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Local Food Concepts in Evolution!

The Local Food Challenge concept shortlist provided fertile ground for discussion with at the Queensland Government and others at the Ideas Festival in Australia next month. Check out the exciting early developments on the road to realisation.

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OpenIDEO’s Local Food Challenge was hit at last month’s Ideas Festival in Queensland. The overall objective of this government initiative was to engage community in a public conversation on critical and contemporary issues. It provided a vehicle to engage policy makers in a collaborative prototyping environment alongside industry and community representatives, facilitating innovative thinking around a critical area of future policy – food. So the multi-disciplinary goodness of the OpenIDEO platform fitted right in!
During the workshop, an enthusiastic group of government policy makers from agriculture, environment, arts, innovation, tourism and health joined people from the food industry, education and community sectors to further explore the  20 shortlisted concepts so that they might be developed for implementation in the local context as scalable ideas to deliver real impact in response to the challenge theme.

The workshop was driven around a team structure, with each team championing 2 of the top 20 concepts. The concepts were refined and then pitched back to the overall group so that a set of leading locally-relevant concepts could be identified. Through this process the groups layered, cross-referenced and built upon the top 20 concepts to ultimately end up with a set of possible prototypes which are now being assessed for implementation. Here’s a selection that gained traction during the process:

Melting Pot
Melting Pot aims to convert an unused piece of urban space into an urban food hub offering a broad program of initiatives, resources and activities focused on food preparation and knowledge, while also connecting food producers with niche urban. This ‘meta-concept’ is a build on the  Public Kitchen  and  Regional Food System + Commercial Kitchen + Food Entrepreneur Incubator = Collaborative Community concepts as well as touching on many others. A number of concepts sought to create a physical location that could act as an inner-urban focal point for food transactions, programming and activities. These Melting Pot hubs would co-locate like-minded people and programs to serve city communities as knowledge banks, working spaces and permanent retail facilities focused on the support of local and regional food. Melting Pots could provide valuable infrastructure for a rich community / educational experience that crosses policy areas by focusing on community interaction and the celebrations of food. Onwards from the workshop we are assessing what needs to happen to establish the first Melting Pot facility in Australia and offer a program of events, workshops, and activities for the target audiences. This prototype will include the establishment of a test facility, design of brand and program and 12 months of programming.
OpenJAM was the evolution of  Queensland Open Sustainability & Food Day concept which sought to extend the use of the OpenIDEO platform as a tool that could be self-managed by a community of users. There was particular interest at the workshop in the idea of an independently managed, ongoing series of live events where groups could be brought together to workshop complex social, policy or community challenges. During brainstorming, this program was loosely referred to as OpenIDEO-x, drawing reference to the  TEDx model and later became OpenJAM. It proposes the development of a program designed to encourage secondary school teachers and students to engage with a highly collaborative problem-solving learning process that would run online yet culminate in a series of live workshop gatherings. OpenJAM would take aspects of the OpenIDEO platform and process to offer an inspirational education experience to ignite empathy and creative intelligence in young minds. As an output of the workshop we are working with the government to assess whether we could develop and launch the first OpenJAM program specifically for secondary level students throughout urban and rural Queensland.

Farm Window
During the workshop there were many conversations and concepts developed around the issue of transparency and online connectivity between producers and consumers. Many of the projects or programs shortlisted in the Top 20 were contingent on accessing an underlying ‘platform’ of content that documents producer activity and maps out product offerings on a region-by-region basis. Arising from the  Window to the Farm and other platform-related concepts, an online guide to Queensland’s best growers and producers was proposed – which doubles as a data platform for the growing community, with interactive capacity. It would fill this information gap in an innovative and scalable way by generating the required information as the basis of a new Queensland food media platform – an evolving online guide to the growers and producers of Queensland. Through the process of gathering and publishing editorial profiles on Queensland’s small-to-medium food producing enterprises, Farm Window would bring together currently obscure information which needs to be accessible for government agencies, food producers and industry to better promote regional food production into the future. As an output of the workshop we are in the process of developing a prototype edition of Farm Window focused on the Brisbane food region. This prototype will include the development of the program brand, website, a smart phone App and editorial content development with 50 local producers.

Locavore Canteen
This proposal is an evolution from the inspiring  50 Within 50 concept. The underlying motivation of the program is for Queensland schools to be assisted to source 50% of food sold at the school from sustainable growers and producers within their local region and the remaining 50% from sustainable, organic or fairtrade suppliers located within the Asia Pacific. The workshop refined this concept to be called Locavore Canteen – a scalable social business supplying schools with healthy local food via a cool and simple business model. The business would be established as a not-for-profit social business that provides an umbrella brand and kit-of-parts to schools. Locavore Canteen would provide a set of customisable healthy and appealing menus, an online ordering and merchant system, a range of branded hospitality collateral and an overarching business model that could be adopted as a partnership between Locavore Canteen, schools, local food entrepreneurs and local and regional producers in any Queensland community. Locavore Canteen is designed as a scalable and adaptable program that remains flexible to local conditions while bringing schools together to access health, educational and economic benefits. We are assessing whether we can develop a beta version of the Locavore Canteen menu, brand, online system and business model to enable a rapid prototype of the program within one school in Queensland.

We’re looking forward to updating you on progress of proposals, prototypes and progress as we continue with our pursuit of local food transformations in Queensland. It’s been an exciting journey so far – and one on which we’re really grateful to have had the OpenIDEO community join us!

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I have an idea for how to scale up the “celebration of imperfection” concept into a business model. I really like the way this concept has both an immediate practical goal of reducing food waste, and a longer term, social goal of changing perceptions about the value of difference.

One way to reduce food waste would be to partner with a juicing company. This company could commit to purchasing, at a subsidized rate, the oddly shaped produce that other firms were planning on discarding. Since the fruit and vegetables are being juiced, it won’t matter what they look like. This partnership could also create funding for advocacy work.

Once this idea has gained traction it could even be possible to achieve the second goal of changing perceptions. That is, the juicing company could market its products and achieve the advocacy outcomes at the same time. A potential message could be along the lines of “ugly fruit still tastes great”. Or they could reference what all parents tell their kids: “its what’s on the inside that counts”. Some trial and error with the messaging, and testing of the product in specific markets before scale-up would help ensure success.

This may not be completely inline with the original idea, but in some cases, linking social goals with business opportunities can be a really powerful tool for change.

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Great idea, Kelly – and we're loving the "it's on the inside the counts" strap line!

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