Name of organisation
Netzwerk Solidarische Landwirtschaft
Type of organisation
Network of Community -Supported Agriculture initiatives
Community Supported Agriculture; Social innovation; Civic Food Network; Food Sovereignty
Who is Granville Solawi?
Netzwerk Solidarische Landwirtschaft (Solawi Network) is the national network for CSAs in Germany. Too often, successful innovations are presented in isolation, without paying attention to the environment where they are developing. In this perspective, network building plays a crucial role. The most direct way to improve the conditions in which new CSA partnerships get started is to develop supportive CSA networks, at local and national levels. This dimension should not be overlooked.
The German CSA network is perhaps the fastest growing CSA network in Europe, right now. Moreover, it has been on the forefront to come up with innovative solutions to its own governance, funding and networking issues. These all make it a very interesting case for anyone interested in working for collaborative civic food networks at national level.
The network is committed to:
- the preservation and promotion of sustainable, rural agriculture in which producers and consumers work together in a binding manner and see agriculture as a social responsibility;
- support CSAs directly (information and education material, consulting/coaching, events for networking etc.) and indirectly by seeking medial and political attention;
- A paradigm shift in agriculture towards sustainability.
Who does Solawi work with and how they do it?
At the international level, the Solawi network collaborates with URGENCI, via projects, membership and regular exchange.
At national level, cooperation is led with the farmers’ union Arbeitsgemeinschaft bäuerliche Landwirtschaft (AbL), Kulturland e.G., Netzwerk gerechter Welthandel, Regionalbewegung, for advocacy regarding food policies, but also with the IT tool and CSA management software provider Sunu e.V. and the WWOOF (Worldwide Opportunities in Organic Farming) programme. Here you find more information on the partners (in German): https://www.solidarische-landwirtschaft.org/das-netzwerk/partner-kooperationen
In different projects, the Solawi network cooperates with different partners including universities, CSAs and other networks.
In the Solawi network, people work collaboratively in working groups consisting of volunteers (who can be CSA-farmers/members), members of the council and staff.
The Solawi network has entered some partnerships with informal agreements, while others are based on formal agreements, e.g. with the AbL that sells Solawi books or with ernteteilen.org for the use of the map of existing Solawi groups and farms.
Right now, the Solawi network is in the process of mapping all current and upcoming collaborations in their different forms.
The benefits of collaborations are:
- access to expertise and infrastructure that is not available in our network
- access to funding
- reaching actors who could not easily be reached through digital meetings, efficient facilitation and getting processes clearer, effective collaboration at national level is possible even with a very decentralized structure
Without collaboration the network could not be what it is now.
What are Solawi's main challenges?
Obstacles and challenges that have been identified so far include:
- lack of available staff time and personnel to manage all these collaborations actively
- lack of financial resources to back up all the voluntarily work with more paid hours
- transparency for all different actors: it is also not always easily achieved because of the complexity of some projects and interactions
- communication with many different actors can be very time consuming
- assessment of the importance, impact and work structure of other organizations
- Lack of strategic coordination to reinforce the political work with other organizations.
The Solawi network’s biggest current challenge is that the movement is growing fast. In order to meet expectations, the Solawi network needs to grow quite rapidly in the next years (staff, members, turnover). This will require a good facilitation of the social processes that will come along with this. There is thus a severe need for further organisational coaching.
What are the priorities for Solawi?
Accessibility is also a priority for Solawi – especially in terms of reaching out to more farmers. For farmers approached by Solawi groups, it is important to have examples and get in contact with farmers who are already doing CSA. Thus, the Solawi network wants to build a working group of producer-driven CSAs, to have them as multipliers. Farmer’s perspective is different from consumer’s/environmental NGOs. As a result, a cooperation was started in January 2022 with BZL, the Federal Agriculture Info Center (https://www.ble.de/DE/BZL/bzl.html) and a webinar was organized with a focus on how existing farms can start doing a CSA. The goal is to reach more farmers outside the “CSA bubble”.
Regarding Solawi’s internal working structures, the following segments have high priority:
- team management (staff and volunteers)
- internal communications
- organisational development
Building up a working group for producer-driven CSAs (as opposed to consumer-driven CSAs).
Regarding community management, Solawi wants to focus mainly on these points:
- communication and benefits for its members
- public relations
By focusing on these topics, the Solawi network wants on the one hand to support existing CSAs and new CSAs in building up resilient and stable structures and, on the other hand, to be an organisation that can offer continuity and quality to its members.
These strategic priorities were identified in a council meeting setting up the goals for the next two years.