How to spot our fellow food citizen leaders

You believe in people. You want to do the right thing for society to thrive now and in the future, but you know that you can’t do it alone. A key step to building our food citizenship movement – and to getting anywhere in the ethical food sector – is to find the right partnerships. Whether we are bringing multiple organisations to work towards a common goal or wanting to bring a range of different stakeholders around a (dinner) table to tackle a pressing food issue, there are many ways in which we can identify potentially fruitful partnerships.

We are all guilty of aiming for specific job titles – and yes this is indeed very helpful, as certain ‘leadership positions’ will come with particular connections and ‘power’ within the existing system we are trying to influence. But not all of these posts are easy to reach nor do they necessarily mean the relationship will get us anywhere with our mission. And while job titles can be useful, they can also be limiting.

How can we expand our understanding of ‘leadership’?

There are first the considerations we all take when it comes to partnering or collaborating with another organisation. But let’s think beyond this. Who within that organisation are we building a relationship with? What about that individual, that food citizen? This person is key for us making progress towards a fair and resilient food system. We are looking for those that are more resilient to the consumerist narrative in which we live today. Those who survive within that system and yet embody the values that we want to see more of in this world. How do we spot them? Here are four key aspects worth considering.

 

  1. Are they in a position to influence?

Here I’m mostly concerned with the position within the system we are trying to influence. A CEO will have more power to influence how a company operates because she gives strategic direction to the business. A receptionist will have power to influence an organisation’s culture because she knows and speaks to everyone within the organisation. Both also have critical and potentially complementary knowledge of the system we want to influence. Both have different ways in which they can exert their power to influence the system. Both have lots of connections. And connection is power. Think of why networking events can be so powerful: They connect those who may not have otherwise connected, giving room to share resources (knowledge, contacts, other networks, etc.).

Some useful questions to ask ourselves:

 

  1. What are their values and beliefs?

This one seems obvious, and to an extent we already gravitate naturally towards those who share our values and beliefs. But here are some of the things that our fellow food citizens think and feel:

And what if that person doesn’t feel or think these things? We can either move on and focus on those who do (for now) or we can also think about how we engage with them in the first place and allow their inner food citizen to come out! It is up to us whether we have the capacity and time to do that at any given moment.

 

  1. Does their personal and/ or career history show a passion for change?’

Throughout my interviews with fellow food citizens, I have been blown away by the sheer range of backgrounds and skills that they all bring to our movement. But amongst this incredible diversity lie some key ingredients that seem to support them in their quest:

 

  1. Do they have a certain set of personality traits?

Food citizens come with an infinite variety of personalities (thank goodness!), but there are certain traits that I have found so far among all of them:

 

Leaders are all around us, and within us. Let’s find them, nurture them, and connect them. Together we can accelerate the shift towards fair food systems that respect people, animals and the planet.

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