Two Loops

Two Loops

Two Loops

Some of you have seen this image within one of my presentations. I first saw it myself at Kellogg Foundation’s 2008 Food and Society meeting. The idea was shared by Deborah Frieze, one of its creators as a way for organizers to understand networks and system change and not just focus on their silos of work. In essence, when you are changing a system, there are many places to intervene, from stabilizing the old system (think of school lunch programs working with the old rules even while pushing the envelope to build new systems), to bridge builders (writers like Michael Pollan and entities like Wholesome Wave) to the creators of new systems (those early market leaders in the 1970s up to and including networks like Detroit Black Community Food Security Network)

I know that when I brought it back to Market Umbrella, it helped us to understand how to expand our work.

The key to making this 2 loop graphic dynamic are the connections. As is explained in the videos and text accompanying this image, system change only happens at the network level. Individual efforts can galvanize,  name and/or define the changes needed, but they need to work collectively to make it happen.
I believe the sooner that farmers markets see and act as networks and not only as stand along organizations, the better. This doesn’t mean that markets cannot protect their assets as  incorporated organizations, but rather that every chance that they can act as a network or think as a network, the stronger they will grow and be able to respond to pressures and to opportunities. .
It also means that every project and idea connects more people back to the market world. And producers are able to stabilize and grow their businesses carefully to ensure they are still here decades later.

The quotes below are from the Two Loops site and are very helpful for food organizers to see how it relates to our work.

There were no rules or guidebooks. They had to start. They had to do what they could see and learn as fast as they could. For a time, everyone was working separately. But…people began to connect with each other. They began to form networks.
These initial networks were important. People just started sharing with each other. They worked in many different colors or themes, and they had a lot to share. Often it was just talking with each other about what they were doing and about the changes that were happening inside of themselves. This kind of initial connection is essential. It helps us remember that we are not alone. What people started seeing more and more was that this networking alone wasn’t enough. But what else is needed? The people who are working on the same themes started to reach out to each other, connecting within communities and between communities. I think of this as the beginning stages of forming communities of practice:

Some people say can this actually happen? Yes, it can. It takes time. It is a long road. But we can, I believe create ways or living in a new paradigm. Let me give one example:
Back in the 70s in the US some people started “going back to the land.” They went to grow their own food and, like most innovators and entrepreneurs, at first most of them failed. Some got discouraged and quit. Others kept learning. Back in 1974 I invited poet and farmer Wendell Berry to speak at the EXPO ’74 Environmental Symposium Series in Spokane. He said it was not only possible, but necessary to find more ways of producing food locally. His remarks led to the formation of Tilth[ (see note at end of page), an early community of practitioners committed to local food production. People both practice and started talking about what else was needed now. Eventually, among other things, they started working with people in urban areas to create Farmers Markets. I remember co-founding the Farmers Market in my hometown of Spokane in the early nineties – it was a new and exciting addition to the community.
Now, almost 40 years after this local foods movement began, most supermarkets have local foods sections. Costco has a reputation for selling local foods whenever possible. People buy local foods now because it just makes sense to them.
Part of what’s happened is that it became possible for people who knew nothing about local foods to easily buy them. They didn’t go through any sort of systemic analysis of the benefits of eating local food – it just made sense. New choices had been illuminated, building a bridge so people could easily cross to the new.


Source: Two Loops

Women as Brokers

I think this study about gender bias among networkers in business is important for food system employers and boards to think about, since so many women are in the position of acting as a “broker” in our sector. I have seen female market managers and other food system connectors perceived negatively by their community when discussing the role of active networking or advisor, while seeing men described as competent for managing the same activities.

Normally, women are thought to excel in the social realm — so you would think that they would be seen as good work brokers, the researchers said. But “despite the widespread notion of women as social specialists, perceptions of the network position of women will be distorted because of the expectation that brokerage is man’s work,” they wrote.

Much of this distortion may be below the level of conscious awareness, Professor Brands says, and simply bringing it to employees’ attention could help minimize the reputational bias that women incur at work.