Instance Managers Circle Meeting: Q1 2023 (Combined Agenda and Minutes)

# Facilitator/s: Laurie

# Note taker/s: Bernie

# Meeting time:

  • Wednesday 31 January, 8pm / 2000 hrs UTC (Thurs 1 Feb Aus/NZ (7am/9am))

# Meeting link: OFN General Purpose Meeting Room

# Notes from last meeting: Instance Managers Circle Meeting: Q4 2022 (Combined Agenda and Minutes)

# Participants: (add name and meeting # e.g. Jo Blogs - Meeting 2)

  • Australia - Amida
  • Ireland - Evonne
  • New Zealand - Bernie
  • UK - Nick
  • USA - Laurie


  • Brazil

  • Belgium

  • Canada

  • France

  • Germany

  • Greece

  • Italy

  • Jordan & Qatar

  • Iberian peninsular (Catalonia, Spain, Portugal)

  • Russia

  • Colombia

  • Costa Rica

  • India

  • Philippines

  • South Africa

  • Turkey

# Meeting recording: Playback



Discussion points:

  • Purpose of the circle : Talk about issues and opportunities beyond day-to-day operations. Established approx. 1.5 years ago. Circle defined as people who have work in common.
  • IM role really unique in global community - wear many hats. Represent our country’s interests and often don’t have anyone else but other IMs to bounce ideas off and establish best practice.
  • Important for all IMs to have a relationship with Product and Global Stewardship circles - to respond to requests, proposals and provide feedback
  • Distinction between IM Circle and monthly Global Meeting:
    IM Circle: decision making meeting, making decisions affecting global community e.g. financing, fundraising; opportunity to get together and make requests
    Global Meeting: info sharing; what’s working/not working well, what help is needed


  • Check-in

Ireland: Opportunity to reconnect with OFN IM space. Yvonne now has time allocated to OFN Ireland project. IM Circle to help refocus work over coming months.

UK: Chance to reconnect and hear what’s happening in other instances. Some interesting funding opportunities kicking off in UK, including box scheme opportunities and potential for joint funding.

Australia: Keen to discuss Agenda item (viability of major users) and subscriptions idea which AUS is keen on as well.

USA: Laurie stretched really thin but having lots of fun. Kent currently doing user support in USA; here to learn about what IMs are up to and how that can help with user support e.g. subscriptions, split checkout/payments etc.

NZ: Bernie having baby in May so focus over next period is streamlining information/content for new/existing users and exploring potential partnerships.
Laurie suggested some back-up support (user support and troubleshooting) from Australia and West Coast USA over initial maternity period. Bernie to chat with Amida and Laurie.


  • Split checkout (three screens rather than 1) is roll out starting Feb 7. See recent release here and Discourse link here
    Discussion on interest/opportunity to share resources:

No current plans on communicating roll-out to users.
Need to let people know what to expect; fielding questions and creating some information about it.
Suggest having a skill share or teaming up on Slack.
Agreement to work globally rather than individually.

Action: @amida to follow up with Product Circle on a recorded demo - particularly for those instances who don’t have the functionality already turned on.

Over the last several months, Australia has seen really significant hubs, in various stages of development on the OFN platform, shutting down operations. This has been a broad trend, which for the platform, means fewer users and lower revenue.

Is this a similar or different experience in other instances?

Key factor is rising cost of living which is making it difficult for people to maintain their customer base. Could be a wider food system issue? Difficulty with operating model e.g. heavy reliance on volunteers also an issue.
Some hubs are pivoting but most are shutting down operations.
AUS looking at food equality aspect, which needs to be funded and/or subsidised.

UK seeing same issue - have lost several hubs. Most longstanding hubs are seeing a downturn in trading volume. Some going out of business; some working hard with communities to tackle food equality/poverty/dignity work - some getting funding to do that work. While there is a decrease in demand in people paying for food, there is an increase in people who want to pay less/can’t afford to pay for food. A lot of hubs getting lots of support to do that work which is helping them survive.

