In 2021 Netzwerk Solidarische Landwirtschaft gathered two times at the “Hessische Staatsdomäne Frankenhausen“ – that is a teaching, testing and transfer center for organic agriculture and sustainable regional development of the University Kassel in the center of Germany. There we found an inspiring setting in a historical building which is a protected monument and were provided with local organic food.
In this campfire-meeting 8 active persons from the network met. This circle is called the “coordination“ and consists of elected Members of the Network and the board members. There was also one person from our group “Offene Ohren“ (“Open Ears“) that consists of persons of trust and had an observing role. The meeting was moderated by an external person who specialises in providing advice for alternative/grassroots organizations.
The purpose of the campfire was: 1.) to reflect on the cooperation in the networks operational boards and roles and 2.) to discuss and prioritize the goals of our organization in general. We worked on the first topic in our first live-meeting after the lockdown in winter/spring. The second topic was discussed together with a bigger group of the network called “Rat“ (“Council“) who work on the strategy, and was done via an online-meeting format.
The most important output was that we defined a new role for our operational board whose work is to have an overview and to look after the well-being of the persons working in the network’s boards and staff. In the prioritization process, “skill enhancement“ and “apprenticeship/education“ for our farms were placed at the top of the list as well as the improvement of our “internal communication“ and an “improvement of our staffs working conditions“.
In this second campfire meeting, 14 activists from different circles of the network met. The agenda of this campfire was to develop strategies for the coming year. Based on the definition of the goals in the previous meeting we worked on the question „how to achieve them“. The background of this meeting is the necessity to cope with our network’s steady and rapid growth – in the first 10 years of our networks existence the number of Solawi-Farms (CSA-Farms) in Germany grew from around 20 to almost 400! This pleasant achievement is also very challenging and we try to keep up with it through structural and personal adjustments. We try to implement “Sociocratie“ as our organizational form and therefore define different circles and roles within them. We also practice the process of decision-making in the sociocratic way. In a growing organisation it is important to meet and make an experience of this system possible to allow new staff and volunteers to dock on to the networks collective intelligence.
Another part of the meeting was to reflect on questions of the beacon description template of COACH. Here we had to admit that our achievements are partially behind our claims. It is fact that we successfully opened up a perspective for small-scale farms and popularized the concept of Solawi/CSA beyond our alternative „bio-bubble“. This was and is our main goal and therefore we see our movement as successful. At the same time we need to work harder on integrating ever-wider circles of people. The vast majority of people in our communities as well as staff and volunteers in our movement are still white and academic. Also the wages of our farmers are still on the low-end of scale. The achievement here is that we do have a discourse about it and that we sense a growing self-confidence among young farmers.
The in-between-events of shared meals and coffee-breaks as well as the „real“ campfires in the evenings were also important!