Strengthening Relationships through a Community of Practice


Communities of practice are a valuable way of bringing partners together to connect and learn from each other to strengthen their collective work. It can also be very challenging to navigate the complexities that come with bringing a wide spectrum of partners together.

Founded in 2020, the Healthy Food Community of Practice has become a space for connection, learning, resource sharing, and action centered around the goal of helping to ensure that Black, Indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC) and communities kept furthest from power, can access and consume healthy food. Since launching three years ago, the Healthy Food Community of Practice has learned a lot from their members about how to better connect with one another, support each other, and create opportunities for collective action and innovation.

To share about what they have learned so far, we hear from Taylor Thompson (Intertribal Agriculture Council), who is a member of the community of practice, and Carolina Ramirez and Kaylyn Williams (Community Wealth Partners), who support the facilitation of the Community of Practice. They share about the key elements that have helped connect a very diverse group of participants, as well as what has been most helpful to support building trust and stronger relationships across their membership.

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Please find a transcript of this talk further down this page.

References and Footnotes

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The Intro music, entitled “Running,” was composed by Rafael Krux, and can be found here and is licensed under CC: By 4.0.

The outro music, entitled “Deliberate Thought,” was composed by Kevin Macleod. Licensed under CC: By.

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Podcast Transcript

(Intro) Welcome to the Collective Impact Forum podcast, here to share resources to support social change makers working on cross-sector collaboration.

The Collective Impact Forum is a nonprofit field-building initiative that is co-hosted in partnership by the nonprofit consulting firm FSG and the Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions.

In this episode, we’re discussing communities of practice, and learning how they can help build and strengthen relationships amongst their partners.

For this discussion, we’re excited to learn about the Healthy Food Community of Practice, Since launching in 2020, the Healthy Food Community of Practice has learned a lot from their members about how to better connect with one another, support each other, and create opportunities for collective action and innovation.

To share about what they have learned so far, we hear from Taylor Thompson from the Intertribal Agriculture Council, who is a member of the community of practice, and Carolina Ramirez and Kaylyn Williams from Community Wealth Partners, which supports the facilitation of the Community of Practice. They share more about the key elements that have helped connect a very diverse group of partners, as well as what has been most helpful to support building trust and stronger relationships across their membership. Moderating this discussion is the Collective Impact Forum’s Director of Programs and Partnerships Courtney W. Robertson. Let’s tune in.

Courtney W. Robertson: Welcome to the Collective Impact Forum podcast. My name is Courtney W. Robertson, director of programs and partnerships with the Collective Impact Forum, and I’m your host. This episode features Community Wealth Partners based on Washington, DC, as a Healthy Food Community of Practice. Joining me today are Kaylyn Williams, Carolina Ramirez, and Taylor Thompson. Welcome, everyone.

I’d love to start by having each of you introduce yourself and tell us about your role with the Healthy Food Community of Practice. If I could get one of you to give us a little context around Community Wealth Partners as well.

Kaylyn Williams: I can jump us off. My name is Kaylyn Williams. I use she/her pronouns and I am a consultant at Community Wealth Partners and Community Wealth Partners is a social sector consulting firm. We work with foundations and nonprofits and support their work in strategy development and capacity building primarily, but really central to what we do is working side by side with our partners in co-creating solutions and really centering equity in all of the practices and all of our work with partners. We were hired by the Walmart Foundation to design and facilitate the Health Food Community of Practice, so Caro and I, among a team of others have the immense privilege of getting to work the Healthy Food Community of Practice as a part of our work.

Carolina Ramirez: Thanks, Kaylyn. I can jump in. I am Carolina Ramirez. Most folks call me Caro, so feel free throughout this time to call me Caro. I’m a senior consultant here at Community Wealth Partners and work closely with Kaylyn in supporting our community of practice in reaching their goals and thinking through how do we bring better solutions to the healthy food space.

Taylor Thompson: Osiyo nigada. Taylor Thompson daquadoa. Hello, everyone. My name is Taylor Thompson. I’m a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. I use both they and he pronouns and I’m currently the associate development director for the Intertribal Agriculture Council, which for, a little bit of context, is a national Native-led nonprofit organization that was created in 1987 by and continues to be guiding by a charter of tribal leaders to promote the conservation, development, and use of our agriculture resources for the betterment of our people. We work with over 80,000 Native producers in tribal governments throughout the United States representing over 574 communities.

