Time to connect

Let’s try to picture the mycelium, billions of intricate connections building nature’s very own communication network. This, for us, is what we see the Open Food Network becoming. A network that connects people to each other to help build inter-connected communities

As a fully remote team, connecting online can be easy with all the technology at our disposal. But connecting on a deeper level is harder, the same way it is harder for each of us individually to relate to each other and ourselves when we spend a lot of our time behind a screen. 

You may not know this, but the Open Food Network has been transitioning towards working non-hierarchically, also known as sociocracy (a few words on that later). That’s why the UK team wanted to gather in a space where we could connect to each other and nature. But also to talk about everything Open Food Network and explore the potential of the OFN through its people.

That’s why we decided to go to Goytree Glamping and Tree Houses on the last weekend of October, which was ideal since it was right at the time of the cross-quarter festival, Samhain.

Goytree Glamping and Treehouses

Goytree Glamping and Tree Houses is tucked away in the countryside near Hereford, in the heart of Herefordshire, right by the Welsh border. The beautiful location was the perfect place to escape from our busy lives, with four off-grid treehouses and yurts offering the best of both nature and man-made comfort. Matt and Rachel made this place their home last year and have created a beautiful space to connect, recharge, and enjoy the beauty of nature. 

What did we get up to?

After the initial adrenaline rush we got from being all in the same room together for the first time, we sat around the table to enjoy good food, delicious wines, and ciders. We decided to start with a check-in, which we usually do at the start of our meetings. It helps us gauge our energy, emotions and our intentions.

We wanted this weekend to be an opportunity to think about the Open Food Network through its people. Everyone joined the OFN through their unique stories and, therefore, has something unique to bring to the table.

“My favourite bit was the dinners. Being together and letting go, finding out who we are together and discovering new things about the OFN through its people. Being together around something we care about (good food) and talking about the things we care about was magical.” – D

We had planned some workshops for the weekend to help us draw an economic picture, sow our intentions for the Open Food Network, and work on developing our ‘Sociocratic’ structure. Each workshop was led by one of our circles. You might be wondering what circles are. Keep reading to find out more!

A few words on ‘sociocracy’

As the end of the year approaches this feels like the perfect opportunity for us to tell you a bit more about sociocracy and how we have been learning and implementing sociocratic principles into the Open Food Network.

This summer, we decided to adopt a sociocratic structure and working methods. We found this way of working beneficial for both our team and the Open Food Network, so much so that we decided to run some workshops at the Shambala festival.

One of the new characteristics of this non-hierarchical way of working is that we operate in circles (e.g., the communications circle or the co-ordinating circle). Circles are a good way to decentralise decison-making by defining clear domains for different areas of the business and affording each circle member equal say in decisions – there is no circle ‘leader’.

“I like how different people take leadership in different areas depending on their interests and their passions” – N

We wanted to create a working environment that was in-line with our organisation’s values. We wanted the power and responsiblity to be shared to allow more voices to be heard, and the possibility to grow sustainably.

“I feel the move to a Sociocracy has been transformative for the team, and the moments we move away from or forget the practices (e.g. speaking in rounds) we are quickly reminded how useful and helpful they are! ” – K

It was amazing, to see, throughout the weekend, how sociocratic principles were being applied. Hearing everyone’s voice was so precious and allowed us to understand each other better.

A few words from the team

It is so powerful to have a constellation of people in one room; doing the work together and drawing inspiration from each other is something unique. As a team, we understood that by learning from and about each other was hugely beneficial for both ourselves and the Open Food Network. We hope that we can bring all that energy that we channelled together into the new year.

Here are a few words from the team:

“My favourite part was hanging out and being silly with folks” – A

“That having the radical acceptance and support of people around you is really freeing. We are all hugely capable and inspirational people and we’re going to change things for the better.” – B

I enjoyed us feeling into the constellation that was there & everyone was so open about bringing their full self to the group. I really enjoyed celebrating Samhain with some a beautiful community!” –  G

“All the fires! In Bees Bower and at Samhain celebration. The Samhain celebration was also a beautiful gift from Carol.” – L

Thank you

A special thank you to Liberty for organising this whole weekend for the team! 

Thank you to Matt, Rachel & family at Goytree Glamping and Treehouses for their hospitality, openness and kindness. 

And, of course, thank you to this whole team for being so incredible! 

We will all be meeting at the ORFC 2023 this year and running a session on one of the conference days! So keep an eye out on our socials!

Written by Djenai Delerue

Member of the Open Food Network UK Coordinating Circle, Communication Circle, and Stewardship Circle.