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How Should Our Network Grow?

By Sara Venn

In 2008 when Incredible Edible Todmorden began, the success that has been had and the network that has formed, full of Incredible folk, doing Incredible things, could never have really been imagined. But now, over 10 years later, and with the Incredible Edible Network having been around for 7 of those years, with more and more groups coming on board all the time, it’s been important for us to look at our structures and ensure everything is in place and working so that we can go on to do more Incredible things.

Our Roots and Branches project has made it possible for us to support, through the work of our regional facilitators, more work on the ground as well as talking to more organisations and businesses who love our model and working out how we can work with them whilst ensuring our ethos is kept defined and at the core of everything we do, and ensuring groups across the UK are offered opportunities where appropriate and understanding that for some these opportunities haven’t been what is right or needed by them. Incredible Edible groups autonomy on the ground is always going to be of deepest importance as they find their solutions to the issues in their communities, each of which is different and unique. But Roots and Branches has enabled that work to be seen, to be amplified and be connected regionally.

So, Incredible Edible is a federated network of autonomous groups, all using the sprout as their logo and all who have agreed that their work revolves around the 3 plates of community, learning and business, and all of whom intend to spin those plates as a part of the way in which they support their connected community, but how do we ensure that we are all on the same page and no one is being forgotten or going off at a tangent that could cause issue in the future?

Until now the Board supporting the Incredible Edible Network has been made up of people interested in Incredible Edible and chaired by Pam Warhurst, founder of our network, but moving forward that overarching board needs representation from our network. We have spent time imagining what this might look like and have been thinking about how federated networks work and how successful our regional meetings have been and how many groups have said they got loads from meeting up. With that we looked at how it might look if each Incredible Edible group in an area chose a representative who went to a meeting once or twice a year, sat down with other reps from their area and chewed the fat, as it were, over what was going on in their region, which new groups had begun, how everyone was getting on and future plans. Ate lunch, drank tea and connected their community with the wider regional community of groups. Then one member of that regional group could attend a yearly meeting of all the regions to effectively do the same thing, and where, as the network, we could learn more about how everyone was getting on, where the focuses were both regionally and nationally, and how we could best support that, ensuring the network’s role focused on what we were being told was going on and supporting that. With that, then, 2 or 3 representatives from that group would go on to be members of the Incredible Edible board, again in order that the board knew what the priorities were across the country and could support those priorities.

Incredible Edible has always been a grassroots and people led movement and it’s vital that with all of our success we ensure strategic support from a board that is set up to understand group priorities and create appropriate opportunities for groups that should wish for them. Without the incredible work going on across the UK and the world in the Incredible Edible name, there would be no Network so the aim of creating these groups is to ensure the support that is needed is there, when it’s needed most.

So as such this is the vision of the way we are future proofing our network to ensure we can continue to and further our work supporting your work. We’ll be in touch soon with more and how groups can get involved!!