Project Summary & Frequently Asked Questions
Applying the Vivid Picture
The California food system is vast, and plays a significant role both globally and nationally. Yet the industry is suffering economically, rural communities are struggling, and the public is still not guaranteed a delicious, equitable, quality food system. While there are examples of small, successful models of sustainable food system practices, no detailed vision or plan exists on how to transition the whole system.
The wisdom, the experience, the talent, and the will exist to outline a sustainable food systems vision and a change agenda for California. From the pioneering organic farmers to the natural foods entrepreneurs, the rural health advocates, the top-notch chefs, the farmers market leaders and the food security visionaries, the outline of a healthy food system is emerging. The Vivid Picture project, funded by the Roots of Change Fund, is designed to generate a comprehensive blueprint for a sustainable food system, and a change agenda to achieve an overarching vision. The project will run from January 2004 through June of 2005. Results of the project will be available to the public.
What are the goals for this project?
Specifically, the goals for the project include development of:
1. A Vivid Picture:
Create a comprehensive vision for a sustainable food system for
California that addresses multiple aspects of the system including:
a. Access to quality food for all people in California;
b. Personal health, well being and community building through food and
c. Natural resources used well and fairly so that their usefulness can
be maintained in perpetuity;
d. Economic vitality for regional producers, manufacturers, distributors
and purveyors; and
e. Enhancement of regional and cultural identities throughout California.
2. A Change Agenda:
Develop a change agenda that identifies policies, economic plans, and/or communication programs that can shift the entire system or entire components of the system. These change items will do more than provide for demonstration programs. They will change the game. We will test and evaluate these strategies for viability and impact, looking for those that provide maximum leverage.
3. Impact Analysis Tools:
Analysis tools will be built to measure impact of sample change agenda items, including landscape scale considerations and performance of the indicators. These tools will be updateable, for use by funders, decision makers and communities.
See also goals for a sustainable food system.
What are the outcomes that the project will
produce and how will these outcomes contribute to the development of sustainable
food systems in California?
The Vivid Picture
The Vivid Picture process will yield a list of values for the new food
system, indicators for measuring progress towards the new system and the
key components of the system. This new view of the food system will detail
a vision that has not been fully expressed and agreed on previously. The
process will allow a shared language to emerge and an understanding of
how the different components of the system might interact and become pervasive.
While we cannot know what the final values, indicators and components
may be since we have not begun the process, below is a sample of what
may emerge. These will be described in the form of print and on-line reports,
powerpoint presentations and other electronic media, and an as yet undefined
creative communications medium.
The new food system must clearly define what is valued. The current, dominant food system primarily values safety, efficiency, growth, productivity, price and product diversification. The Vivid Picture Project will include a list of values such as quality, taste, relationship, health, access, regional pride, eating close to home, and long term sustainable land management.
The Vivid Picture Project will include indicators closely tied to values. Indicators will be few, measurable, easily understood and rely on existing data, including existing indicator development work. Others may simply be single data points. Some indicators may be derived using true cost accounting. Indicators may include: percent of food purchased from within a foodshed or desired distance to a grocery outlet in a city comprehensive land use plan. Average age of a farmer or measure of energy usage on farm. In terms of growing practices, an indicator may include ecologically based universal indicators. In addition we may include perception based indicators such as "desire to eat healthy foods."
If a sustainable food system is to become pervasive, the Vivid Picture must clearly identify and describe the new players and infrastructure components that are required. In addition we may need to clearly identify the parts of the current system that must be retired. Potential components of a new system could include: community food planning departments and policy councils, farmers as managers of open spaces, new market makers - not only CSA's and farmers markets, but also buying clubs, local restaurants, and an increased number of independent grocers; new middleware for distributing, food processing and capitalization may be required, new on farm, non-food revenue streams may be what keeps are farmers employed, new business models that maintain local control even when a business is sold, a farmland retirement program, university level research agenda.
A Change Agenda
The change agenda will be derived through impact analysis and strategic
review. Initially, the interviews, research, and a growing list of ideas
will be compiled for achieving the values-based, indicator oriented Vivid
Picture of a sustainable California food system. Since we are searching
for the levers that will most significantly create systemic change, the
list of ideas will be narrowed to those few that help to create the "tipping
point" or the most leverage in the system.
What focused policy changes, or rewards/incentives for participating in a changing food system, will bring the food system issues to the forefront of our policy makers minds and actually create a significant shift the system? This is the question we will be asking as we develop the policy strategy outline. City, County, State and Federal policies will be considered. Existing policy initiative campaigns will be considered.
