Food Systems Request for Applications

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

Note: Because Designathon One is a new addition in 2018, registration is occurring simultaneous to the application window for the Impact Collaborative. We want everyone to explore Designathon One and encourage you to also apply to the IC.  This timeline also means some IC applications may not occur until after registration deadlines for Designathon One have passed. While participation in both is strongly recommended, we welcome everyone from member institutions to explore the pathway that best fits them in 2018.  Questions? Get in touch with us.

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 ideas, looking to make a visible, measurable impact in their community. We welcome community partners to join teams but suggest that no team have more than 4-5 members.  We consider all projects involving food from production to plate, health and wellness, environmental topics, and food availability, and access and opportunity to be a part of food systems.  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 the Innovation Curriculum which is a series of virtual events 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. The evaluation and storytelling teams 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.  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?

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.

  • Applications for the Food System Impact Collaborative begin in December 2017
  • Applicants are strongly encouraged to attend an eXtension Designathon One
  • Applications will be reviewed by the Food System Fellow and the eXtension team
  • Finalists must attend the Food System Impact Collaborative’s Designathon Two

What is the Timeline and Time Commitment Expected of Food System Impact Collaborative Participants?

  • December 2017 – March 2018 – Apply to the Impact Collaborative
  • First Quarter 2018 – Attend one of ten Designathon One Regional Workshops
  • Second Quarter 2018 – Attend the Food System Impact Collaborative Designathon Two event
  • 2018 to Completion – Engage in virtual Impact Collaborative activities including webinar workshops, team meetings, informational surveys, etc.
  • 2018 to Completion – Provide regular reports of the team’s plans, progress, evaluation outcomes and impact
  • August, 2018 – Targeted Progress Report will be Due

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

A few webinars have been held for your review and more webinars and office hours (meet with the program Fellow and other team members) will be held in December and January:

For questions, contact the Food Systems Fellow, Melanie Weir, or the Digital Green Fellow, Jennifer Cook at For questions about the overall IC, contact Program Manager Ashley Griffin,

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

The eXtension Foundation, working in partnership with Cooperative Extension nationwide, is looking to expand innovation and creative output through the IC and the Food Systems topic supports extension agents in developing new skills to tackle wicked food challenges with a new process that 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 & bolster innovation within Cooperative Extension, local communities and with external partners and organizations.

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” both inside and outside of eXtension. Participants and key informants will have the opportunity to 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, with each other, and to new food systems topics of interest to organizations and programs. 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 a higher change of innovation and innovative impact.

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

No firm idea is needed when you attend Designathon One. 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 idea process. In the IC Designathon One process, 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, because you are learning a process not perfecting a skill. In the end, the most important part of the project 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 develop skills and network with key informants, some of which have funding knowledge and experience.