Counting public gatherings in 2017-Washington Post article

The point of this post is to show how complex and grassroots public gatherings can be counted and measured. The two main researchers quoted in these Washington Post articles are Erika Chenoweth and Jeremy Pressman, both respected analysts of the details of large-scale civil movements and gatherings. As a data junkie, I have followed this effort with a great deal of interest (and have even counted some of these gatherings in my own town to check others’ counts) and look forward to more of the analysis of both the methodology and the actual count data. The analysis included not just the number who gathered but who and what was being protested or being supported, where these events were held, what symbols were used, how many arrests were made.

For March 2017, we tallied 585 protests, demonstrations, marches, sit-ins and rallies in the United States, with at least one in every state and the District. Our conservative guess is that 79,389 to 89,585 people showed up at these political gatherings, although it is likely that there were far more participants.

Certainly, food and farming systems should note some of the systems used for collection and analysis. For example, the Crowd-Counting Consortium may be something that national entities involved in any grassroots data collection systems like food systems should discuss creating for their own use.

Here is their counting method:

We arrived at these figures by relying on publicly reported estimates of march locations and the number of participants involved in each. We started a spreadsheet and called for crowdsourced information about the location and number of participants in marches. Before long, we had received thousands of reports, allowing us to derive low and high estimates for each event. We carefully validated each estimate by consulting local news sources, law enforcement statements, event pages on social media, and, in some cases, photos of the marchers. When reports were imprecise, we aimed for conservative counts; for example, if observers reported “hundreds” of participants, we reported a value of 200 (“thousands” was 2,000, “tens of thousands” was 20,000, etc).

An example of their public data set.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2017/04/24/in-trumps-america-whos-protesting-and-why-heres-our-march-report/?utm_term=.ce99baecf0b6

Local currency helps communities decide “Who tells your story”

This story is from one of my mentor think tanks,  the Schumacher Center for a New Economics on their community’s robust currency system:

On Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced a plan to redesign the $5, $10, and $20 to be more inclusive. Too bad we have to wait until 2020 to start spending money that reflects the diversity of our country… or do we? Residents of the Berkshire region of Western Massachusetts can already walk around with a diverse history of their region in their pockets – the local currency BerkShares celebrate some of the most important figures associated with the area.

One fan of BerkShares was inspired by the opening song from Hamilton to write his own introduction, in verse, for the woman that we celebrate on the 10! Thanks to Scott Grimm-Lyon for sharing his version of the story of Robyn Van En:

The ten BerkShare female farmer with just a prayer,
saw land controlled by the millionaire,
considered the general welfare,
knew food should not be grown elsewhere,
went into the town square,
preached against local laissez-faire,
and started the world’s first farm share.

Source: Local currency helps communities decide “Who tells your story”

A Grocery Store That Takes ‘Local Food’ to Its Logical Extreme – Bonnie Tsui – The Atlantic Cities

YES.
I think this “less waste and more uses” of local food is exactly what it will take for a small store to re-imagine itself as a source of healthy food. To simply move itself into local sourcing through distributors is not going to be enough. Stores like the Saxapahaw grocery outside of Raleigh Durham are also taking the closed loop seriously and combining gourmet takeout and diverse food stuffs with nearby local sourcing so that even the scraps go back to the animals and compost heaps that supply their store.
I’m still not sure the business plan is completely figured out, but it will certainly help these stores bottom lines to be more waste conscious and to build nearby farms and cottage industries to supply their shelves.

A Grocery Store That Takes 'Local Food' to Its Logical Extreme – Bonnie Tsui – The Atlantic Cities.

Cash incentives in NYC and Memphis explained

Ah incentives. This is a great interview with NYC Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs about their cash incentive program. The Mexico model was the one that was explained to us in New Orleans back in 2006 (by the same public health researcher that is now working for NYC) and became the basis of the markets’ innovative work on the Gulf Coast which continues to this day. We understood (because of her training) that we were using cash as a short-term way to reduce significant barriers around open-air farmers markets, especially for low-income shoppers that face barriers such as lack of transportation, short market hours (that are often at odds with service workers schedules), the need to learn new shopping behavior, the perception of markets as elitist and so on.
To me, markets are in the business of incentivizing behavior change and we use many tools to that end: events, seating, music, children’s educational resources, support for farmers to grow their businesses and so on. Cash incentives are now well understood by public health activists and so were brought to our markets as an efficient way to do targeted outreach to at-risk communities. It’s not the answer to all of our market issues, but it has allowed us to regain our rightful place as the center of innovation in community food systems and to add some disciplined measurement strategies to our portfolio.