New economic components or infrastructure may be determined to be necessary for change to occur. These may include new market makers, market relationships or market infrastructure. The Vivid Picture economic outline may also include an understanding of how large any given "market basket" is for a community and the food production necessary to feed that community. An outline of economic or market-based changes will be outlined.
Identify messages to coalition members, policy makers and the general public that may shift the debate. These messages may include clear statement of the problem, the vision, the new values and new indicators. Some messages may be timeless. Other messages may be fit for an existing context.
Impact Analysis Tools
The Vivid Picture Project will be an opportunity to develop tools that
can be used to evaluate the implications of a policy decision or serve
as a vehicle for evaluating a sustainability indicator. These tools are
visual, intuitive, and can be used over and over again after the project
is completed by updating the data sets or designing new scenarios and
queries. Generally these tools can help to see previously complex information
in a more simplified manner and often provide a new way of thinking about
One way of looking at the Vivid Picture will be to look through the lens of the socio-economic and ecological decision (SEED) support model, an integrated, flexible, "living" GIS platform. This will be a scenario-modeling tool for decision makers and communities to consider impacts of changes to the California food system identified in the market, education and policy strategies. The modeling environment will be spatially explicit (presented as maps) and will be designed to test for change in such things as resource availability, land use patterns, increase in population, increase in market basket, farm subsidy increases/decreases, and multiplier effects across industrial sectors and industry clusters. Communities may want to use this tool to measure what portion of their food comes from their foodshed, or to assess their progress towards the new food system in terms of the indicators. Another application may be to help determine the true costs of keeping or taking out of production targeted agricultural lands.
The Change Makers
How does change happen? How do we move towards the Vivid Picture? How
do we implement the change agenda? Many individuals and organizations
in California have been working on these issues for a long time, some
without ever meeting each other. Some are new to the arena are just coming
to understand the issues. Some still have to be recruited. Identifying
unusual alliances for change will be one of the key objectives of the
project. Many non-profits and public agencies focused on environmental
and agriculture sustainability form the backbone of a change maker coalition.
Recent additions of chefs and slow foods advocates and even more recent
additions of food security activists are encouraging signs that a movement
for change is building. Recruiting industry and non-traditional - yet
vested - partners will even strengthen the change maker coalition. This
process will begin to outline how the changemakers can be unified on this
Vision and how they can work together most productively for change.
Are we all pulling in the same direction? Let's check it out. Many groups want to work collaboratively, but have not had a chance to do joint strategic visioning and planning. The Vivid Picture could serve as a starting point for discussion among various groups working for change.
Identify Change-Makers and Roles
The Leadership Network projects, funded in conjunction with the Vivid Picture Project can use the Vivid Picture analysis as they begin to assess institutional partners and change makers.
Create Change Maps
A change map identifies how best to effect change. For instance, some policy changes require a well organized grass roots effort that can be part of a change strategy, but it is not enough on its own. Vocal, economically vested and politically vested parties as well as strong research and analysis must also be brought to the table. Change maps may drawn for a sampling of issues in order to demonstrate how a coalition for change might be created for one or all of the change suggestions.
Applying the Vivid Picture
How will these outcomes be useful to and
benefit key food systems stakeholders, including funders, policymakers,
farmers, public interest organizations, activists, researchers, etc.?
This process can and will benefit the groups listed in the question in different ways. Once the funders sign on and endorse the final Vivid Picture outcomes, they should be able to apply resources for change with confidence and be able to request specific measurements for specific efforts. Farmers, fishers, ranchers, public interest organizations, activists and researchers will hopefully find the Vivid Picture big, bold, and exciting, a vision large enough to capture the hearts and minds of their friends and colleagues and practical enough to imagine that it just might happen. Ideally everybody will recognize aspects of their own work, values and priorities in it, as well as see the same "bigger vivid picture".
The criteria for evaluating the project include:
- Complete a vision for a sustainable food system for the State of
California, a Vivid Picture, around which people and resources can be
- Identify measurable indicators of progress from already existing,
publicly collected data.
- Create analytical tools to test proposed policies or market
transformations, describing economic, social and ecological outcomes.
- Identify specific policy and economic levers that could provide
significant movement toward the sustainable food systems.
- Develop creative presentation materials appropriate for audiences of
policy makers, business leaders and funders that can communicate the Vivid
picture of a sustainable food system for CA and the necessary steps to
achieve that vision.
- Produce a credible, final document that substantiates the
- Engage a full range of stakeholders in gathering data and input.
Beyond this, include a list of other potential stakeholders, coalition
members, and interested parties.
- Provide regular updates to all interested individuals in California.
- Create a new framework for action that can be embraced by new
coalitions of individuals and organizations, a framework that is poised to