A new way of working

Open Food Network is not only creating a new food system. We are also developing a new way of working as a global community, in a truly open and collaborative way.

A community of people

The Open Food Network is a distributed collaborative organisation run by committed people all over the world. It blends aspects of sociocracy and holacracy with governance elements we have developed over time in response to specific challenges and tensions in those models. Deliberation is emphasised, so everyone who is interested to contribute to the shaping of a decision can do so, while agile and open-source software development concepts like lazy consensus are incorporated to make sure things get done!

We take inspiration from permaculture, paying attention to the resilience and sustainability of the organisation. As such, we encourage everyone to develop their own leadership within the community, and we try to avoid over-dependence on any specific individuals, for instance by ensuring that every role can be done by at least 2 or 3 people, and that each person can fulfil at least 2 or 3 roles. 

A common, evolving framework

To play and build together in a distributed team, we need common rules. We have therefore documented the way we work and are happy to share with you our OFN handbook! Because Open Food Network is constantly improving the way it organises, this handbook is always open to revision, wiki-style. It describes the way we do things today, and the Open Food Network community actively shapes and rewrites these guidelines for how we will do things tomorrow. New (and not so new) members can learn how Open Food Network works by reading the handbook, and contribute to the evolution of this model through discussions on the Open Food Network forums and live chat (see more here).

A network of local affiliates

Open Food Network members cooperate globally but organise locally through the local entities they create, called instances. These instances collaborate with one another around the development and maintenance of shared open-source resources to support the development of local, sustainable food systems. The relationships between these local entities are formalised via a mutual agreement document: our community pledge.

An evolving model to be shared

Open Food Network aims to be a living example of an alternative way of organising and working. We are constantly experimenting with new structures and forms of collaboration, and have been refining our current model ever since we set up the Open Food Foundation in 2012.

While Open Food Network has developed its particular way of working for its own mission and context, the model can be adopted and adapted for all sorts of organisations. Groups interested in democratic, horizontal, collaborative ways of working might be particularly interested in exploring this approach. By emphasising deliberation, contributors are engaged and empowered to shape decisions and actions.  

Additionally, as Open Food Network’s global collaboration is primarily conducted online, distributed collectives that want to harness the potential of internet organising tools and spaces might also find this model useful. To effectively coordinate instances across the world, Open Food Network has developed a way of working that integrates instant messaging, video conferencing, forums, and collaborative document production. Despite our reliance on these virtual tools, Open Food Network cultivates connection among collaborators and with the earth through an intentionally developed culture of mindfulness and appreciation of one another as whole people.

We welcome new contributors.


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