I really like how the NYC describes this in the interview; I like the analogy of the tax code as being a set of incentives as well.

The entire series Freakonomics is based on incentives as well. Check that out for a macro view of the subject.
Link to interview

Letter to a fellow food organizer

a colleague asked me to give her my opinion on trends and jobs in the alternative food system retail sector. Here is the beginning of my response:

Okay,
Here’s a few of my cents as requested:

As you know, the food hub conversation has taken a lot of the oxygen in the room (and a lot of the funding) away from direct farmer support and farmers markets and as a result, it feels like we are simply treading water in a lot of instances. Spread too thin. Certainly in the expansion of direct marketing farming or in getting any serious cross-sector analysis, we’re not jumping ahead much of where we were 5 years ago.

It’s not that I’m against food hubs, but some of them sound a lot like city governments’ “one-stop shops” which I am not sure has worked either. And it smacks of “scaling up” which is a suspect phrase to someone like me who has seen how long it takes a market farmer to really be ready to price at his or her comfort level and to innovate products. The Cliff Notes version of the market vendor lifespan is that it takes years of a market organizations time and “expertise” to patiently get a farmer to an economic and social comfort level where they actually tell you that they are about to go bankrupt or get divorced or get ready for a kid to go to college and so thats why their business is changing so you can help it change for the better. And that those folks are RETAIL vendors, with tables and tents and signs designed to help them sell retail, and not necessarily the same ones to approach or to change to wholesale vendors seems to be missed by some wholesale organizers.

Sometimes, it also feel that we are extrapolating the wrong lessons of what has worked to build food retail points of entry. Let me say I’m probably not “up” on all of the good work being done, although I do know and learn from original thinkers like Anthony Flaccavento’s and M. Shuman’s excellent research and analysis work. It’s just that the a lot of the scaling up and institutional buying conversation seems wildly uneven from case to case and the skills are simply not embedded into the host area to keep the thing moving forward once a founder leaves or a project fails.

What is true in the food system is that currently the public health sector rules, so therefore the conversation around low-income and at-risk end users of healthy food is the main thing being funded, which is a glorious turn around for those who always had the plan to take the food system there (meaning to everyone) no matter what anti-localvore writers try to say.<
10 years ago, the talk was all about social cohesion and dynamic Main Streets and 15 years before THAT, it was all about farmers extending seasons and growing sustainably, and it was always about doing it for everyone.

The public health sector is staying put, and learning more and more about how to use our points of entry to get results in true behavior change. That sector has changed farmers markets more than any other stakeholder (and that includes government stakeholders) because there are so many levels of public health intervention that they are willing to try wild ideas which often work and because they measure everything they do. However, I expect that the needle will move again-what will be the next issue that leads food system work- environmental impacts or immigrant issues or racial inequities or food safety or civic planning? Who knows really. Of course, it will depend on the crisis that shows up.

As for careers and jobs, it is my biased opinion that the open-air farmers market continues to rule the hearts (if not the minds) of most of the public while inside the food system, organizers favor the urban farm as the winning hand. Oddly, no one has brought these two together in any meaningful way or even examined the impacts of the two combined or separately beyond simple economic data or numbers of projects, as if quantity of projects really mean anything.

I think you know my obsession is with measuring the economic, social, human and natural capital of markets AND also with finding a way to make markets the entry point for training food organizers on all aspects of food system work. I foresee a national training program with skills trained in the first 6 months which are transferrable to all parts of the food system and beyond. Along those lines, there is already a push for a voluntary market manager accreditation system (which is beginning in places like Michigan) that might be similar in neighboring states so someone would have a leg up regionally if they have taken the training.
Add to that a yearly networking session for market managers and for those in my mythical training program and you may have the beginning of a movement, instead of rising and falling tide of new markets and projects every year.

