Entering into a Community-University Collaboration
Reflections from Feeding Laramie Valley
Having Feeding Laramie Valley become part of the Food Dignity research project was a unique opportunity to contribute to a new body of knowledge associated with food systems work—to have the voices of the people of our community and our organization be heard. Not just heard, but taken seriously and emulated. And, because we would be part of a national collective of other communities, with the added benefit of being partnered with several highly regarded universities, our voices would take on a new identity—one of expertise in helping to define best practices for addressing local food insecurity.
That sounds good. Solid, confident, visionary. Small-town nonprofit does good, benefits from networking and collaboration. It’s even kind of true.
But as is typical for a fledgling grassroots organization bent on accomplishing frontline social reform, the way we might publicly characterize our efforts doesn’t always fall in line with the full reality of how we actually experience them. In the course of scrambling for support and recognition, community-based organizations learn what language to use, what partnerships to foster, and most importantly what narratives to put forth in representing our missions. It’s how we crack open doors to institutions and power brokers capable of backing us—and legitimizing our work. It’s how we manage to gradually then steadily tap into streams of funding that will not only grow, but become consistent and sustainable. Refining the presentation of our activism is how we survive....
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