Possibilities of using OFN for organizing CSAs

Hello Everybody,

my name is Johannes Winter. I coordinate software part of the urgenci project solidbase, working for solawi. I evaluate software suitable for Solidarity based Food Systems(SFS). See some of our communication on our discourse. @NickWeir was so kind to give me a 90 min online presentation of the OFN functionailities. Thanks again! :sunny:

As far as I can see, there are two major flavors of approaching the management of SFS: The first comes from the consumers side (demand), the second comes from the producers side (supply).

For the former OFN is standing out of the numerous other solutions because of it’s global understanding of software development and its hence big community.

For the latter there are only few solutions, above all open olitor and juntagrico are to name here. The idea behind these (CSA , particularly solawi concepts) is to mitigate the dichotomy of farmers / consumers, distribute the risks of farming to the broader community, allow price setting to individual possibilities, the decommodification of food and in the end a prosumers driven agriculture.

So far I mainly see the strengths of OFN in renewing the farmers market for the digital age. Which is already very cool! But are there also ideas to directly support the economic ideas of CSA within OFN, ie. with recurrent orders or so? Maybe there are CSAs that use OFN to distribute their food, next to other, contract based economic models?

Woud be very interested to get to now to some examples!

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Hi @yova, my name is Theresa Schumilas - I coordinate OFN-Canada, and coincidently my doctoral research was on CSAs :slight_smile:. I’m working here with a new CSA network in one of our provinces (Ontario) to get them set up as a CSA network on OFN using our ‘groups’ function. Groups basically lets you group enterprises together for marketing etc. In my experience the OFN platform has way more functionality than most CSAs need. As a result, the platform can seem a bit complicated for them. Nevertheless, I’m finding that our CSAs here are excited about the platform because more and more, CSAs are embracing more complex models. Here, for exmaple, its becoming more common to see multi-farm CSAs, CSAs that also sell wholesale to restaurants… in addition to their share members, CSAs that operate on-farm stores for members to buy additional stuff, CSAs that work with face-to-face or on-line farmers markets… So, for these more complex CSAs, OFN is the most useful because they can handle all their different sales channels in one platform, and manage logistics and inventory in just one place. That said, there are some features OFN needs in order to be even better for CSAs. For example, ideally members could manage their own accounts and change their pick-up days… themselves. It would be good if CSA multiple pick-up locations were all mapable. (Right now in OFN, they are - but only if you create separate enterprises for each pick-up spot - so its tedious). We’ve been spending some time detailing these additional CSA features we need and maybe that’s something you have some thoughts about?

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Very interesting! We closely work together with the Urgenci CSA research group. Are you in connection? You should be, with your PhD in CSA… :smile:

I see that OFN has much more complexity than most CSAs need. In my understanding OFN is mainly useful for running other marketing channels besides share based distribution. I haven’t realized basic CSA management functionality yet. By that I mainly mean share oriented delivery organization (in contrast to per product sales) and functionalities to keep track of steady membership dues. For solidbase we mainly want to provide help to better set up an annual budget and to include write-offs for investments. For that we also want to create a little helper app. Actually it is an attempt to close the gap between bookkeeping and SFS management…

If you know of CSAs that mainly use OFN for their daily work, could you share their contact info? I would be very interested to get in contact!

Furthermore, maybe it would help if you could share the thoughts you made about useful additional CSA features for OFN?

here is an OFN wishlist we generated of CSA features - some of these have been worked on, but others have not : CSA software features
My goal would be to add features that have multiple functionality - and anticipate how CSAs are evolving into greater complexity as I described above.

The CSA network I’m working with here are still desigining their system, so not on-line yet. Although I was running a CSA for a few years, and used OFN. It works just fine. I simply described my shares as a product and sold them in 2 cycles (over a month period). After that, I made a shop of ‘extras’ that members could order on-line as options. OFN keeps a customer list - which is exportable as CSV, so I used that for marketing and communications. etc. So - the basic shop front functionality of OFN will handle this kind of ‘basic’ CSA just fine.

When I was doing my CSA research (comparison of China and Canada CSA systems) Urgenci was really just beginning - so I haven’t had a lot of connection there. Now my research focus is a bit different - I study how digital technology can enable food sovereignty, and at the same time, how it can be a threat to food sovereignty.

Hi @yova it was very good to talk to you earlier this week. I forgot to mention to you that we are about to introduce new functionality which will allow administrators to set up repeat orders/subscriptions. We are testing this now pre-release.

I also want to introduce you to a Belgian student, Theo who came to work with OFN UK recently. He was funded by Erasmus to implement OFN with CSAs in the UK. He worked with 2 CSAs, both of which are waiting for the new subscription service before trialing OFN. I will invite Theo to join this discussion.

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Yeah, cool! Jocelyn from Urgenci already tried to introduce us to each other. Would be happy to get in contact, Theo!

Would also be very happy see the new subscription feature. Any idea when it will go live?