I’ve been involved with the Healthy Food Community of Practice since March 2021 when I was working for the Yurok Tribe at the time as their food sovereignty program manager and I jumped on the tribal community’s advisory council and kind of coming out of that was the creation of the tribal community’s innovation pod that is still going as part of the Healthy Food Community of Practice. I’ve actually joined on on the advisory council for the Healthy Food Community of Practice starting back in February, so it’s been a lot of fun so far and I’m really excited to be a part of the community of practice.

Courtney W. Robertson: Beautiful. Thank you all for introducing yourselves and for that additional context. So would love to jump more into the Healthy Food Community of Practice specifically. So if you could share with our audience more about the COP and sort of its function, its role, how it came about, who are the partners and people engaged in that work.

Kaylyn Williams: Yes. So I can take this one. So really the purpose of the community of practice is a space for national and regional organizations to connect with one another, to learn with one another, to share resources, and ultimately, to take some collective action in support of local communities as they’re thinking about rebuilding and reimagining their food systems.

Really the goal of the community of practice is that BIPOC communities, specifically, have equitable access and consume nutritious food, recognizing that doing this also addresses barriers faced by other marginalized communities.

So starting with our purpose and goals but also just taking a little bit back to some history. So the community of practice started in 2020 and it really started out of the desire, the Walmart Foundation which funds the community of practice, they were hearing from their grantees that they wanted an opportunity to connect with one another, really consider some of the challenges that they were facing both individually but also collective as a field. So that’s where we stepped as Community Wealth Partners to design and facilitate the community of practice and really co-designing it with members of the community and with the participating organizations.

As I said before, that’s a tenet of all of the work that we do but the Walmart Foundation kind of said, “Here’s some funds and here’s some free reins to really design like what do the participating organizations want from this community?”

So that really led to like three elements that drive some of the change in the community of practice. So connection, they wanted opportunity to build relationship with one another. A lot of organizations felt siloed and so wanted that opportunity to just be able to come together with people that were in the food space, food access space. They wanted opportunities to learn with one another, so taking time to really, really share resources, to think about the challenges and to advance some of those missions. And the lastly, they wanted some opportunity to act so that collective action piece was really important in driving more broad systems change.

So the community of practice does that through three key activities and Taylor already mentioned one. We have innovation pods, so these are opportunities for people who have maybe specific interests. There are over 50-plus organizations in the community of practice, 100-plus members. So everybody has different focus areas, and so they wanted to create smaller groups where you could really innovate together, talk about some of the more specific challenges. We have, as Taylor mentioned, the innovation pod on supporting tribal communities. We have innovation pods on nutrition education, nutrition benefits, some are meals, really driven by what the participating organizations have a desire to convene and talk around.

We also do broader convenings and learnings as a community of practice. So we had our first in-person convening last year which was really wonderful. We gathered in New Mexico and had an opportunity to really just come together and for folks to meet each other but then also to learn with one another.

And then lastly, the community of practice participates in participatory grantmaking, so we’ve granted over $400,000 so far through a democratic process where organizations really come and submit proposals for innovative solutions and the community decides on how to fund those grants.

So as I said, there are 50-plus organizations, national, regional organizations in the community and I think it’s important to mention that while it’s funded by the Walmart Foundation, members of the community of practice do not have to be Walmart Foundation grantees. It’s just anyone that is excited about the mission of the community of practice and wants to come together. So I’ll pause there. I know I just said a mouthful, but the community is doing a lot of exciting things.

Courtney W. Robertson: No, absolutely. And just a question of curiosity, did you all start with those 50 organizations or how has the, I guess, membership base of that COP grown over the past couple of years?

Carolina Ramirez: We definitely didn’t start with those 50 organizations. It’s evolved over time. I can’t recall exactly the number of organizations that we did start with, but I think to Kaylyn’s point, we did start with a smaller subset of grantees from the Walmart Foundation requesting for a space like this and based off of that request, they then were able to identify—you know, there are other organizations in this space that we could tap into to continue to break down those siloes, build those relationships, and think about creative solutions to the issues that we’re facing.

