CALL FOR PROPOSALS: 2020 Connecticut Food System Alliance Summit

Event: May 2, 2020 | 9 am – 4 pm
Common Ground High School, New Haven

Proposal Deadline: Friday, April 10
Chosen projects will be notified by Friday, April 17

summit insta

Join us as we reimagine our Food System Network Summit! Present a question, challenge, or new idea you have to make our food system more sustainable and more equitable – and spend time with your allies across the state improving on that idea, tackling that problem, and generating clarity for the path forward. Rather than a traditional call for proposals asking for workshop topics, we are inviting you to tap into the collective wisdom of Connecticut’s food system actors. Work together, build new relationships, strengthen existing ones, and help build a better food system.

Instead of a traditional lecture and workshop style conference, where presenters are experts teaching the attendees, we want this to be an event where all participants – presenters and attendees – can learn from and work with each other. Therefore, “presenting” at this summit is more like an opportunity to dive deep into your work and find some next steps, insights, and questions to chew.

Submit your proposal here by April 10:

Questions? Email

What are we looking for? We welcome proposals from individuals, organizations, businesses – anyone, a single person or a group of up to four individuals – can submit a proposal. (If your project involves more than four people, still apply – but it should be no more than four people presenting). You can present a challenge you’re experiencing in your work, a question you’re trying to answer, a “rut” you’re stuck in, a new path you’re trying. We will prioritize projects that are collaborative (involving more than one organization, or grassroots efforts). The purpose is to spend a short time presenting your issue (10 minutes), and then gain insights from the group knowledge at the summit (20 minutes). Apply by April 10; project organizers will be notified by April 17, and attendees will get brief overviews of your projects to prepare.


Conferences, symposiums, and other professional network events are great opportunities to connect with new people, learn about ongoing work, and develop new skills. But too often, we are overwhelmed by grant deadlines, project outcomes, and day-to-day management of our organizations. The inspiration and skills gained at a conference can feel disconnected from our regular work. Sometimes, we feel that we must step out at conferences and skip panels in order to attend to “real work.” Conferences and network meetings are real work; but it’s hard to conceptualize them that way. So how can we reinvent that conference meeting space? What if the conference brought clarity to our work and gave us tools to return to our communities and do that work?  The Connecticut Food System Alliance is asking you to reimagine our food system summit with us. We want to create space for our brilliant, passionate network members (you!) to work together to improve the food system.

At the Summit on May 2, we will strengthen our state food system network by offering space for members to work on projects together. The premise of the conference is the question, “How can we leverage network meetings to advance our collective food and farm goals for a more sustainable, food secure Connecticut?”

This will be an opportunity for program directors and staff, community organizers, volunteers, food system leaders, and others to present a food justice/food system project and gather feedback from peers. Is the project on the right track? Is the project stagnant? Is it growing? Is it new? Whatever stage the project is in, we want to create space for project organizers to get feedback and next steps from fellow network members from across the state.


The Summit will adapt “the clearness process,” a Quaker meeting method based on listening, companionship, and reflection. We will adapt the process to a secular, work-oriented strategy to help project organizers gain clarity in their work. Group attendees who are not presenting will have the opportunity to be a part of a unique, community-based process for developing innovative solutions and connecting with peers throughout the state. In addition, all attendees will receive a guide for repeating the process in their own communities and offices.

The process

We are soliciting proposals for people and organizations to be “focus points” for this conference, and will choose nine total proposals in mid-April. Your project should be food system related: for example, organizing a youth food justice campaign, coordinating vendors across a network of urban farmers’ markets, understanding the impact of a food policy council, etc. New projects, established projects, struggling projects – all will be welcome, but projects that prioritize collaboration will be considered first. The projects will be grouped into trios based on relevance (similar problems, similar work area, etc.) to ensure cohesion in each group.

At the Summit, attendees will be briefed on the process and instructions for the workshop portion of the day. In three breakout groups, project organizers will present for 10 minutes and have 20 minutes of feedback and questioning from fellow breakout group members. Each breakout group will include a CFSA organizer to facilitate the workshop. Event attendees are asked to come prepared with at least one question to propel this process forward. This process will repeat three times for each project selected. Breakout groups will collectively choose one of the three projects to present to the full group.

In the afternoon, the three projects selected in the morning will be presented to the full group.


The CFSA is very interested in maintaining the momentum and energy we hope to achieve at this event. We are eager to see how this process furthers food system work in Connecticut. Post-conference, we will organize the presenters into communities of practice, offering virtual meeting time for attendees to connect after the main event. We’ll interview each group who presented during the Summit four months afterward to check in on your progress and ask how the event helped your work.

Sample Agenda (subject to change)

9:00 – 9:30 Event registration and sign-in; breakfast
9:30 – 10:15 Welcome and keynote

Share instructions for breakout group process

10:25 – 12:30 Nine total project organizers present in three breakout groups:
  10:25 – 10:35 Welcome and introductions
10:35 – 11:05 First presentation (10 minute presentation; 20 minute question/feedback period)
11:05 – 11:35 Second presentation (10 minute presentation; 20 minute question/feedback period)
11:35 – 11:45 Break and coffee, snacks
11:45 – 12:15 Third presentation (10 minute presentation; 20 minute question/feedback period)
12:15 – 12:30 Wrap-up; select presenters who will present to the large group
12:40 – 1:30 Lunch
1:40 – 3:10 Presentation of three selected projects; each will have 20 minutes to present and be illustrated live plus question and answer time.
3:15 – 4:00 Wrap-up and closing
4:30 – 6:00 Optional reception/social hour