Nick shared:
Link to OFN UK Food Equity roundtable
Link to upcoming/follow-up roundtable

Action: @NickWeir to post in IM Slack channel

Ireland: Have lost around 3 hubs since starting 1.5 years ago. Have secured community climate action funding for a project (Yvonne’s time) to develop a toolkit of resources and know-how for communities to establish food hubs. Aim to set up 5 hubs in different locations that will represent different types of models and realities. Recognise that without tapping into some local funds or subsidies e.g. rural regeneration fund, community climate action fund, local enterprise fund, hubs will struggle to stand up as standalone entities. Disappointed to hear that hubs are shutting down in bigger established markets. Interested to see from others’ learning and experience why some hubs are surviving and others are not.

Nick shared link to OFN UK ‘Thriving Food Hubs’ resources. Ireland welcome to make use of these resources, copy/adapt them to help hubs succeed.

Laurie talked about link to active instances - seeing a similar trend with OFN instances, i.e. instances shutting down as hubs shut down.

Action: Call for ideas on ideas on what we might do, where we might look to help solve the problem - retain/attract users.

NZ: Interest in getting an update on Canada’s work with food buying clubs - could be added to the toolkit e.g. how to start a food club. Food clubs are having an impact on OFN NZ success.
Note legislative changes taking place in NZ around labelling of organic products. Small organic farmers/producers will be able to by-pass certification if selling from farm gate (for sales <$10K). This may result in future potential uptake of OFN by organic producers - potential partnership opportunity.

Box schemes (UK)
UK have lost some hubs/users due to growing interest in subscriptions.
Current OFN subscription service a bit clunky and involves a lot of admin from shop front manager to set up subscription, make changes and pause subscriptions etc. Plans in pipeline to improve that, but quite further down the development pipeline.
Patrick leading project in UK to help address issue - improve functionality, enable shoppers themselves to edit subscriptions and improve reports.
Box Master and Ooooby noted as UK’s biggest competitors.
Project cost estimates:

  • 10,000K pounds required to do feasibility, including scoping and product design to get heads around it
  • 100K needed to do development work

3K raised so far.

Think Germany also doing work in subscription space; Canada looking at CSAs.

AUS keen to see similar changes to subscriptions to help maintain and get more significant users on the platform. Keen to help with scoping/market research on what AUS users are needing and wanting to see - currently seeking funding.

Difference between Box Scheme and CSA:
CSA: Pay in advance. Members get different produce every week. Key difference - paying to support the farm and as a return get share of produce.
Vege box: Less commitment from member, expectations around delivery of vege each week

Nick shared Patrick’s proposal for box scheme/subscriptions feature

  • Finances (it was agreed to communicate financial contributions here) - No update.

  • What do Instance Managers need to know about what’s happening in the global organisation?


  • Proposals:

1. Meeting frequency (Bernie, NZ)
Suggest combining, extending or using every third monthly Global Meeting time for the Instance Managers Circle quarterly meeting.

  • The Global Meeting is well attended by most Instance Managers
  • Consolidation and efficiencies - currently 2 IM Circle meeting options; a single meeting means no time required to review notes/video content from meeting 1
  • The global meeting is 1hr vs 2+ for the IM Circle (depending on number/type of agenda items)
  • Global meeting is an open meeting vs the IM Circle which is closed

Discussion points:

  • Need a clear/distinct proposal re meeting purpose. Is attendance the issue? Why are people not attending?
  • Keep to 1 hr with tight agenda and facilitation. Happy about IM Circle being more open. UK looking at appointing an IM. Keen to make meetings less scary for new people.
  • Is there a document defining what is an IM - the role is distributed across multiple people at OFN Australia. These meetings and global catch ups are super helpful. Not too overwhelming once you get into them.
  • Emphasis on having each instance represented vs having IM present. Important to have a representative/delegate come to the circle.
  • Note Stewardship Circle happens on same day.
  • Important to come together and make decisions.

2. Reflecting the reality of active/inactive instances (Laurie, USA)
Suggest removing inactive or quiescent instances from list of instances here (italicized above) and moving them to a different tab in the Basic/Core spreadsheet so that we know which the active/engaged instances are.
Rationale: to have a better-defined and more accountable community of active instance managers gathered for the purpose of mutual support and representation for product and organization decisions.

  • Decisions:
  1. Use Global meeting in April for next IM Circle meeting.
    Action: @berniemabbs to follow up with Nick.

  2. Inactive instances to removed from Instance list.
    Action: @lauriewayne1 to work on trimming down Instance list to get a really good picture of who the core circle is, and who the active instances are. @NickWeir to help with who is/isn’t active.