Courtney W. Robertson: Thank you for that, Caro. It sounds like there was this growth based on sort of where the work was going, right, so we’re starting here but as we grow the work and think about other areas that we might want to address inviting other partners to be a part of the work.

Carolina Ramirez: Exactly, and we continue to grow so we always welcome folks to reach out, check out some of the work that we’re doing on our website, especially if they want to connect into the work so it’s an emerging process of joining our community.

Courtney W. Robertson: Got you. And I will say this includes two things that I love, food and people, so if you all ever want to invite me to an in-person convening, please feel free to do so.

Carolina Ramirez: You got it.

Courtney W. Robertson: Thank you. So I’m going to shift gears a little bit. You all released a blog this past February, on February 14th, titled “Secrets to Success in Engaging Broad, Diverse Stakeholders for Transformational Change: Insights from the Healthy Food Community of Practice,” and we will link this blog to the recording. And in this blog, you all highlighted four enabling conditions for collective action across your very vast and diverse stakeholders as we heard.

You all had 50-plus partners engaged in this space. So could you all tell us a little bit more about those four enabling conditions?

Carolina Ramirez: Yeah, absolutely. I think to give some context around sort of the genesis of this sort of article and sort of what precipitated for us to kind of engage in this process was right—engaging with the different ecosystem players and thinking about folks wanting to understand how our community was working together to address some of the most pressing issues related to food insecurity and really thinking about how are we fostering a community of practice that engages a wide range of organizations that lead the work in this space.

Like Kaylyn mentioned, I think we have 50-plus organizations. They all have their own different desires, their own different missions and goals, but when we come together as a COP there are certain things that are galvanizing us. And I think reflecting on our experiences, we saw those four factors that really help create the conditions for collective action, right, because I think that’s one of the big goals of our community is to work together, work as a movement, and break down those siloes, and I think one of the big things that we really leaned into at the very beginning of this process was flexibility in the design of the community and really thinking about how do we co-create with community members, how are we willing to pivot and act in emergent ways, so we didn’t come in with a prescribed approach.

We didn’t come in with a prescribed process but rather we sort of had conversations with community members, thought about what do we want to get out of this community, how are we going to get to our goals and what are the activities that are going to help us organize and scope out our work. And the community began with a planning phase and engaged all the different stakeholders that are part of our community. And we started in 2020, so you know this was at the precipice of COVID, the pandemic, going through a racial reckoning in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, and we had to make some adjustments. We had to be responsive to what our community needed and what they were facing in the context that they were operating in. So we canceled all plans for bringing participants together.

We rethought and came back to the drawing board in terms of how do we design for fully virtual opportunities and how do we create spaces for participants to come together in an emergent space, and by creating those pods, conversations, creating pods that were working together that also led to our participatory grantmaking process, which originally wasn’t part of our design, right, but it has been one of the most successful, I think, and most impactful component. And that came out of the community because we canceled all of our plans for in person, we had a bucket of funds that we could think about how do we utilize this, and rather than staying stagnant, the community came up and they had great ideas and that’s where sort of this democratic process came about.

I think a most recent example of sort of this idea of co-creating with communities and being responsive and flexible in your design was in September of 2022 when the White House initiated a conference on hunger, food, on hunger, nutrition, and health, which was not something that we were thinking about or something that was necessarily at top of mind, but because it felt so important for us to have a voice and a say in some of those conversations, our community decided to engage in some listening sessions and we ended up conducting a listening session across different BIPOC communities and BIPOC leaders who were supporting in food access work, which led to a report that we submitted to the White House on the areas that we believed would be most important to galvanize around as we think about how do we create a more just food system and space.

And again, I think these are opportunities where you’re seeing folks identify a need and then we’re being responsive to that, so we’re coming in, again, with these prescribed ideas or continuing with our intended actions or activities, right. We’re actually taking a step back and saying, “Hey, how is this feeling? What should we be doing? What do you all want to do together?”

So we are really facilitators. We help sort of have a container for folks but they’re really driving where the community is going. And that was one of our key enabling conditions that really helped our group build that ownership and continue to co-create where we go.

