The past year or so has brought some dramatic changes to key organizations in the community food arena. Organizations like the Community Food Security Coalition, Food Alliance, Organic Farming Research Foundation, and Slow Food have gone through either challenging leadership transitions, substantially downsized, and/or closed down. The leadership vacuum left in part by these unfortunate occurrences is compounded by the breakneck growth of the field, as new food-oriented organizations emerge and existing groups discover how food systems work can help them meet their goals.
The result is a dramatically transformed landscape and a lack of clarity as to who will provide the unifying vision and direction to help these organizations become more powerful than the sum of their collective parts. As non-profits tend to fixate on the “four walls of their organization,” otherwise known as their mission, these changes to the flagship organizations lead me to wonder: Who’s minding the movement?
The struggles of these larger groups could be just random entropy. Organizations come and go. Yet, these struggles also point to several broad issues regarding the sustainability of the non-profit model and the foundations that support it.
For example, there exists enormous redundancy and wasted effort among the thousands of non-profits, which as legal entities, must comply with...