MARCH 2019

In Fall 2018, MFAN partners participated in a Ripple Effect Mapping (REM) session to do a pulse check on how the network is affecting the partners work in the food system. The session was led by specialists from the Applied Research and Evaluation team at the University of Minnesota Extension. Distinct themes emerged from the session.


One thing is clear from the responses, the network is a valuable source of learning, connecting, and action. It's important to note the benefits are unique at the regional level as there are no other collaborative metro-wide entities in the food system. The network provides rich soil for cross-partner collaboration and new partnerships, it creates opportunities for leveraging new funding, and it also opens the door for addressing racial disparities in the food system. There is a need to include more diverse voices of those who provide direct services in the community in the network partnership base. Additionally, the network must create safe space to welcome and on-board new members. The goal is to continue ongoing conversations about racial equity and other topics. Partners expressed challenges related to funding the network. There are conversations to be had about the cost-benefit ratio of funding sources. 

Moving out of silos. MFAN creates a group environment that supports connections, where social/professional capital is increased. Connections lead to new partners and leveraging resources. Connection lead to learning.

Changing policy had two primary themes including addressing state food policy and the work of the Action Teams. These Action Teams led to tangible ripples in regional and state work, such as the incubation of SuperShelf, the Food Charter Food Access Planning Guide, as well as changing the Met Council's Thrive MSP 2040 plan and the MN Food Code. 

A strong area discussed was MFAN's role in addressing racial disparities in the food system. Participants described several ways MFAN has addressed this issue including the MFAN Critical Conversations on Race in the Food System, the Equity in Food Policy Timeline, and the Equity Action Team. While racial equity was a focus on its own, it also showed up in all the other themes as well.


Scott Chazdon and Emily Becher from the University of Minnesota Extension Applied Research and Evaluation team led the REM session. They posed the following questions to a group of 16 of MFAN's most dedicated partners. 

  • What is a highlight, achievement, or success you've had based on your involvement with MFAN?

  • What unexpected things have happened as a result of your involvement with MFAN?

  • What connections with others - new and/or deepened - have you made as a result of your involvement with MFAN?

  • What have those connections led to?

In pairs of two, participants recorded each other's responses and shared with the group where the leaders entered the information into a mind-mapping software. The last question of the session was, "What challenges, obstacles, or barriers do you see moving forward for MFAN?". Participants edited and verified their responses in real-time and after the session was complete. Those who were not able to attend repeated this process through a one-on-one meeting or email correspondence. 


Participants saw some challenges and barriers for MFAN related to continuing to move the racial equity work forward including a need to work internally first, where future funding streams will come from, and the range of partners represented from across the food system. Yet these are areas that participants believe MFAN has an opportunity to grow in. 

Learning and it's sub-themes emerged several places in the map. These related to partners learning about networks and key content areas that support their work. The MFAN bus tours were especially significant learning experiences for partners. As a result, there was an increase in relationships with new partners, individual and professional knowledge gain, as well as a greater desire to engage in the topic of the tour. 

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