When I look at another sort of enabling condition and factor that has really led to powerful contributions from our members has been this idea of distributing power and decentralizing decision making. So we as Community Wealth Partners are not deciding what the community wants to do. The community decides for themselves where they want to put energy and the resources that we have and how do we do that? We have an advisory council who, as Taylor mentioned, he’s a member of the advisory council and this council rotates on a six-months basis and they are the ones that help us get to decisions when the community, you know, there isn’t consensus, because there are 50 organizations, so how do you get to consensus with 50 organizations? WE really believe in creating the spaces where folks can challenge each other. They can share some of the perspectives that they’re bringing to the table and then with our advisory council how do we get to a shared decision process and engage in that process in a meaningful way. So really thinking about how do you limit the facilitators’ decision making but enable the community to be at the forefront of how they decide what they want to do. I’ll pass it over for Kaylyn.

Kaylyn Williams: Thank you. Yeah, I think another piece—and this really tied into around the flexibility, but also that these things and changes aren’t going to happen really quickly. I think a mistake that people make is that they come in these collaborative efforts with people from diverse backgrounds that have never met and now in this COVID world have never met in person and expect action to happen really quickly. And so that’s something that the community was really intentional about from the beginning.

People wanted to build and have space to build relationships with one another and so we’ve really subscribed to the notion that change happens at the speed of trust and to build trust you need relationships and so one thing, and we’re in year three of this community of practice, but we still start every single meeting with opportunities for people to network and to meet someone that maybe they’ve not interacted with yet before in the community of practice and when we’re in person, when we were in person we spent so much time on that relationship building even though the goal is for that action and everybody is excited to really move towards the impact pieces but just really taking the space for relationships.

And I’ll invite Taylor and I don’t know, Taylor, if you have anything to share. You are in the community and have gotten to build some of these relationships.

Taylor Thompson: Yeah, actually something that I was thinking about as we were talking about the distributing of power and decentralized decision making. I think a huge part of that actually comes out of this approach of relationship building where I feel like the folks from the Community Wealth Partners are very good at facilitating conversations and maybe asking questions to help guide the direction of decisions in a very broad way versus like, hey, you know, we stated at the beginning that we were aiming for this. What kind of questions do we need in order to get that direction when the members of the community of practice can then just like have those conversations in a way that continues to strengthen these relationships that they’ve already kind of started having in order to come up with kind of a democratically based decision.

I just wanted to applaud the staff at Community Wealth Partners for being able to navigate that space with so many different people, and just being the facilitator role as opposed to like, OK, well, it sounds like most of us think this so this is what we’re going with. I haven’t gotten that vibe at all, so it’s been great in that space. As a Native person, we’re kind of used to extractive kind of relationships, and I haven’t gotten that vibe at all from the community of practice. It seems to be very mutually beneficial, and that’s something that I definitely appreciate.

Courtney W. Robertson: Just as a recap, right, so hearing these sort of four elements around being flexible in how you hold the space like really, really focusing on relationships which I think is an underscore across any collaborative that we’ve had conversations with where relationships are extremely important to move the work. This way that you all are thinking about shifting and sharing power, like we are decentralizing that, and really giving the power to the community to make decisions, and then just having space for people to learn and fail forward in many ways because we know things aren’t perfect, and if I could add an honorable mention, it sounds like you all have a funding partner that has come into this partnership allowing for those to happen. They’re not trying to push their own agenda but they’re really trying it sounds like to support the work that community is interested in doing.

Kaylyn Williams: To the piece around the funder, I think one example of that and ties into that fourth piece around learning and trying new things is that as Caro was mentioning, we had an allotted amount of funds for these in-person convenings at the beginning of this project, and when we obviously couldn’t meet in person, we were given flexibility to go back to the community to try something that maybe we hadn’t—that the community hadn’t thought about from the beginning, and from there birthed the participatory grantmaking which has been hugely transformational I think both from just the ability to shift resources to community but also we’ve heard from a lot of community members that they have learned about participatory grantmaking through that process, and some of them are grantmakers in their organizations themselves so I think it’s also helping share some of that learning but it all hinged from that flexibility.

Courtney W. Robertson: Absolutely, they’ve allowed you to capitalize on the fun in funding, to be really creative. When I think about fun, I think about creativity so that’s really powerful. Hopefully our funding community is listening and taking notes around this.

