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Future Direction of the Network

Answers and Ideas from BFT Annual Gathering Helping Us Shape the Direction of the Network

A wonderful cross-section of members came together at the Kindling Trust’s Mill in Manchester at the start of June for our Better Food Traders Annual Gathering. It was a day of talking, networking, asking and answering questions, sharing knowledge and ideas… and eating amazing local food. The BFT central team presented updates on ongoing work including the Marketing Support Scheme, our September ‘Buy Better Food’ campaign, and our Data Deep Dive (more on that later in a separate blog). We also ran a speed-dating session to tackle each other’s burning business queries, and later we workshopped three questions: What support can we provide as a network? How should we fund the network? and How should we grow the network?

What support can we provide as a network?

Groups answering the first question were first asked to consider their current challenges, and then to brainstorm how the central BFT team and the network as a whole could help them solve these problems. We gathered a lot of great ideas for training and support, plus thoughts on how we might create a central Content Calendar and Asset Bank for marketing; set up a Mentor buddy-system; and potentially do more to coordinate BFTs who want to offer volunteering opportunities.

How should we fund the network?

On the second question, there was strong agreement that members should pay annual fees, and some lovely comments about our value to members: “Training by BFT is directly relevant and trustworthy…” “BFT is the only network I would pay for as it’s actually useful.” We are now exploring the fairest, simplest and most attractive way to do this so that we can charge (modest) fees, and still attract new organisations into the network. We also gathered some great ideas on the day re paid-for services, sponsorship and new funders we could approach.

How should we grow the network?

On the question of growing the network, there is a desire for BFT to cover as many food and drink types as possible – “We have more impact if there are more of us” – but with caution around meat and dairy traders (needing to have clear membership standards), food processors (likewise) and zero waste shops (may be hard to track their comittment to locally-produced, organic food). We have already started to actively invite more wholesalers and food hubs, and are building up what we can offer by way of knowledge and support to these types of enterprises (if you know of any wholesalers and hubs who should be members, please let us know!). And in light of these workshops, we are going to start some outreach to traders of grains, pulses and oils, plus plant-based retailers who meet our standards on Organic and ethical.
It was so useful to hear what members need and want from Better Food Traders, and we really enjoyed seeing faces old and new. One attendee told us: “Everything I took part in today was great. The vibe seemed very good, constructive and engaged.” Enormous thanks to all who came for your enthusiasm and ideas!

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