The evolutionary perspectives and needs of Sustainable Food actors

The need for skills, time and private/public collaboration

December 2020

Fondation Daniel et Nina Carasso (FDNC)

For the Daniel & Nina Carasso Foundation, achieving Sustainable Food implies multi-functional and territorialized, agro-ecological and regenerative, diversified and inclusive, circular and low-energy, democratic, transparent and solidarity-based food systems. By analysing the intersections at work between SSE and Sustainable Food, and the needs identified to support the deployment of initiatives, the foundation wishes to contribute to facilitating the change of scale of the solutions known today, and to inscribe in the economic field the values of the citizen transition for which it has been acting for 10 years.

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What are the support needs of project leaders to support the development of initiatives in the field of Sustainable Food? And what are the answers already offered or accessible, particularly by the SSE sector?

Acquiring a wide range of skills

Given the relative youth of the Sustainable Food theme and the complexity of the projects identified (multi-activity, multi-actors, targeting a diversity of publics, developing transversal approaches, etc.), it is hardly surprising that the first need that emerges - the first because it is common to the various actors, whether they are project leaders, coaches or funders - concerns access to and the acquisition of a diversity of knowledge and skills.

In addition to the « classic » skills needed by any project leader in the legal, tax, social and HR fields, the need to access skills / even qualifications in health, logistics, collective project management, etc., is mentioned, along with the need for a real knowledge of the organisation of the agricultural world, which is not easily approached, particularly by « non-experts » from its ranks.

At the same time, a difficulty is pointed out in the current training offer, which does not allow for the creation of training groups that welcome the various stakeholders, whether they are volunteers, private employees, public servants, service providers, etc. Funding is organised by major category (FDVA - Fonds Développement pour la Vie associative - for volunteers, CNFPT - Centre Nationale de la Fondation Publique Territoriale - for local authorities, OPCO - Opérateurs de Compétences - grouped by professional branch for private employees, etc.).

The need to offer a diversity of responses was then clearly underlined and several proposals were made:

The farms in Figeac mentioned the interest of forward-looking approaches that would allow various actors to be brought together in the same territory and to build a common strategic vision.

Others mention the interest of action-research when it allows academic and empirical knowledge to be combined.

Investing simultaneously in long and short time

Despite the great diversity of the Sustainable Food projects studied and interviewed, major similarities emerge and numerous needs specific to these projects have been identified:

Finding 1:

Complex projects requiring significant engineering during the design phase, and experiencing a long ramp-up, with a delicate moment for « teenage projects »

Needs 1:

Support needs for this « social » engineering/R&D time, strategic steering, not well supported by current funding and a particular attention (a target?) for teenage projects of 4 to 6 years old, in the process of reaching a critical size, and having many needs to structure themselves (cash flow needs, legal and fiscal advice…)

Finding 2:

Collective, multi-partner projects

Needs 2 :

Need for coordination/animation time to keep these collectives alive: how to finance it? A target that could be privileged: Actors and coordination actions in the territories, such as PTCE, PAT… which allow decompartmentalisation (collaboration between public and private actors), grouping of actors (gateway to the territories), mutualisation (sharing of processing tools and logis- tics)…

Finding 3:

Numerous requests to spin off, duplicate, even though the projects are not yet stabilised.

Needs 3 :

Need to capitalise while walking, to enable the transmission of bricks / bridges of experience.

Finding 4:

A movement towards the multiplication and interweaving of legal statuses (2 associations - 1 association and 1 SCIC - 1 association and 1 SAS…) to be able to host various activities (and certain certification requirements for example), to be able to capture different funds (subsidy or donation such as patronage, investment and private savings…), for questions of different taxation depending on the activities carried out…

Needs 4 :

Need for very specific advice to anticipate the governance between the different tools created (and anticipate the risk of divergence), the impacts in terms of taxation and access to funding, the possible organisation or not of flows between structures… many entrepreneurs mention changes in legal status that they would not make again if they had been able to grasp all the consequences

Finding 5:

No means (in terms of time and skills) to develop a relevant multi-criteria evaluation system, in the sense of helping to manage and value the complexity of Sustainable Food projects.

