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Case Study: Embedding Equity into Strategic Planning

How can a food security organization build upon its strengths to advance the right to food?

Food First NL is a provincial non-profit organization with over twenty years' experience leading food security efforts in Newfoundland and Labrador. Their mission is to advance everyone’s right to food in the province, which they accomplish through advocating, organizing, taking action, and valuing people. Their vision is a Newfoundland and Labrador where everyone can eat with dignity and joy.

Food First NL began as a network organization for folks working on food security in the province and, over the years, has added many grassroots projects. In recent years, advocacy around the root causes of food insecurity has become a much more prominent focus, while they've also worked towards centring equity into their internal practices and have become a Living Wage employer.

The Challenge

The COVID-19 pandemic drastically reshaped the context for Food First NL’s work, just as their existing 3-year strategic framework came to an end. They decided to take this moment to do a deep dive and revisit their mission, vision, values, and strategy with a specific focus on embedding commitments to equity.

Our Approach

Food First NL contracted Evenings & Weekends to provide recommendations on their draft strategic plan and identify pathways to ensure that equity was further centred in their work.

Our goals were to:

  • Surface opportunities and identify what’s needed to successfully embed principles of equity in the Strategic Framework.

  • Dream about what’s possible for Food First NL together.

Project Team

What We Uncovered

We believe that successful strategic planning requires a deep understanding of an organization’s people, culture and practices.

  • Organizational change can be disruptive, leading to tension, disorientation and resistance.

  • The internal environment is also full of tacit routines and practices that are deeply ingrained in an organization's culture, but never show up on a formal work plan or job description.

  • Deep conversations with staff and stakeholders will reveal what goes on below the surface and help everyone feel invested enough to take the risk that change involves.

We reviewed organizational data and conducted a listening campaign* with staff and board members, resulting in extensive qualitative and quantitative insights from those who know the organization best. We then identified 12 actionable recommendations for improvement.

The challenges and opportunities facing Food First NL are common throughout the nonprofit sector. Namely, providing the supports required to enable their staff to thrive, creating a shared definition of equity and frameworks for accountability, and being thoughtful in its approach to Indigenous initiatives as a settler-led organization.

By creating space to unearth these issues and build trust among team members, Food First NL now has a stronger foundation on which to build its strategic framework.

"It was inspiring to engage with the Food First NL staff team. They were not afraid to have open, respectful, and sometimes difficult conversations about where they are in their journey around equity. They understood that not everybody is starting at the same place, or has the same capacity to advance change. They recognized their successes and were honest about where the organization still has work to do to further advance justice and equity within their programs and internal structures" Laëtitia Eyssartel, Principal Consultant

It was remarkable to observe the progress that Food First NL has made within its community, and to join them in imagining an engaging vision of its future.

With a continued focus and prioritization of equityand a commitment to review all elements of the organization with this lens in mindwe believe that Food First NL will be well-positioned to advance the right to food in Newfoundland and Labrador.

*Want to learn more about the value of undertaking listening campaigns when strategic planning? Read our recent blog post "Strategic Planning? Start by Listening"

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