Collective Impact Approach Continued...
Historically in urban centers there has been great disparity in education and employment between those from low-income backgrounds and those who are not. The same disparity can be seen racially, a stark divide exists between whites and blacks in Washington, D.C. These disparities often go unaddressed, making it impossible to create new systems and structures to alleviate the disparities.
Even when the disparities are acknowledged cities are ill-prepared to close the education and employment gaps due to the lack of partnership between government agencies, nonprofit service providers, and private businesses. Without communication, shared resources, exchanging of lessons learned and collective goals and objectives large structural and systematic changes are impossible.
In communities that have been able to build broad and diverse partnerships, taking a collective impact approach, success has been seen in solving myriad problems. Collective Impact approaches have been successful in addressing education needs in Cincinnati, homelessness in Calgary, and environmental issues in southeastern Virginia along the Elizabeth River.
The following proposal looks to use a collective impact model, linking together nonprofit, government agencies and businesses to train and employee Washington, D.C. residents in the Hospitality Industry and the Creative Economy.
Collective Impact approaches that partner public and private organizations together to rethink small business development, job training and job creation is key to preparing and employing D.C.’s “disconnected at risk youth, re-entry citizens, Returning Veterans and the general population”. By properly equipping persons with a mixture of hard, soft, and life skills while connecting them with streamlined development of small businesses, job training and employment opportunities, the city can begin tackling “disconnectedness”.
The following presents a Collective Impact project to small business development, training and employing US Veterans, Returning Citizens, At-risk youth, and disadvantaged citizens in the Hospitality Industry and the Creative Economy. The training model integrates inter and intra personal lessons, experiential learning through community engagement and surveys benefiting both private and public interest, and direct apprenticeships and job opportunities for D.C. youth, returning citizens, US Veterans, adults, and others desiring employment within the Hospitality Industry as part of the Creative Economy.
In many employment opportunities we will pair start-up businesses with short term subsidized personnel in hopes that through training, career education, and flexible options to create job opportunities, job seekers who have not succeeded in finding employment through the usual channels will have a greater chance at success and the new businesses that are developing will have a vested interest in those individuals remaining in permanent positions.
In the short, having a dedicated business model that creates new small businesses and the creation of jobs and by generating immediate work-based income, while also providing valuable work experience to improve workers’ employment credentials and help them escape poverty, we can start to change that.
Central to this model is a new local kitchen incubator and food storage space, The Fresh Food Factory Incubator. Acting as a multi-sided platform, the incubator kitchen serves to usher in a network of new small food businesses in urban communities. Food entrepreneurs are emerging everywhere. They are the individuals challenging the confines of our current food system, driving innovation and change, and reconnecting lost ties that cultivate the deep connection between individuals, their communities, and the simple act of eating. As food entrepreneurs ourselves, we have created a scalable model that will increase market access for underserved locals, cultivating food entrepreneurs, and providing increased access to nutrient rich high-value foods within diverse urban markets, specifically targeting low-income low-access areas.
HOW WE WILL DO IT:
By providing top-of-the-line equipment and services
Multiple open and specialty (bakers) prep stations
Secured 24/7 video monitored accessed facility, food storage and food truck terminals (physical)
By providing a comprehensive-assistance program-tailored for small business food entrepreneurs. (Intellectual)
By providing access to locally/sustainably sourced fresh produce, meats and grains, etc.—(connecting food entrepreneurs to their local food system)
By providing the support and efficiency of a scalable, collaborative community (membership-benefits/co-op structure)
COMMERCIAL KITCHEN SPACE & INCUBATOR PROGRAM
In terms of the urban community, the incubator kitchen provides a space for local food talent to express their culinary art while receiving business development support. These small-scale food entrepreneurs strengthen their local food system, increase access to high-value foods for all individuals of their community, and spur economic development within their community. The incubator program provides affordable access to specialized services by sharing costs across members. These services include: business development training, culinary coaching, creative design services, marketing, legal counseling and financial services.
Mobile food and market trucks are one primary distribution mechanism for the kitchen members. Food trucks offer an excellent retail outlet for a relatively low capital investment. Although many people talk of using food trucks to address issues of food desserts and food access, few businesses actually cater to these markets. By building/establishing cooperative distribution mechanisms, there will be direct incentive for community kitchen members to target low-income, low access areas (including their own communities).
BUILDING A LOCAL FOOD MARKETPLACE
In order to supply both the kitchen incubatees and other local food purchasers with fresh, locally sourced goods, The Fresh Food Factory Incubator will include a centralized program to aggregate and display food for distribution to the local communities. We are currently looking to partner directly with an organization working to establish regional food hubs as there is clear opportunity for valuable co-creation in this space.
BUSINESS MODEL DEVELOPMENT
Overall, this model draws on the progressive work sprouting up across the country in the areas of: supporting local/family farms, establishing local and regional food hubs, and utilizing mobile food distribution methods. Drawing on a number of incredible inspirations (including DC Central Kitchen, Union Kitchen in DC, La Cocina, San Francisco Foodshed Project, and SF Foodcart Project) this model takes things one step further by creating a community driven, but closed loop system that simultaneously creates both the supply and demand needed for it to be sustainable. In the long term, the vision is to create a model that is highly scalable such that the system expands beyond a single community and becomes an efficient, high-volume network of connected local-food systems.
What actions would need to be taken to turn this idea into a reality?
1. Secure seed funding: Operating as a financially sustainable hybrid business model, external funding would be required for the start-up phase. Here we will look for private equity investment, government subsidized programs and grants, and likely from a social enterprise geared investment fund.
