Global Gathering 2019 - Day 5 - OFN as an umbrella organization - meeting with CSA representatives

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What is the purpose of this session?

  • Meet and become familiar with one another’s projects
  • Explore possible convergences between OFN and CSA network
  • Discuss the possibility of OFN acting as an umbrella org
    Link to Trello card

What outcomes/deliverables do we want?
Make a decision about the relationship between OFN and CSA

Who is facilitating? Myriam

Who is scribing? Gen


  • Therese and Marilyn came to represent and introduce us to the CSA network and meet the OFN community in order to challenge their next 5 years strategy they are working on.
  • We agree that working on the same software is were we need to be, and the challenge is to know how we get there.
  • If the OFN software grows to cover CSAs’ needs, the two platforms can merge
  • In the meantime, there could be sharing of intelligence. The OFN can also provide a directory of tools, consulting in managing an open source community and work on interoperability.


  • Myriam and Rachel to share mapping of CSAs with the OFN dev team
  • Maikel suggested we look at how the Apache foundation works - Rachel is going to take a look at it
  • Create a pledge not only on the software part (see Pledge discussion)
  • Create a parallel team - just like we envision for R&D / interoperability

Detailed notes:

CSA network software lacking a development team.
OFN needs to develop features for CSAs.

Therese: Created her CSA 10 years ago. Joined the CSA network in 2014, really involved in the software. Working together with Rachel to maintain and develop the software. Part of the Crest/Drôme regional CSA network.
Marilyn: Works on Clic-a-Map with Therese. First CSAs appeared 20 years ago in France. The network is about the ethical side - ensuring ethical growth. Not all CSAs willing to join the network, so hard to evaluate how many there are. Many local CSAs are afraid of sharing their data.

Tension within CSAs between professionalization and value/co-construction. Tracks distinction between CSA users as consumers and CSA users as participants
Not all at the same pace of understanding and involvement.

Originally CSA board members decided that an immediate, open source tool was necessary, and put all their funding into this, without fully understanding open software and the maintenance it requires. As a result the software is almost complete in terms of features for CSAs, but is not very stable, and is not able to fully take advantage of the volunteer developers who want to help improve it. It isn’t designed for open source development. They have a need for expertise in managing an open source community. Financed by public money, but development can benefit all.

CSA concept - consumers contract with the farmers, paying in advance (like a salary) as a form of insurance for the farmers. Goal is to be able to feed the members of the CSA with local food. Problems can arise: e.g. farmers taking advantage of the security to under-deliver, so there is a need for flexibility regarding the model. But risk is that the heart of the CSA - support of peasant farmers - will be lost in the process.

CSA software existing functionalities:

  • The software already has functionalities that facilitate CSA networks
  • One database for managing products across the network

How the CSA network sees the link between OFN:

  • If the OFN software grows to cover CSAs’ needs, the two platforms can merge
  • In the meantime, there could be sharing of intelligence

How wide is the gap between CSAs in France and those elsewhere?

  • OFN is on its way towards providing the features needed for UK CSAs
  • The OFN platform is very flexible and agnostic re: enterprises’ business models, so it can accommodate different types of CSAs
  • CSA space in Australia is very immature. There’s been a recent drive to develop, but there’re no real software tools - those that exist are just using spreadsheets.
  • In Japan, some CSA reps came to learn from the French CSA network, as without a Japanese network what existed has withered.

Matt - would be great to map the CSA network’s needs to see how wide the gap is between their needs and what the OFN platform can do. Myriam says she has done this and will share.

One of the biggest fears re: scaling, sharing, growing is that the CSA network becomes more fragile.
Nick: one of the values of OFN is subsidiarity - decisions should be made at the lowest possible level.
Kirsten: but that’s not what’s happening. We’re going more and more the opposite. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but the collaboration means we’re doing more and more at the higher level.
Myriam: but each instance and enterprise is sovereign, so they can choose to follow the Global or not.
Nick: and the beauty of open source software is that if users don’t like what we’re doing they can just take the software and go their own way.
Myriam: “Our logic is not to become big but to become strong together”
Internal contradiction within the CSA network of decentralisation but also the need to provide figures to e.g. funders

Kirsten: Original vision of Open Food Foundation included the principle that open source tech is an important lever for changing the food system. The OFN platform is just one of these tools. Aligns with that intention to support and learn from other orgs like the CSA network.
Lynne: Highlights the importance of paying attention to the gaps between models - often impedes collaboration in the end. The DFC is a way of dealing with this in a more systematic way.

Kirsten: there’s been a massive jump in (awareness of) interoperability in the past 5 years. This wasn’t something on people’s radars before.


Thank you so much @gen.shanahan! I’ve updated the summary and the action part, mixing what we said during the meeting with the CSA network and the internal discussion we had about it during the evening before the meeting.

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Ah super, thanks so much @Rachel!


Excited to read this, sounds like you had a great discussion. If at any point you want a perspective of how CSAs have evolved in North America since their inception, I’m happy to share (I was actually one of the first CSA farmers here in 1985, so I’ve been in this movement a long time :slight_smile:) . And, my doctoral research was on CSAs as they are evolving in China. I think there is a tension between 1. software specific to the ‘classic’ CSA model, and 2. robust ‘muli-business model’ software (like OFN). My 2 cents from discussion with Canada’s CSAs: More and more, even ‘classic’ CSAs (shared risk CSAs) have to supplement with other sales channels (some things to food hubs, some things wholesale to restaurants, on-line stores…) to stay viable. So - more and more, CSAs are looking for software that can handle this complexity in addition to handling their CSA needs (esp high communications with members).