      food supply chain.  The infrastructure and technical hurdles above hurt our efforts to the extent they raise costs and limit participation.  These technical and infrastructure hurdles can be overcome, however, misalignments of economic or social incentives create would create an insurmountable barrier to long term success.
      In this phase as a pilot project, we should focus as much as possible on learning what works with respect to aligning the financial and
      social interests of all stakeholders. Apologies for writing such a long reply.  Just want to reiterate that our focus in the MyFoodStory project must be on the stories.  That's what people will see and care about.  This post and all of the related discussions regarding technology and infrastructure simply won't matter unless we have compelling, factual information rooted in real experience.  I'm hopeful that Samuels group and focus on Soybeans can start to bring out these personal narratives and set the tone for participation.
      This is what I just posted to HH (I see convergences in our thinking):
      I thought the purpose of the Food Story project is to "develop a participatory online resource for understanding the world's food-supply chain and engaging its participants" . If that is true, the first goal should be to gather stories from people who are involved in this chain. In the course of this, we can start to engage the participants we are interviewing.
      We need to develop a repository for stories, and try to trace the food from the field to the table. Choosing a crop--especially helpful being a crop we may have some direct link to, the better to gather stories--would seem to be most important. And tracing it from the field--where some of us will be gathering stories--to tables perhaps halfway round the world, would seem to be another important focus.
      I think Steve's key concept, "social justice"--which is the principle underlying social agriculture, and seemed to be the same principle we were all operating on with the chocolate project--is "the" defining point of reference for most if not all of us, as we would like to see farmers in developing countries get a fair deal, as well as consumers worldwide engage in consumerism which reinforces and supports fair trade and social justice. I assume this is one of Greg's major concerns and goals too. 
      While technology and values (besides social justice) are part of that story, I'm concerned that we may lose focus on the project and its primary purpose(s)-- as well as its value to/for the grassroots (not just for us here, but for the people we are interviewing) --if we try to do all of this mixing and matching (our values, key concepts, technology we're interested in), and adding "agendas" and goals of our own. There is a place for all this, of course, but I'm concerned to ensure adequate focus on the project goals themselves, gradually adding more about our own needs and interests as it develops.

      These are goals for the Food Story project:
      A) A resource that is actively used and steadily improved by contributors who directly and indirectly benefit from it in ways that have them personally invest themselves in its growing success.
      Questions to ask:  who will use this resource?  If the contributors are the storytellers, ie those who are producers and consumers, what will be helpful for them, that would keep them returning?
      B) A pilot project that attracts the attention of those who wish to fund work to develop it further.
      Questions:  who will want to fund this work, and what will they want to fund exactly?  If a person or foundation is interested in social justice and fair trade, that is one way to tailor this project or focus the info-gathering and subsequent work.  What could other motives/interests be?  Sustainable development, ICTs, empowerment of women and youth, or rural communities.
      C) An experiment that details the variety of challenges that need to be overcome for such a resource to sustain itself, and makes tangible a
      variety of reasons why such a resource is valuable.
      Questions: how do we do these two things?  If we think about soyabeans, let's think and discuss why this resource is valuable, and try to draw that out in our stories. We can also have this focus on the challenges:  let's figure out what these are, based on the stories we gather, and on a view of the food-chain as a whole.  Where do we find stories of consumers, ie where these beans end up?  In Kenya, do they stay local, ie grown and consumed locally?  Are they shipped across the nation, or do some end up in other countries?  How can soyabean farming provide more of a living for the farmers...in this case, it's not the resource which needs to become sustainable, it's the livelihood from the resource.

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