2. Develop initial membership chain: network of local/regional developing small food businesses, Food Truck Vendors, Farmers, Bakers, Locals, etc, which will look to secure a place in the incubator and support the Executive Office of the Mayor, Department of Small and Local Business Development (DSLBD) innovative mechanisms to create new businesses and jobs, the DMV Food Truck Association, Restaurant Association, CSOSA and DOES to help aid in reducing the unemployment rate in the District of Columbia.
3. Locate kitchen/warehouse space: We have identified space that will support the efforts aforementioned and we will look to re-purpose that space located in the Langdon Park low-income area. In doing so the kitchen will become a place of urban revitalization while also having low property costs.
4. Physical resources (build out communal kitchen space, trucks, etc.): Because we will be converting existing space, the kitchens will be upgraded or commercially cleaned to industry standards and fitted with all the necessary equipment. Also need to establish a designated area for the food truck vendors.
5. Hire kitchen staff and subsidized incubatee interns: These will be the people actually employed by the kitchen to provide services to all members and an approach that will ask the perspective members to intern one client from our pool of workforce development partnerships. This core team of 3-4 full time facilities personnel, apprentices to the members, and administrative staff members will have specialized knowledge in key areas such as: legal, accounting, marketing, culinary coaching, etc.). The interns will be directly connected the business operations of the individual members.
6. Recruit initial kitchen members (food entrepreneurs): Work with key partners to identify promising emerging food entrepreneurs. These potential members will be vetted through a rigorous application process, and then elected into an initial membership class. Potential applicants will be sourced from places such as: community college/adult education career center, culinary arts career center, community based organizations, etc.
Who might make a good partner for this project?
Collective Impact Partners:
*Nutrition/food access organizations will be vital partners in educating end consumers about the benefits of a healthy diet, how to create better eating habits, and how to obtain the types of food they will need to supplement their new healthier lifestyle. These organizations will also be imperative partners in advocating for specific legislative changes in food access, food safety and local food production.
*Organizations working with ethnic/women’s/low-income issues will be key partners in recruiting potential food entrepreneurs, building an end consumer base, and advocating for legislative changes both local and national.
*Career-oriented programs (career counseling, job training, etc) provide an entry-point to directly targeting individuals (hopefully soon to be food entrepreneurs) who many have an interest in joining our incubation kitchen. These programs would also provide great insight into the development of the incubation program.
*Urban development/revitalization interest groups could contribute to the strategic placement of food trucks and incubator kitchens, focusing efforts on further developing low-income areas, abandoned lots, and rural to urban connections; while also teaming up to create legislative/regulatory changes in support of food trucks and food increased access.
*Schools would offer a guaranteed market for the food entrepreneurs in both cafeteria food sales and as a substitute for off-school lunches. Playing into the pricing mechanisms, we would be able to increase the opportunity for students on reduced and free lunches to eat high-quality nutritious food. Food from the farmer’s network would be efficiently funneled through the food hub and distributed directly to school cafeterias or to food entrepreneurs to create alternatives meal options for students.
*Network of Business Professionals establishing this network of business or corporate partners will be a way to provide one-on-one mentoring within the incubation program, while also providing another outlet for individuals to become more involved. These business professionals will have specific successful backgrounds in marketing, PR, business development, accounting, and operations.
*Farmer Networks (such as Community Supported Agriculture-CSAs, community gardens, farmer coalitions) would offer an inherent distribution infrastructure that we could help bring to scale, providing access to new markets and more standardized packaging and distribution. These networks will also make great entry-points to connecting with more regional/local farmers that may be interested in joining our network, bringing their food to their community while reaping increased financial benefits. Community Gardens would also make a unique food waste outlet for the incubation kitchens as a place to compost.
Distribution and Logistics Partner:
*Regional Food Hubs (We are currently looking to partner directly with an organization working to establish regional food hubs as there is clear opportunity for valuable co-creation in this space.) Regional Food Hubs will work in a hub-and-spoke model, where the establish food hub will support a number of incubation kitchens, along with other buyers/food distributors (hotels, restaurants, schools, hospitals, food banks, etc.) who are interested in upholding our standards for food quality and value and supporting their local food producers. Regional Food Hubs will have the capacity to facilitate the growing demand for locally produced high-quality high-value food, filling the missing infrastructural gap of food storage and transportation. This relives farmers of the task of fulfilling buyers’ diverse packaging requirements and increases their bulk orders.
*Local government and or government subsidies could offer tax breaks, short term paid wage, or other incentives for food entrepreneurs. For example, city planners could allocate space to creating a large, outdoor central court that has tables and chairs, as well as space for food truck terminals-- similar to a food court but in an outdoor or converted space (great examples of this are happening in Austin, TX and Portland, OR
What suggestions would you have for potential sources of funding for the development of this project?
This business will be funded through its operations. The primary source of revenue will be from memberships. By keeping membership dues low, small scale food entrepreneurs will have the upfront access to critical resources without being burdened by heavy loans with high payments.
While the business is supported through its own revenue generating activities (memberships, catering, special events), additional sources of funding may also be utilized. Specifically local, state and nationwide funding programs to support food access, nutrition, and job creation programs could be sources of supplemental funds. Microfinance organizations may also be a good source of capital to support the food entrepreneurs themselves.
Here are some of the people, businesses and organizations we have had the pleasure of collaborating with:
Greater Washington Urban League
US Veterans Initiative
Veterans Access Housing
Maximus-Business Management Consultants