METRICS FROM THE FIELD: Learning Together
Keywords:Food Systems, Supply Chains, Resource Development & Extraction
In this issue, Ken Meter looks at two contrasting models of knowledge-building. One extracts resources from communities. Another, often practiced by extension educators, builds capacity both at the university and in the community by convening people to learn together.
In a previous column (volume 2, issue 2), I showed how the food the economy extracts resources from communities (Meter, 2012). When this is true, the essential core of food system work is to build capacity at the grassroots — especially in those rural and inner-city areas that have been the most depleted, or most marginalized.
My basic rule is that more capacity should be built in the community that is intended to be "served" by a given project than in the partnering university or nonprofit. Furthermore, the work should leverage and add to existing assets in the community, rather than undermining them through change.
Even for those scholars who dedicate their careers to community-building, work at the grassroots is far more unkempt and unpredictable than working within the academic sphere. More-over, the official rewards are typically sparse...
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