So I want to—there are so many directions we can go with this conversation but I know we have limited time so I would love to deep dive a bit more. You all have started to draw on this and give examples but would love to do a deeper dive around the first point which is allowing for flexibility and emergence in the community’s design so in your blog you all mentioned the need to revisit your vision, purpose, and outcomes with the community to align around the change you hope to see and how the community can—and thinking about, excuse me, how the community can help create that change so very interested in hearing what prompted that decision to revisit those things, again thinking about your vision, purpose, and outcomes, and sort of like what was that process like for you all and for the partners, and then what were some of those challenges and obstacles you encountered and how did you navigate those as you went through that redesign process.

Kaylyn Williams: So, I think it really started out of a desire to really dig deeper into more specificity to drive the priorities of the community so the community had been in process for two years and might I add that they were two very transformational years in terms of COVID and racial reckoning as we mentioned before so there was really a desire to figure out what are the priorities or like realign on the priorities, and initially the idea actually was to set a theme for the year and really that would allow the community to be really intentional and more engaged and to have speakers align around this theme but as we got into the process, we realized that there was really actually a need for a step back to think more broadly about the purpose and the goals of the community because we had established these relationships but were really trying to push towards that action, and we were hearing from everyone, they were like, OK, we’re ready for this action but around what? We all have all these diverse things that we’re excited about, and interests and expertise so really needed a little bit more alignment around the purpose and the goals of the community of practice, and really also had been hearing and thinking about centering equity and specifically centering BIPOC communities which is something that particularly shifted in the goal of the community. It really then was intentional about naming, that the goal of this was to help those disproportionately impacted by food insecurity BIPOC communities. I’ll pass to Caro maybe if you want to talk a little bit about our process of how we got through all of that.

Carolina Ramirez: Definitely, and I think to Kaylyn’s point, there was a moment where we really had to sort of take step back both as a community but also as the facilitators of this space and really think about, you know, we have a logic model, we have all the things that say this is how we’re going to get to our big vision, our big goal but our big vision and our big goal was pretty generic if I’m honest. It was about all people, and it was about sort of how do we get access to nutritious food and create a space for food equity and justice but we also had been hearing from our community that they wanted to center BIPOC communities.

A lot of the work that we had been doing was also focusing around BIPOC communities and how our work was a commitment and a partnership in support of those communities so because we were hearing all of this, we did some internal work as an organization, as Community Wealth Partners, in sitting back, looking at sort of all the data, all of the conversations that we were having, both the quantitative and the qualitative information that we had been collecting, and really seeing where is the energy that the community wants to move towards. That’s sort of where we began to think about, OK, we’re hearing a desire to center BIPOC communities, now let’s look at our community. Do we have BIPOC-led organizations within the space? Are we reflective of where we want to go, and that led us to have a few listening sessions with some of the BIPOC organizations that are within our community of practice and realizing, one, we need more voices at the table, right? So how do we bring more folks to the table to help us understand what needs to be happening in the space in support of BIPOC-led—in support of BIPOC communities.

From those listening sessions, from those step backs, we then engaged in several convenings with the community of practice where we shared back our reflections and we shared, this is what we’re hearing. This is what we have observed, and really sitting in the space of describing to them what we are hearing from them share with us, and then getting a sense of what does this all mean to our community, and what are the areas that we might begin to unpack together, and during our in-person convening which was the first time we had ever all been in person together, is where we went through a process of designing small visions, right? So there were small groups that we created at our in-person convening where groups of about, I want to say, two to four people were designing their own vision for what the community could be. We then brought those groups together to make larger groups and see what are the commonalities that we’re seeing, what are the themes that are resonating for most, and by the end of that convening we had a fleshed-out vision of where we wanted to go.

There was a desire for this to be a commitment which we had never stated that in such a strong way. This was a commitment to those BIPOC communities. This was a space where we are holding ourselves accountable to learn and to grow but to also share our resources, and to be culturally responsive to the communities that we’re looking to identify. I think what we realized from that convening was there needed to be intentionality, especially when you’re trying to get to such a big goal because it keeps your North Star present, and it keeps you moving in the right direction. It’s not that we’re all doing the same thing, right? Even with this big vision, we’re all looking at it from different slices but it’s that galvanizing North Star that keeps all of the actions within a particular container.

