Food Systems Request for Applications

The eXtension Foundation’s Food Systems Impact Collaborative (IC) invites participation of Extension agents, educators, and specialists in creative and divergent thinking, idea generation, collaborative workshops, and mentorship surrounding Food Systems. Applications can be started at any time (and applications can be updated as you add team members, get your letter of acknowledgment, etc.) Start your application…

Questions? Contact the Food Systems Program Fellow Melanie Weir or the Digital Green Fellow Jennifer Cook

Why has the eXtension Foundation launched the Food Systems Impact Collaborative?

The eXtension Foundation, working in partnership with Cooperative Extension nationwide, is seeking to expand innovation and creative output through the IC process.  The Food Systems IC supports Extension professionals desiring to develop new skills for tackling wicked food challenges. This process involves thinking differently, taking risks, measuring impacts, and sharing what’s learned and the outcomes of the process. The program fosters innovation techniques to boost and bolster innovation within Cooperative Extension, local communities, and with external partners and organizations.

What is the Food Systems Impact Collaborative (IC) looking for?

The Food Systems IC is looking for teams of Extension agents, educators, and specialists from member institutions with big (or small) ideas, seeking to make a visible and measurable impact in their community. Community partners are welcome to join teams and we suggest that no team have more than 4-5 members total.  We consider all projects involving food from production-to-plate, health and wellness, environmental topics, food availability, and access and opportunity to be a part of food systems.  Click here to see a list of project topic ideas. 

Impact Collaborative process

The IC process includes two face-to-face events (Designathon One and Designathon Two). It also includes a series of virtual professional development tailored to the specific needs of each IC cohort. Participants also have access to key informants and one-on-one mentoring for discovering solutions and options. eXtension’s evaluation team helps document progress and successes. The goal of the IC is to help you take your projects and programs to the next level!

What are the Food Systems Impact Collaborative requirements?

    • Participants must be from an eXtension Foundation member institution.
    • Teams may apply (Extension professionals must be from a member institution). We welcome community partners to join teams BUT suggest that no team have more than 4-5 members.
    • Proposed ideas must relate to Food Systems.  See a list of project topic ideas… 
    • The team leader must submit a letter of acknowledgment from their administrative supervisor, department chair, and/or Extension Director to participate in the Impact Collaborative

What is the Food Systems Impact Collaborative selection process and expected time commitment?

The selection process is a capacity-assessment process. We are not judging if your idea is “good enough” but want to be sure a project team has institutional buy-in and that eXtension mobilizes appropriate key informants and other support resources.

  • eXtension began accepting applications for the Food Systems Impact Collaborative in December 2017 and the submission process is ongoing. (For any problems with the application system, contact Ashley Griffin).
  • Applications will be reviewed by the Food System Fellow, Melanie Weir, and Organizing Committee and applicants will be notified of their status within two weeks.
  • Applicants are strongly encouraged to attend an eXtension Designathon One event.
  • Impact Collaborative teams must attend a Designathon Two. Those events are being developed and are currently expected to take place starting in September or October 2018.

How can I learn more about the Food Systems Impact Collaborative?

A few webinars have been held for your review. More webinars and “office hours” (meet with the Program Fellow, key informants, or the organizing committee) will be held starting in Spring 2018.

For questions, contact the Food Systems Fellow, Melanie Weir or the Digital Green Fellow, Jennifer Cook. For questions about the Impact Collaborative, contact Program Manager Ashley Griffin.

What does the Food Systems Impact Collaborative offer?

Beyond innovation techniques, processes, team development and a new way of thinking, the Food Systems Impact Collaborative fosters “thinking differently.” Participants and key informants will work together in new and innovative ways that foster solutions, collaboration, and creative output in addition to sharing ideas between peer groups and with mentors to better shape ideas and outcomes.

Often, extension professionals have a hard time connecting between geographies, to new food systems topics of interest to organizations and programs, and even each other. It can also be hard to carve out time to focus on creativity, team building, and project planning. In this innovation process, participants and teams can practice new skills, share ideas and develop projects in creative ways with greater innovation and impact.

What does a successful Food Systems Impact Collaborative project look like?

No firm idea is needed when you attend Designathon One (D1). If you bring an idea, this is okay, but we don’t want you to fall in love with your idea.  There needs to be flexibility and willingness to change, alter and potentially start all over again with the ideation process. At D1, participants’ ideas will shape, morph, and change as they become projects. Projects will involve iteration and validation, and project ideas are likely to change and be refined as participants explore new ways of thinking individually, in teams and peer groups, and with mentors offering feedback.

Some projects will be rethought or resdesigned — and this is okay. You are learning a process, not perfecting a skill. In the end, the most important part of the process is what was learned and the story you’ll share. Whether your idea succeeds or fails doesn’t matter, but what does matter is that you try a new process for innovation and explore ways to continue to make an impact in your community, measure results, and develop dialogue to discuss the process.

Does the Food Systems Impact Collaborative fund participants?

The Food Systems Impact Collaborative does not directly fund participants. Participants will network with key informants, some of which have funding knowledge and experience and help identify potential funding opportunities for participants.