Learning and sharing the Groundswell way
With representatives from ten countries and five continents, Groundswell’s Fifth Annual Global Forum was packed with dynamic learning and sharing among our partners. Amidst this learning and sharing emerged a necessary theme for the forum itself: what does Groundswell’s internal process of learning and sharing look like, and what is the product of our learning processes? These critical questions are the result of an international team that is committed to collaboration as we work to enact social change. And we recognize that both learning and social change are continuous processes rather than simple actions.
To maintain meaningful connections linked with meaningful results, we must always find ourselves active within the learning process. For Groundswell, an effective learning process must be linked to our daily work: theory and praxis must be in a constant state of interaction with one another. Collaborative, inclusive, and experiential, the learning process must always leaving room for experimentation. It is this culture of learning that we feel allows Groundswell to enact lasting social change.
We brought this culture of learning with us to our global forum, providing spaces to share among partners and communities through excursions to different organizations and initiatives here in Asheville, NC. One of these excursions was a visit to Blue Ridge Food Ventures, a non-profit that provides facilities for food and natural product processing for small-scale entrepreneurs trying to get their artisan food products on the market. Touring the facility and learning about niche artisan food markets that entrepreneurs are harnessing here in Western North Carolina opened the floor to thought and discussion among our partners. Sharing and synthesizing success stories across regions is one component of an effective learning process, and our visit to Blue Ridge Food Ventures provided the opportunity for our partners to learn from this organization and potentially bring this idea back to their home countries and programs.
Another unique event of this year’s global forum was a presentation at UNC Asheville that highlighted the successes and challenges of several of Groundswell’s partner initiatives. This presentation provided the space to maintain learning as a two-way street, allowing the topic of international development to be viewed as a collaborative experience. As Chris Sacco mentioned in Groundswell’s recent article in Asheville’s Citizen-Times, “one thing that I realize after this latest financial crisis is that we have a lot to learn from developing countries.” In this light, Cantave Jean-Baptiste of Haiti, Fattou Batta of Burkina Faso, Ross Borja of Ecuador and Peter Gubbels of Ghana were able to share their knowledge of agroecology, community and rural development to a packed conference room of university students in Asheville. This presentation not only allowed to further link our partners to our newly-established Asheville base, but it also provided a space for our partners to share their learning processes, which in turn contributed to the learning process of Asheville students regarding the global food system and sustainable development.
We also visited Sow True Seed, a seed company based in Asheville, NC that works with local farmers to grow non-GMO, heirloom and multi-variety seeds. Our visit to Sow True allowed us and our partners to further explore the importance of seed-saving and its implications for a more resilient, bio-diverse environment and nutritious diet. Bringing in a local, small-scale farmer that grows seed for Sow True, we explored topics of growing seed and processing seed, giving special attention to not only its importance to re-building healthy ecosystems, but also as an effective method of revenue for the small-scale farmers themselves. Once again, by connecting like-minded individuals and like-minded initiatives, Groundswell facilitates a platform that allows for the synthesis and sharing that is crucial for the further development of not only stronger communities and more effective initiatives, but for the lasting and meaningful cross-cultural connections that remind us of the strength we find in our diversity.
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Special thanks to our intern Georgia Beasley for her assistance with this post!