“New Ruralism: Reviving the countryside organically.

How to motivate people to collaborate through social entrepreneurship?

The team of the Food Network Academy (FNA) had the opportunity and privilege to present a workshop at the “New Ruralism: Reviving the countryside organically. Emerging villages lead to New Ruralism” conference Idanha-a-Nova, Portugal. 

The first part of the FNA workshop consisted in a presentation of the two entrepreneurial activities that inspired the development of the Sustainable Regional Food Network concept (SRFN) and the creation of the FNA as the initiative focused on disseminating this concept, creating networks of like/mined individuals and groups and supporting food entrepreneurs. Tulsi Giri presented his example of such a network in Nepal, THE BAZAAR, and Patrick Honauer his example from Switzerland, Bachsermärt.

The main focus of this part of the presentation was to showcase the characteristics that shape these innovative examples of a network, such as:

  • Value-generating, collaborative and reciprocal partnerships between actors in the food system; especially in the dialogue between the urban and the rural area;
  • Local, Cultural, environmental and social values and benefits as well as economic sustainability;
  • Ensuring food and nutrition security for everyone;
  • Food is a “collaborative common”: respectful and ethical practices of production and consumption of food.

For the second part of this exercise, the attendants were divided into 4 smaller groups with the task of coming up with concrete actions – we used the word “recipe” – that they thought would ensure that the spirit of business models such as Bachsermärt and THE BAZAAR can be incorporated into new entrepreneurial activities in the context of reviving the Portuguese countryside, in dire need of innovative ideas and economic models that will curb rural to urban migration and allow the next generation to live in and from the countryside in a truly sustainable manner.

Key aspects and key questions to build a Sustainable Regional Food Network in Portugal?

The conclusion presented by the four groups were as follows:

  • Take the initiative;
  • Prototyping – just do it – by starting small-scale initiatives;
  • Engage creatively with others;
  • Capacity building (e.g. farm and food processing);
  • Create strong bonds (person to person);
  • Be flexible and adaptable (in regards with rules): strong relationships can overcome rigid hierarchical structures and other obstacles;
  • Access to funds: Look for like-minded individuals as s source for funding;
  • Think as inclusively as possible;
  • Trust – “confiança“ in portuguese;
  • Commitment (from and with the producers);
  • Awareness of everyone’s context and situation;
  • Create local network first:
  • Find societal/environmental needs that need an answer and work on this;
  • Social competences in the focus of learning – needed from the initiator;
  • Find like-minded peers: per to peer learning;
  • Fill information gaps – share different skills and different types of knowledge.