What a year 2019 was!
This year felt absolutely enormous for Open Food Network Australia. Because we have a habit of letting milestones slide past as we rush on to the next bit of work, we thought that this year we would try not to do that but to instead share some of our 2019 highlights and reflections with you, our community.
Late last year we founded our social enterprise consultancy to help support our not-for-profit development of the Open Food Network software platform, and to try to provide livelihoods for more of our team members so that we could focus on Open Food Network more completely.
Projects that power a new food system
One year in, we’re really thrilled with how successful this change has been! Through this new enterprise we have:
- Started regional food activation projects in Seymour and Victoria’s north east
- Delivered a significant piece of research for Monash University’s ClimateWorks’ Land Use Futures modelling around regenerative and agroecological farming practices and their potential (we’ll be releasing some of our work from this early next year)
- Undertaken bespoke software services for CERES Fair Food and for small-scale farmers, including helping the Harcourt Organic Farming Co-op get all of their different systems working together automatically
- Guided CERES Fair Food through developing product metrics and lean experiments which are improving their viability
- Shared our work at Open Food Network with communities in Asia by presenting and meeting with farmers, food activists and others building common-good projects in Seoul and Beijing
- Helped a number of farmers and not-for-profits with project design, planning, and grant writing
- Begun work helping the University of Melbourne’s Foodprint Melbourne project understand the resilience of Melbourne’s food system to climate shocks
We’ve really enjoyed working on all of these projects, and are excited by the meaningful change they’re helping create.
The experiment of trying to increase our income so that more of our team can focus on Open Food Network is starting to work. We can’t yet provide a livelihood for our whole team, but we’re getting closer, which means more of us are now able to spend the majority of our time on the Open Food Network. This is making a huge difference and contributing to a new swell of energy and projects! It’s also been a really interesting process to work out how we decide what to pay ourselves, as we’re taking a sufficient livelihood approach rather than a market-based approach. Doing this has meant that we have been able to start channelling the margin between what we pay ourselves and what the market will pay for our expertise into paying for our not-for-profit software development.
A huge amount of work from our global team of developers has led to some major improvements in the backend of the Open Food Network platform this year. The result is faster loading times for maps, shops, and groups, countless bug fixes, and some fantastic design changes to improve menus and the shop admin experience. This year was a bit of a ‘restumping the house’ year after 5+ years of features-focused software development. We’re excited to now be starting work on our next platform improvements, which are focused on the mobile shopping experience!
We also spent the start of 2019 discussing with our users the idea of charging for the software platform. It was gratifying to receive so much support from our community for that decision, and so much considered input into how pricing should be set to be as fair as possible for enterprises of all sizes. We settled on a percentage model, with an option to select a higher percentage as part of a solidarity model – it was incredibly heartening how many of our users opted for a solidarity membership. Income from the platform now covers the customer support we offer – and we’re hopeful that with new enterprises joining the platform all the time, it will soon be contributing towards the costs of hosting and maintaining the platform in Australia (and maybe someday towards the cost of developing new features!)
Gatherings, websites, research, community and more
In between all of that we:
- Attended the Open Food Network global gathering in France
- Launched our new information website (hint – you’re on it)
- Held our annual Shared Learning Day for community food enterprises
- Ran workshops for community food enterprises interested in using lean experiments to improve their viability
- Released our research report on Community Food Enterprises
- Shared ALL the details about running a food hub
- Talked at many, many events about the food system, design, waste, enterprise support, software, community, regional food activation, supply chains… and more!
And that’s just the Open Food Network Australia year! We also had a big year for the Open Food Network global community (which our team also works hard on), with new projects and resources in the pipeline, a new website, and the launch of Open Food Network in four more countries.
We’re so excited for what 2020 holds. Thank you for working with us to build a better food system, for sharing your exciting ideas with us, trusting us with yours, and collaborating with us. As always, please get in touch if there’s something you’d like to work on with us, or feedback you’d like to give.
From all of us here at Open Food Network Australia, have a wonderful festive season and see you in 2020!
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