We work with industry sectors to harness the power of networks to create system level change through collaborative relationship building, strategic industry-level planning, and tangible projects that no one organization can accomplish alone.
All living things in an ecosystem are interconnected through networks of relationship. Because human systems mimic natural ecosystems, we know that businesses, organizations, and communities depend upon, and function best through, mutually beneficial networks of relationships.
As businesses, organizations, and people feel more connected and aligned around a common purpose, collective action to solve complex societal problems becomes that much more possible and its potential impact that much greater and longer lasting.
The Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund takes a network approach to its market development initiatives and utilizes a number of frameworks (e.g., Collective Impact, Results Based Accountability) and tools (e.g., data visualizations, dialogue education design). Taking a network approach to sustainable economic development is a core expertise we have developed over the past ten years.
The Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund serves in the network coordinator role for three statewide multi-stakeholder networks which we have built with our partners (Vermont Farm to Plate Network, Vermont Forest Industry Network, Climate Economy Business Network), and participates in a number of other formal networks that are coordinated by others (Energy Action Network, Vermont Clean Water Network, Vermont Farm to School Network, Food Solutions New England).
Vermont Farm to Plate Network
The Vermont Farm to Plate Network was launched after carefully preparing and vetting the idea with key partners while developing the Farm to Plate Strategic Plan. We positioned a network approach as the most effective way to implement the goals of Vermont’s food system plan, whose intended outcomes are to:
- increase economic development in Vermont’s farm and food sector;
- create jobs in the farm and food economy;
- improve access to healthy local food for all Vermonters.
The Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund convenes multiple stakeholders and audiences in the Farm to Plate Network to advance new ideas, fix bottlenecks, reduce unnecessary duplication of efforts, and open new markets for Vermont products in a coordinated fashion. The Farm to Plate Network creates the space for strategic conversations and actions to make systemic food system change that no one organization can accomplish alone.
With sufficient buy-in from food system partners and stakeholders, VSJF designed a network structure adapted from the network governance model first developed by the climate change and energy policy network RE-AMP, and the Collective Impact framework. The Farm to Plate Network launched in 2011, with VSJF serving as the network coordinator. In our backbone coordination role, the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund:
- Provides strategic guidance and coordination;
- Convenes and facilitates dialogue on key issues;
- Manages communication and outreach about Vermont’s food system to member organizations and the general public;
- Provides professional development and leadership training opportunities for network members;
- Tracks progress on the outcomes and goals of the Farm to Plate Strategic Plan and annually reports this progress to the Vermont Legislature, Governor and other funding partners; and
- Mobilizes funding to support the work of Farm to Plate Network members and strategy implementation.
Vermont Forest Industry Network
The Vermont Forest Industry Network is building a greater sense of industry-wide community, connectivity and alignment towards a shared vision and strategic action that will strengthen the entire forest products industry in Vermont.
- Increase jobs and economic activity in Vermont’s forest products sector;
- Increase the value of Vermont-grown, sustainably harvested wood products;
- Achieve the Vermont State Energy Plan’s goal of 35% heating fuel from biomass by 2030; and
- Establish Vermont as a regional and national leader in innovative, sustainable wood products manufacturing.
A key component of the Vermont Forest Products Program, the Forest Industry Network creates the space needed to have strategic conversations across the entire supply chain, from landowner, logger, forester, and sawmill owner to secondary manufacturer, builder, retailer and consumers of Vermont wood products. These conversations and initiatives are focused primarily on advancing new and existing markets for sustainable Vermont wood products, from high quality furniture to construction material to thermal biomass products such as chips and pellets. Value Chain Action Teams are working to advance specific high-impact projects, and industry-wide “meet ups” are organized to learn more about innovative new products and production methods. An annual Forest Industry Summit provides ample opportunity for learning and networking amongst this diverse group of business owners, service and capital providers, and government officials.
Vermont Climate Economy Business Network
The Vermont Climate Economy Business Network is building a sense of community, creating opportunities to explore business-to-business collaboration, and providing targeted expertise to develop and grow Vermont businesses whose products and services aim to prepare for, mitigate against, or adapt to the impacts of climate change.
Regular meet-ups and other networking and professional development events are designed to build relationships, trust and collaboration among Vermont climate economy sector businesses, and offer ongoing support in an effort to increase the likelihood of success. Our network development approach supports the Vermont Council on Rural Development’s efforts to build on Vermont’s national reputation to attract and retain entrepreneurs committed to addressing climate change while creating the next generation of jobs for Vermonters.