Public Sector Purchasers as Curators and Value Creators in the Food System

Author: Hayley Lapalme

The 3P Mentorship Program is a community of practice that convenes institutional food buyers around a shared vision to use the $750 million purchasing power of the Ontario public sector to foster resilient local food systems. Five design principles emerged from the program, which ran as a pilot in 2014-2015 with a cohort of four institutional mentees: a hospital, university, college, and long term care home, each represented by a manager influencing the institutions’ procurement. System mapping and informal interviews revealed that the point of purchase was a high leverage, low friction point of intervention where procurement mechanisms, such as the RFP, make institutions passive consumers of value from the food system. A challenge emerged to design aminimally disruptive intervention that would enable managers to re-claim these mechanisms and to re-imagine their institutions as creators of value, in a position to curate the “reconfiguration of roles and relationships among [the] constellation of actors” for a more resilient food system (Normann and Ramirez, 1993). The pilot generated evidence of the ability of networked institutions to collaborate on a shared vision to increase the social good generated through purchasing, and to play a transformative role in food systems.

Posted: Jul-2015

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