I think from that we also did realize that there are nuances. There are conversations that we have to have that we weren’t having before. There were certain racial equity conversations around intersectionality that we needed to talk about because some of our community members may be addressing issues that don’t fit squarely with supporting BIPOC communities. They may be working in predominantly White communities or in rural communities that again are predominantly White so how do you create that shared understanding and shared perspective that by centering BIPOC communities you are inevitably supporting all other populations. I think that was the hardest piece to sort of wrestle through, and it was beautiful to be able to do that in person because those conversations I think at times, you need that human connection. You need to be able to experience some things together. You need that grace, that empathy, and being in a trusted space to be able to say, I feel like—you know, there were conversations where it felt like an all lives matter kind of situation so it was messy. It was sticky. It wasn’t an easy process but you have to create that space to allow people to share what’s on their minds, and then let’s move forward from, well, this is sort of how we’re galvanizing, and this is what feels really important for us and really sitting in the why, and I think by being intentional, by creating that safe space where folks could wrestle with those ideas, I think we’ve gotten to a stronger place where we are able to name race, where we are able to name sort of the communities that we most want to impact, and still allowing for flexibility in that process, right? All of that was messy. There was no set agenda that we came in with. It really was trying to see what the community—where the community wanted to go.

Taylor Thompson: If I can add to that real briefly, I was thinking very similarly of what Caro was just saying but I think the relationship-building piece that the community of practice has focused on so much was critical for allowing those conversations to happen in what ultimately ended up being a very constructive way. Because we’ve all met face to face and spent time together and whatnot, we were able to have those discussions like, OK—and this is an arbitrary example, not calling out anyone in particular but it was just like somebody, maybe their organization focuses on elder nutrition, and it’s like, OK, great, yeah, but it’s like, no, have you ever heard about these particular barriers that tribal elders encounter to access food, and then somebody was like, no, I actually haven’t, and so then you start talking about how intersectionality comes into play for addressing those issues that maybe don’t fit squarely in any one community but are a little bit more of a shared experience with like a little asterisk where it’s like and there’s these additional barriers. It allowed that—that relationship building allowed for those kind of conversations to happen in a way that kind of helped us move a little bit past all of that, the all lives matter type discussion, and really kind of get to the meat of the issue. I just wanted to highlight the relationship building piece I think was critical to allow that to happen.

Courtney W. Robertson: Thank you, Taylor, and thank you, Caro. I want to take us a step back so that we can make sure we’re all aligned on terms. You all have mentioned the term BIPOC a few times now so if one of you could quickly define what BIPOC means for our audience.

Carolina Ramirez: That’s a big one, and we’re still wrestling. I think it’s a term that has come to reflect sort of BIPOC stands for sort of Black, indigenous, and people of color, and the idea is that Black and indigenous communities have faced insurmountable oppression in this country so that’s why you have sort of the B and the I stand alone, and then people of color.

I think our desire is to support and work with communities of color, and it’s a term that we’ve used to date, but it is a term that is ever evolving I think in the space of racial equity, and we continue to sort of figure out alignment around language because language evolves over time, and sometimes it’s applicable and sometimes it’s not so thank you for helping us figure out how to define it and those nuances.

Courtney W. Robertson: Absolutely, thank you for that offering, Caro. What I would also add is that oftentimes our indigenous communities are left out of these conversations, so I think it is really powerful to use that type of term to be really intentional about who we’re focusing on and to not leave anyone out of that equation so thank you for providing that definition for our audience.

I just want to applaud you all. Collaboratives get into the work and it’s really hard, one to take a step back and be reflective about the work you’re doing and say, hey, we’re either being very vague, right? or our work is shifting so we need to take a moment to figure out what that shift is and how we’re going to navigate that and what that looks like and how does it change our work, and so hopefully that’s encouraging to other collaboratives or folks in collaboratives who are listening to this conversation to say like, hey, we may have been at this work for like four years or two years or 10 years, and it’s totally fine to take a step back and make pivots but to do that with some intentionality. So I want to, one, applaud you all for doing that but also thank you for just like being very transparent about what that looked like and what some of those challenges were.

As you all think about sort of the future of the community of practice, and this can be—you can think about this in short term or long term, but it sounds like there’s, one, you all have done a lot of work in these past three years and so what is next for the community of practice, whether it’s concrete or if there are things that you all are ideating around but what would you say is next for this COP?