Needs 5 :

Need to build operational qualitative impact assessment systems, allowing the valuation of avoided costs…

Strengthen private/public collaborations

Finding 1:

Local and regional authorities are becoming one of the major players to be involved in sustainable food projects. And if some of them are at the initiative of very mobilising dynamics on their territory, the interviewed actors underline that the majority still has difficulties to invest in agricultural and food issues apart from the land and planning tools (scot) and the purchase for school canteens…

Needs 1 :

Need to enhance pilot experiences, evaluate the various impacts of projects (prove themselves), establish and legitimise the subject/initiatives.

Finding 2:

Other actors point out the risk that the food subject is a fashion effect, considered as a new project among others, and therefore invested for a while before the elected officials decide to stop.

Needs 2:

Need for local authority representatives to be in a position to develop the subject: how can they make it a priority and make it unavoidable?

Need to organise cross-fertilisation between actors, and in particular between those who hardly meet each other (supermarkets, food aid associations, farmers, etc.) in order to create alliance projects.

Finding 3:

Local authorities may have difficulty understanding the myriad of initiatives on their territory.

Needs 3 :

The interest in helping local actors and initiatives to organise for a « sustainable food » gateway on the territories in order to favour their common visibility.

Some examples to illustrate

Fab’ LIM: the Labo des territoires Alimentaires Méditerranéens (Bouches-du-Rhône, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region, France)

An associative research-action-innovation centre whose aim is to develop and support partnership projects in Occitania and the Mediterranean territories, in favour of :

The training offer proposed by this lab is indicative of the needs of project leaders and coaches in the sustainable agriculture and food sector:

Fab’Lim is also coordinating an action research project (2019-2022) on the evolution of the skills of actors in territorial food systems: identification of skills in tension (core technical skills and skills that are transversal to any project) in 4 territorial food sectors in cereals, construction of adapted responses: training-actions, procedures, transfer of knowledge and know-how, directories of expertise, online teaching aids, etc.

Les Anges Gardins

Association for integration, permanent education, development of new social practices and activities related to food, Les Anges Gardins :

The organisation seeks to renew the contours of popular education by inventing and testing methods and experiences that encourage learning and the acquisition of knowledge. The Embassy of Good Food Living hosts the main resources in the form of manuals and cards produced to facilitate access to simplified gardening and diversified and balanced cooking techniques. It also brings together all the gardening and food ambassadors trained to support culinary and food self-production. The ambassadors have resources and work spaces specific to their community. An ambassador knowledge transfer session is required for access.

Street Food (Paris, Ile-de-France region, France)

A 100% female culinary integration incubator, the association aims to link integration and sustainable food, based on an economic integration project and a business cooperative. It has set up the Panaméenne, a food market in the 14th arrondissement of Paris consisting of a popular kitchen, a grocery shop selling foodstuffs through short circuits and a greengrocer. Women are also supported in launching their catering business. The aim is to create the first solidarity franchise in France in the field of street food.

The path taken by Food de Rue is particularly illustrative of the Sustainable Food projects: the association began to diversify its activities (product processing, marketing), then created alliances to open the market and pool logistics (feasibility study underway on a collaborative logistics platform). The association is collaborating with research to strengthen its engineering capacity (work carried out with SupAgro to measure their 360° impacts and evaluate the synergies and reciprocities between sustainable food and integration). It explains that it is going through the delicate phase of an « adolescent » project, with a significant volume of activity requiring support in terms of management, HR, etc., and that its size is insufficient to absorb these new costs. A reflection on the change of economic and legal model is underway, with the possibility of articulating several statutes (association for ACI and another type of SCIC for marketing products). Finally, the structure is struggling to respond to numerous external requests, as it does not yet have a strongly stabilised model.


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