And after all, the farmers markets remain the best fulcrum for food systems, so what happens there should matter to everyone else.

What also seems true is in the last 2-3 years the terrain has shifted a great deal, away from larger “big tent” orgs partnering on everything to much more nimble entrepreneurial types sharing knowledge on common problems and tactics. Regionality may once again become the strongest card we can use to strengthen our systems across state lines and across single issue campaigns to truly achieve success. Interestingly, this seems to also true in DC, where there is not one national policy shop office that truly represents the entire membership of most food organizers. Collaboration there has been somewhat successful.
But to leave markets for a minute (hate to do it but I will) I also believe that the wholesale food system is ready for a boost. And no, food hubs so far ain’t cutting it, as far as really reshaping buying habits of purchasers and institutions like the farmers markets HAVE been successful in re shaping the consumer’s buying habits- the 2-3 percent that listen, that is. THAT, of course, is another looming issue-98% of the public who have not used alternative food systems much. And even for the 2-3 percent, what is the actual change-one season? Farmers market shoppers become CSA members or vice versa? What about how they feel about the environment or local businesses after they stick to the market?

So research is needed in examining what is actually been done and not just the PROJECTS, but the efforts of stakeholders, the typology of successful farmers, and the efficient host organizations.
I would also say that as CFSC struggles with it’s post-strategic planning transition (speaking as a Board member for a few more months that assures you that that info is not secret but quite transparent and shared within the CFSC community) and Slow Food reexamines it’s work and searches for a new leader and FMC searches for a new leader, it may turn out all of the national organizations turn more to each other and others to collaborate more closely along with racial equity orgs like GFJI and Alliance for Building Capacity and IATP.

They might. So the collaboration points are a good place to look for work. Chapters? Maybe. Community unionism? Maybe. Or simply skill building and shared measurement in all partnerships. That would help. However, as we strengthen the regional orgs and multi-sector orgs more -since I’m sure im not the only one thinking this way- that may be where the jobs end up too.

In any case or in all cases, what seems clear to be missing in many cases is the entrepreneur’s point of view, whether its a farmer, or a baker or the neighboring business that needs that market or even the market or other food retail organization itself that seem to be considered built already and left out of the capacity building money. (I guess many feel we had our money moment, huh?) So maybe we need more innovative financing too, like CSEs or granny accounts or even to attempt the other part of a currency system-loans and massive fundraising in the market community itself, using the wooden token system as a starting point.
After all, its the entrepreneur is who needs to be encouraged. The entrepreneurs are who need to be analyzed. And entrepreneurs will be multiplying as corporations shut down and lay off more and more, and so seems like the most obvious point of expansion for work opportunities.
So to paraphrase Abigail Adams, …remember the entrepreneurs and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors.

Hope that helps, Darlene

artwork to illuminate

With farmers market organizing, dozens of issues need to be considered. Human needs are first and foremost. Since 2001 undocumented students in the United States have been organizing, advocating, fighting, coming out of the shadows and sharing their testimonies in order to legalize their status. Migration Now! is a portfolio of handmade prints addressing migrant issues from Justseeds and Culture Strike.

http://migrationnow.com/migr

Coming soon: .ngo and .ong domain extensions

This news is very helpful (as explained below) because the .org extension is not necessarily reserved for non-profits (NGOs). The new extensions will be and therefore it may be a little easier to see what is what online.Add to that the NGO (non-governmental organizations) name is more universal that using the term “non-profits” since that term really applies to U.S. organizations only while the NGO tag is used globally.

From Mashable writer Matt Petronzio:

The Public Interest Registry (PIR), the non-profit that manages and operates the .org domain, has formally submitted its applications to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) for the .ngo and .ong domain extensions.

Although the .org extension is often associated with non-profits and has been their go-to domain extension, it is an open domain, meaning that individuals and for-profit corporations can register under it as well. But .ngo will be administered as a closed domain exclusively for NGOs, and there will be a verification component at the time of registration.

If the .ngo extension is approved, non-profits and NGOs that currently have a .org extension won’t be required to make the transition.