Kaylyn Williams: I might mention something kind of in the short term and it connects to the reimagining our purpose and goals is that in those, as Caro mentioned, in those conversations, they were challenging and we realized that there may have been some gaps for some people or just not a shared language, and so in that same effort of taking a step back to think about our purpose and goals, we’ve also taken a step back to think about, OK, some of the potential learning opportunities for this community could be around developing that shared language and aligning around like what do we mean when we say centering BIPOC communities and how do we define that, and what does it mean to push for systems change but in support of communities, the BIPOC communities.

So we are about to launch a learning series in our community of practice that we’re calling Deepening our Toolbox, and so we have a provider coming in to do five sessions with the community of practice to really have those discussions, and to think about both like as this community of practice but as they like, you know, of something that we are constantly thinking about is how do people bring what they’re talking about and doing in the community of practice back to their organizations where they may not be the top person at the organization or they might be a team of one that’s in the community of practice and taking it back to a large team so I think we’re always thinking about this throughline of learning, and so that’s kind of our next exciting learning opportunity that we’re having as a community of practice.

Courtney W. Robertson: Thanks, Kaylyn, and Caro or Taylor, what if anything would you like to add to that?

Taylor Thompson: Something that I wanted to kind of lift up is that I’m hoping personally that the community of practice continues on beyond our initial funding period. I think when you’re emphasizing so heavily on this relationship building piece and constantly evolving mission and everything, it takes some time to do all of that, so we need to keep that momentum moving forward after we finally come around to getting it established in a spot that feels really good to everybody.

This is what I do with my full-time job at the Intertribal Agriculture Council is figuring out how to not just create projects that meet particular goals but how to sustain them long term. I know that’s something that’s at the forefront of my mind, is just like how do we keep this going? How do we keep building upon this beautiful community and the relationships that have been created there to have greater momentum moving forward addressing some of these issues with our food system?

Carolina Ramirez: Spot on, I think. To Taylor’s point we continue to seek supporters and thinking about how do we continue to explore what might happen after January 2024, and really thinking about will this group continue in its existing form, or will it evolve into something different, and I think it’s really about let’s see what the community decides but also who is out there to support this work and continue to support us with the resources and with the expertise and the knowledge to move this work forward.

Another piece of the work that we’re doing right now is we’ve learned so much through this community, and there is so much knowledge in this space so how do we leverage all of the information and all of the things that we’ve done to inform the field, and to really support systems change at a large level.

I think through our participatory grantmaking we are looking to understand what’s the impact that this process has had. What are the learnings that it’s had on community-led solutions, and how can other folks sort of leverage that process to really engage in a meaningful way of supporting local solutions through democratic processes and through processes that are not your traditional methods and that don’t put a lot of barriers for organizations that oftentimes don’t have the resources and are left out of certain conversations in terms of tapping into those opportunities.

We’re having our second in-person convening in October so that’s really exciting to continue to explore the role of intersectionality, the role of race in this work, and I just want to lift up, you know, we’re in a political and social climate that is rolling back a lot of the work that folks have been doing in BIPOC communities, and I think it’s important to create these safe spaces where folks can have these conversations, can feel like they have a support system, and can be mobilized to continue to push because we’re not in a positive political climate right now, and I think it’s important to create these spaces where folks can continue to push and continue the good fight in this movement that we’re on.

Courtney W. Robertson: Absolutely. It sounds like you all have—that community of practice has built enough momentum, and the work is endless, so it doesn’t sound like a theme like January 2024 is going to be the end but probably more about—I’m going to quote Beyonce, renaissance, right? It might be more of a renaissance or a reimagining of what that space looks like. Love that.

We’re coming up on the end of our time together. I wish we could go on for another hour. I have so many other questions but, Caro, you sort of teed this up in a way but what are some ways that folks can remain both connected to your work just if they’re generally interested in following the work or want to learn from it, and then what are some ways that folks can get involved as well?

