Co-authors: Nadeen Haidar (People Powered Results), Naomi Maynard (Feeding Liverpool), Andrew Forsey (Feeding Britain)
Local food strategies perform two vital functions. Firstly, they lend a coherence and focus to the work taking place across different sectors, in pursuit of our shared objectives of Good Food for all. Secondly, they also drive the necessary changes in infrastructure and resource allocation to aid that pursuit. We’ve already seen some much needed and effective work, flowing directly from local food strategies, to make food more affordable and accessible in the communities we serve… but Liverpool’s ambition is to go further.
We know that too often strategies and plans done with the best intentions end up in drawers collecting dust (or these days, whatever the virtual version of dust is!). In our experience two key factors that can determine the success of a local food strategy are who has shaped it and how it has been shaped. There are now several particularly strong examples emerging across the Feeding Britain network of residents, communities, and broad coalitions of organisations pulling together to shape strategies that are reflective of, and responsive to, the needs and circumstances of their area.
In this blog, we take a closer look at how Liverpool’s Good Food Plan was developed.
The People Powered Results team worked in partnership with Liverpool’s Food Insecurity Taskforce – with representatives from the city council, Public Health, universities and the voluntary sector – to codesign and publish the plan in 2021. The ambition for this was to develop a plan that will be a living, breathing document and a catalyst for action across the city. Throughout the process two key questions were explored at the same time:
- What is that change we would collectively like to see in Liverpool?
- What can we start doing now to set this strategic vision up for success?
The process was led by the People Powered Results principles, methods and approaches that put people at the heart of change to make progress on complex challenges and ignite systemic change. Including:
- Shifting power to citizens and asking what ‘good food’ means to them: Early in the process and as the group were working on articulating their vision, they acknowledged that ‘Good Food’ means different things to different people and that must be honoured. So instead of trying to pin down a definition, Liverpudlians were asked what Good Food means to them and their response will continue to be used to articulate this vision. Find out what they thought here.
- Amplifying ‘less-heard’ expert voices: Front-line practitioners and people who use services have unrivalled expertise in how the system operates, but often have little influence or ownership over change. To shift that dynamic, Feeding Liverpool, the city’s food alliance, engaged with 48 residents with experiences of food insecurity and surveyed organisations involved in emergency food provision in Liverpool. This listening work informed the content of the strategic plan and was documented and published here.
- Acknowledging complexity and unlocking the power of the collective – For decades, much of the thinking and resources that have been dedicated to food related issues (e.g. food insecurity, impact on health, environmental impact etc) have focused on these in isolation of each other. Here, we created spaces for collaboration that brought together a wide range of expertise. This helped better understand the interconnection between these challenges and identify priorities which, in turn, set the direction of travel for the entire work. This included colleagues from public health, children’s services, food banks, food waste charities, growers, data experts, university researchers etc. This also meant that the ambition grew from focusing on reducing food poverty to a wider ambition of achieving Good Food for all.
- Using creativity to make complex issues clearer – An important part of this first phase has been bringing data and statistics together to build a picture of the challenge in Liverpool. Creative approaches like data visualisation and interactive maps were used to, for example, overlay foodbank user data with food deserts data and emergency hospital admission data to identify areas where, in this next phase of the Good Food Plan, we should be targeting interventions.
Mobilising a Good Food Movement
Since publishing the Good Food Plan, Feeding Liverpool has been formalised to act as an independent, impartial, trusted organisation that is primarily focused on Good Food. In recognising the value of tapping into a wide range of expertise and committing to collective decision making and action, Feeding Liverpool has led on a number of efforts to ensure this continues to take place. But what does this look like in practice?
Inviting public pledges: In collaboration with a number of local organisations, Feeding Liverpool held an event inviting organisations and residents to publicly pledge their support for Liverpool’s Good Food Plan. Over 300 people attended in-person and online and the evening ended with public pledges from local and national organisations, including Liverpool City Council’s commitment of £150,000 towards Liverpool’s Good Food Plan and Feeding Britain contributing £30,000 for the development of community food spaces across the city.
Co-creating a network structure: A group of local people and organisations came together to explore what it would take to grow and sustain a Good Food Movement in Liverpool. They explored Liverpool’s Good Food plan goals and surfaced the ‘conditions’ that are needed for a movement of collective action, learning and influence to grow in Liverpool and achieve Good Food for All. A network structure has been identified as a result that includes:
- A wide Good Food Network of over 500 organisations, informing direction of travel and supporting thinking and action
- A Good Food Task Force influencing, creating the conditions for change, thinking about the ‘big picture’ and,
- People and organisations working closely on the five Good Food Plan goals.
We feel that Liverpool’s Good Food plan strikes an important balance, something that we are incredibly proud of. We aimed for it to be bold and ambitious in its objectives, clear and credible in its pursuit of those objectives, and unequivocal in setting out the role that each of us has to play in improving the affordability and accessibility of good food across the whole city. This plan is intended as the first chapter of many. The Good Food Plan is set up to take a cyclical phased approach, where action, reflection and learning of each phase will inform the next. We are committed to see the work through and look forward to seeing how the next chapters of this ambitious, people powered ‘Good Food’ story unfolds.