What change do you want to see in the world? What’s important to you? How are you working toward it?
Back in 2018, I was standing with a colleague on the mezzanine above the Loblaws at St. Clair and Bathurst in Toronto. As we looked out over the vista of colourful food and drink, she asked me, “Do you think our kids will have this kind of variety and availability?” A good question, an important question, and one I did not feel I could answer in the affirmative.
I’ve been changing organizations since I started working as an OD consultant in 1994 (!) – back then I was in healthcare, and since then I have worked in many industries. It’s hard, rewarding work, where the game is to find a way to change that is livable during the change and sustainable afterward. As time has gone on and change has become constant, these methods are a way to survive and thrive.
Since that day overlooking the bounty of food up on the mezzanine, I noted to myself: “Change is hard, but possible. Where do I want to apply my efforts?” Working with the Pollinate team, we decided to focus on the people making the positive changes we want to see come to fruition for us and for the next generation. We support many amazing organizations, and among them, Pollinate has made a dedicated effort to support the development of sustainable food. We all gotta eat. The challenges facing all industries are impacting our food companies and food systems – inflation, labour shortages, and productivity loss. A LinkedIn article by FoodDocs lays out the issues with some expert commentary here. We’ve all felt the impact by now.
How to become part of the solution?
As a long time observer of the food and ag industry, I can tell you that money, time, and talent are often scarce. So we do all we can to make these elements (money, time, talent) go as far as they can. To make a major impact on these areas we need to take a posture of mentoring and collaboration.
- Ensure those with energy to move forward and create solutions have the support they need.
- Connect people for inspiration and information – keep the knowledge flowing.
- Set and track goals.
- Coordinate the ecosystem to ensure any support systems are all pulling in the same direction.
We’ve had the amazing privilege of supporting food and agriculture entrepreneurs through forward thinking organizations like Dairy Farmers of Ontario, NGEN (Next Generation Manufacturing Cluster), Farm Credit Canada, and the International Fresh Produce Association (IFPA).
I knew back in 2018 that we needed to hone our approach to focus on the things that would matter most in change efforts. Based on all of our research, this focus became giving people the ability to find who and what they need when they need it. Mentoring, collaboration, and wayfinding are the tools we use, and the impact has been dramatic. For one food entrepreneurship program, we’ve made thousands of connections between people via our matching system and have seen 40 new companies successfully into the market – making over 400 connections for them to speed them on their way. In another project we were able to create a knowledge and know-how map of several hundred food and agriculture companies, who then were able to link into appropriate support (mentors, experts) to make gains on their plans for being more ecological, and to refocus on local markets. We’ve supported the development of peer groups nationally to support farmers with succession, mental health operations, and finance. Farmers and entrepreneurs aren’t the only folks we’re focused on. As you’ll read about in the case study for this month, we are now able to match hundreds of people together to accelerate careers and network industries together around topics that are vital to them.
As above, I’ve been at this change and transformation game a long time. Through my own experiences and observations, I can’t point to anything that moves things forward more than sharing knowledge and taking collective action. Mentorship and collaboration, when done well, does in fact move mountains. It seems a small thing to get together and share with purpose, but I assure you, it can be powerful, especially when coordinated and framed in a supportive, but light, structure.
If you are ready to make changes in your corner of the world, give us a call. Pollinate is focused on getting people together to get important things done. Our main modality is mentorship. Our skills are to teach people to collaborate well and to apply enough coordination to programs to make them seamless – without stifling creativity.
Christy Pettit is Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of Pollinate Networks Inc.
For 25 years, Christy has developed new approaches and best practices for agile, effective organizations worldwide. She is an expert on matching people and organizations for applications including knowledge transfer and mentorship programs, flexible virtual and hybrid teams, and productive organizational and business ecosystems and networks.