Kaylyn Williams: We have a website so it’s, and it is, I would say, our one-stop shop. We’ve got our blogs, anything we’re posting on the community of practice that are either created by community members or by the Community Wealth Partners team, so we have that, and then there’s also an option on there to get connected to the community so just fill out that contact form and you’ll be connected to someone on the Community Wealth Partners team to hopefully get you tapped into the community of practice and all the exciting work that we’re doing.

Courtney W. Robertson: Awesome. And then my final question for you all, and I would love to hear from each of you on this, what is one thing you would like for our audience to take away from today’s conversation. So if you say you listened to this recording and you missed everything else, but this is the thing that you pick up on, what would that one thing be?

Carolina Ramirez: I think one thing that I would hope for audiences to take away from this is to not shy away from the difficult conversations or the messy nature of this process, and to center equity in all of the conversations that you’re having and even in the ways that you design a COP. I think there is equity in design and then I think there’s equity conversations to be had in how do you center race, especially as we think about communities that are most impacted when it relates to a lot of the social issues in our country, and knowing that everybody’s not coming into these conversations from the same place but it’s important to bring people along, and it’s important to realize the humanity of our world because we’re human. We’re leading this work and we have to do it together so how do you facilitate those spaces and those opportunities for folks to have the safe space, to have the messy conversations, and then to let’s move it forward and hold each other accountable.

Kaylyn Williams: I would say if I had one takeaway, I think it would be just don’t be afraid to slow down and take a minute to reevaluate what you’re doing and what you’re—I’ll use Caro’s words, what your North Star is. I think it’s so easy in this work to feel the pressure of performance by clients or by funders, but I think it’s really important to think about who you’re accountable to, and I see that as the communities that are most impacted by whatever you’re addressing. So if taking that step and taking that beat means that you can advance that mission, then I think that’s the most valuable and most important thing to be doing.

Taylor Thompson: I think the thing that I would like to highlight that hasn’t already been said is how critical relationship building truly is, and whether that’s within whatever your community is, whatever your own community of practice is, or reaching out to other existing organizations or other existing communities of practice and learning from what they’ve already been able to accomplish so I would encourage people to read the article that is going to be linked as part of this podcast to learn from some of the things that the Healthy Food Community of Practice has figured out or if you want to build relationships with any of us as individuals and ask those kind of questions to get a more insider view, I encourage people to do that as well. Hopefully we’ll be able to link our email addresses or something as well but just in case, mine is I’m more than happy to chat with people what it’s like to have been a member of the community of practice kind of from its early phases and see what parts can be implemented by your organization focused on relationship building and all the other good stuff that we’ve been doing.

Courtney W. Robertson: Awesome. Thank you, thank you, Kaylyn, Caro, and Taylor, so, so much for your gifts of time, expertise, and knowledge today. I want to thank our listeners for your continued support of the Collective Impact Forum podcasts, and I will leave you all with this word which is from one of my really great friends, Melody Cooper Freemanwho says collaboration can be a beautiful mess and so lean into its beauty. Thank you all so much.

Carolina Ramirez: Thank you, Courtney.

Taylor Thompson: Thank you.

Kaylyn Williams: Thank you.

(Close) And this closes out this episode of the Collective Impact Forum podcast. If you are interested in learning more about what was discussed, you can find links to resources in the footnotes for this episode, including a link to learn more about the Healthy Food Community of Practice.

We would like to acknowledge that this episode was produced and edited on the unceded, traditional lands of the Coast Salish people, including the Duwamish, Suquamish, Stillaguamish, and Muckleshoot tribes. We honor with gratitude the land itself and the past, present, and futures of these tribes.

The Intro music for this episode was composed by Rafael Krux and our outro music is composed by Kevin Macleod.

And for those interested in joining our next Forum learning event, registration is open for our upcoming online workshop titled Data and Learning in Collective Impact, that will be held this July 11 and 13.

This session will take a deep dive into the various practices you can do to support data and learning within your collaborative work. Leading this session is Courtney W. Roberston, Director of Programs and Partnerships at the Collective Impact Forum, and Junious Williams, who is Senior Advisor at the Collective Impact Forum. The last day to register is July 7.

Please visit our events section of to learn more about this workshop and to register.

This is Tracy Timmons-Gray, Associate Director here at the Collective Impact Forum, and your podcast host. I want to say thank you so much for listening, and we look forward to connecting with you more in our next episode. Until next time, we hope you are safe and well.


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