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What We Learned From Feedback – Food Lab Survey Results

Thank You to Everyone Who Responded to the Food Lab Survey!




How to read the Phrase Heart image:

Where do the phrases come from?

The Phrase Heart represents chunking the responses to open-ended questions in the survey.

For instance comments about:

  • Gaining a better understanding of
    • the broader food system as a whole, or
    • how the parts of the food system are connected, or
    • who the players are, or
    • what issues impact the system –
      • are summarized (‘chunked’) as “Seeing the System”.
  • Comments about:
    • the presentations, or
    • the extensive knowledge of key people present
      • are  summarized as “Presentations & Expertise”, and so on.
  • Specific mentions of specific organizations are also listed.

How are the phrases sized?

Size represents the relative frequency of each chunk.

For instance:

  • 45% of all survey respondents made comments related to ‘Seeing the System’, so that phrase is biggest.
  • 42% commented on ‘Presentations & Expertise’,
  • 39% commented on the connections made at the event.
  • The smallest texts are comments from a single participant.

What do the colors mean?

  • Dark Red = Things people appreciated about the event
  • Purple = Ways the event could be made better
  • Green = Things respondants said they would do next or do differently, as an outcome of the event
  • Black = Specific mentions of specific organizations
  • Orange = The ‘Deep Work’ of community healing and deep listening called out as crucial to true system transformation.

Hover over phrase heart to enlarge texts

And thank you to everyone who attended the March 27 Lab – Sustainable Food Systems in North Minneapolis.

Your presence, your expertise and experience, your involvement with the food system, and your intention and will to make and sustain meaningful change made the event a rich, vibrant, promising start to what we intend to be an ongoing effort to transform our community, our health, and our economy through the crucible of the food system.

Your feedback is very valuable in helping us shape future labs that will support you, the community, in this challenging and exciting movement.

So what did we learn from the survey?

The event was a success!

The event clearly generated a lot of inspiration, hope, energy and enthusiasm.

If you glance at the charts below (which you can click on to enlarge), you can see that for almost all measures, this was the most highly-valued lab the Social Innovation Lab has hosted. There was also the most agreement among all survey-takers about the value of the event (indicated by ‘variance’, a measure of the variability of the scores – explained in the chart).

People said they came away with the intention to grow food, connect more, stay connected, dig deeper & learn more, create greater inclusion, and to listen more deeply.


What was successful about it?

Looking at the Phrase Heart above, we see that people valued the experience of taking a step back to get a broad perspective of the system as a whole, and appreciated the opportunity to make connections across the system.

The opportunity to network, make new connections, and hear new perspectives was a constant theme in the commentary, as was the frequently-expressed desire to have been able to network and connect even more.

The largest percentage of comments made to the open-ended question ‘what was valuable to you’, had to do with learning and sharing about how the parts of the system connected and impact each other; who the major players of the system currently are; and what the related issues entail.

Close behind and often intimately connected to comments about seeing the system, were comments appreciating the presentations and the expertise of the presenters, the pod-leaders, and representatives of the many organizations already deeply rooted in this movement.


What could be improved upon?

Pod Design

The most room for improvement, based on the commentary, was clearly around the Pod design. Some people had a great experience in their Pods, wanted them to last longer, and wanted the chance to engage in more than one Pod. Others felt the Pods needed better facilitation – that not all voices were heard, that there were too many people per Pod, the instructions were either not clear enough or not adhered to, and the harvesting could have been handled better.



Others mentioned issues of further inclusion – that women weren’t represented among the presenters, that the youth voice was inadequately represented (and less heard in Pods), that North Minneapolis’ growing Hmong population was not part of the discussion, and that the urban-rural connection was overlooked.


More Opportunities for Personal Interaction

The main thrust of the dissatisfaction around Pod design was clearly connected to two other areas for improvement – the first already touched upon, a real hunger for more and deeper interpersonal connection. We did well, it seems, in this kick-off event, to highlight the system, but allotting adequate time for that higher perspective comes at the cost of time to connect – a tension we always observe in Lab feedback.


Doing the Real Work

The other theme connected to Pod dissatisfaction is also a constant creative tension for the Lab – the tension around the ‘being’ needs of the community (gaining perspective, meeting people where they are instead of insisting that they conform to external expectations, leaving ample time to connect, healing old wounds) and the ‘doing’ needs – actual focused energy put into the real and challenging work of transformation.

Some of this last theme is revealed in comments about wanting better prior preparation (for example, posting the agenda online, and having more ‘homework’ so as to be able to arrive understanding how the pieces fit together and ready to get to work on tasks), comments about ‘where this is going’, wanting clearer marching orders, wanting a skills workshop, and concern about whether we will be able to leverage the energy generated or if it will fizzle out due to endless talk and old conflicts.


The Archetypal Tension

This tension between Being and Doing is such a constant theme for the Lab that it has become the underlying question for the upcoming May Macro Lab – From Conversation to Transformation. Exploring the paradox of holding both so as to realize the greatest transformation is a deep and important question for all communities seeking to improve lives, create a just world, and heal the planet, We hope that those who attended the Food Lab will join us on May 9th to add their own perspectives on this topic to this exploration with the broader Lab community.



Among the feedback items were useful suggestions about how we could improve our communications, like the aforementioned idea of posting the agenda on the website, using Twitter hashtags (a number of attendees were tweeting during the event, which drew even more people in), and using Northside newspapers to spread the word. These pragmatic suggestions will be followed-up on.


Deep Work

This analysis wouldn’t be complete without giving space to one insightful comment that, in one sense, sums up the conundrum of moving forward:

‘We have to work on healing our working & living relationships with each other – we fray and fissure and tear apart the collective power of our community. We need to have personal and social and family healing along with our economic / social innovations otherwise we will be hypocrites and will keep circling around the same ideas with new (younger and less connected ) well intentioners.’

In the Lab we recognize that lasting change won’t come just from connecting the dots, or solely from getting more people to plant vegetables. Nor will it come from the initiatives of the Lab alone. Lasting change will come from the deep work so many in the community have already devoted their lives to. It will come from  our deep learning and re-imagining our worldviews, from everyone’s courage and sincere effort, and from practical skills and hand-on application. This is, and will be, a movement greater than The Social Innovation Lab, and we are honored to have a role in it.

We invite you to engage the crucial questions highlighted in the Food Lab Survey in your own work, to continue to attend Labs (both Micro & Macro) and to help move the system forward in whatever ways suit your passion, energy, time and skills.

Average 'Value to me" scores across Social Innovation Lab events. (Click on image to enlarge)
Average ‘Value to me” scores across Social Innovation Lab events. (Click on image to enlarge)

What else do you think is important for us to keep in mind as we prepare for our next food lab? Please comment below:



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