Over the past year, we’ve been piloting a new model of Food Leaders Sharing Gatherings in both Cumberland and Cape Breton. Our intent for these gatherings, was to bring together those who are already working or developing food and garden programs and host a day that would provide opportunities for mentoring, knowledge exchange and leave participants feeling better supported and more confident in their leadership ability.
There was a real mix at these gatherings – both in level and type of experience -which really enhanced the richness of the knowledge exchanged. Many had some experience designing and delivery garden and food skills workshops. For others, it was their first time organizing such events. There was also a range in the people with whom these food leaders supported; from an after school children’s cooking program, to a Meals on Wheels program with seniors, to gardening with families, to starting a garden at a food bank.
As more and more people are doing food programming, we knew there was knowledge in the room and we just had to get it out! We used storytelling as way to promote knowledge sharing. In a more relaxed version of a panel discussion, a storytellers circle gives voice to those that have been on the ground, doing the work, and creates a space for these people to share their experiences, what’s worked and what hasn’t, and give their recommendations.
Story sharing sessions can be a useful tool to spark a group conversation around a specific idea, say “what it takes to make a successful community garden”. Instead of rhyming off a list of best practices, stories can offer practical advice and give real life examples. At our spring Garden Leaders gatherings we invited 2 garden leaders to share their community garden success stories-stories. The group was encouraged to listen for “the keys” to their success. At the end of the stories, listeners shared back what they learned from the stories and this prompted a wider discussion on the keys to a successful community garden.
At our Food Skills Leaders gathering, experienced facilitators shared stories from past Food Skills workshops (the good, the bad, and the ugly!) and their advice for coordinating workshops, including: Organization pre-workshop (health/safety concerns, promotion, workshop delivery (facilitation and flow & basic tips), and how to embrace diversity in your workshops.
We are so pleased with how the Food Leader Sharing Gatherings went that we already have plans to build onto this model. More to come, keep an eye out!
Think you’d like to use Storytelling in your work? Check out this post for tips on how to facilitate meaningful connections and conversations using stories.