These threads are also related:

Hello everybody!
I just read this thread once more as I have the same roots coming out of the CSA movement in german speaking little Austria searching for the right tool to push the Solidarity Based Food System (SFS) - I like this term that @yova used :slight_smile: - especially in terms of food distribution and supporting marketing needs.
In the last few months of doing research about the different targets to follow I came to love the targets of OFN most! I was very happy to have had two meetings with Nick to make the first steps in getting to know the OFN tool! Thanks again, Nick!
Besides this I share the attitude of you @tschumilas that a software tool should be openminded towards the different distribution methods a producer wants to follow. The CSA movement will talk of comunities then. It should be like this absolutely! But as far as I see it in my surrounding there are still not many comunities really hopping on this as the caution towards IT-Tools is widely spread.
So for me we have to meet the challenge of explaining and presenting the tool whereever there is a chance to do it.
When I try to prioretize the OFN presentations, producers -or rather initiatives- have to step in first for they drive the Comunity-car normally :wink:
Here my thoughts get stuck a bit as I experienced that the already performing producers don’t have time and they are not used to step away from their already developed tools and their autonomy in their way of working.
So this all needs a good amount of new initiatives that are standing at the beginning of their thoughts.
So far I will look around to find the right people to advance and set up an organisation for this really important subject for the german speaking countries.
This is little Europe and it’s seems utopian to do something that needs democratic feedback over bounderies. What do you think @yova? Shouldn’t we do a presentation in front of the german Solawi-Network in November?
All the best to all of you!

P.S. Technic tells me I can only mention two pesons as a new member! So I threw Nick out. Sorry Nick!

Dear @Karin

I share some part of your enthusiasm for OFN, but some other very interesting tools for CSA management emerged across Europe. These had been developed in close vicinity to the CSA movement, and map some needed functionality very well. Which functionality is needed already differs from the AMAP system to the Solawi system and is even more different in the eastern countries. Nonetheless the tools are good and fulfill their aim very well as they are adapted to the regional circumstances. Furthermore there is a grown ecological movement with well running members shops in the hotspots (or even acceptable traditional small scale shops), which, in my experience, have no interest in further digitalisation. Of course I see the value of OFN to enable common local marketing like in the Tamar valley. This is actually the modern version of regional production cooperatives like Tagwerk which started in the beginning of the 80s. But this has only little to do with solidarity based economy, in the sense of long term risk sharing which is one of the core principles of CSA. Is the “recurrent order” (a term which also does not fit the CSA principle, but aims into this direction) actually testable now? I don’t think it’s wise to build upon a commercial shopfront when you want to experiment with alternative modes of economic operation.
For the SolidBase project we deliberated quite long which software to chose for further use within the training modules and so. Although OFN was a good runner, we finally chose OpenOlitor for translation and as experimental data input for the educational budgeting tool. Next to the reasons mentioned above, they have quite a stable and well working support group and a very professional development strategy.
On the bio und regional goes digital conference lately, I had the chance to get to know to Mario Rothauer the creator of foodcoopshop. This tool also very well maps the Austrian style of (networked) foodcoops. I appreciated especially it’s technical base of distributed databases, which is a kind of democratic feature OFN misses. This also makes large national networks unnecessary, as each instance is completely independent.
To make it short: I think it’s better to foster the diverse range of regional developments and make them communicative ( -> http://datafoodconsortium.org/ ) then to forcefully push the big one size fits all solution.
An interesting question still is how to map all these possibilities of regional food distribution, which would probably be best done by a third organization like nyeleni or maybe even from consumers international?

Dear @yova

thank you for your input concerning different contexts and tools. I really appreciate this even though I had to wait a long time ;).
First: I agree with your evaluation that solidarity based economy does not really match to OFN up to now, but isn’t it possible to think about FoodCoop and CSA Comunities using both ways of Sales?
My experience comes out of many years being member of a CSA, where I experienced this feeling to get more and more claustrophobic as people and habits get stuck. So the discussion why a CSA might stay well in a longtermed view should be taken into account. It’s time to do it.
Out of this point of view I do appreciate the imagination that a CSA has members of this and that kind and that the tool they use can care for both, long-time-risk-sharing-people and the recurrent-order-people. It’s pragmatic but is it bad then?

Second: I think that it is very important that IT-folks talk to let’s say promoters of IT-Tools regularly and in a structured form in order to come to flexibel solutions and finding a way to coordinate things. So why not initiating a german speaking association that can care for funding etc.?

To speak shortly: I think FoodCoops can learn from CSAs and the other way round and it would be good if people are somehow challenged to look over the edge of the plate. It#s still small worlds :wink: and I found out that here in Austria people talk to each other already.

Hope we can continue this discussion!
All the best

Hi, I’m Mario Rothauer (FoodCoopShop). If I can help in this discussion, please ask.

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Really interesting development is going on here: OFN and OpenOlitor

This would mainly mean to use OFN as identity and mapping provider.

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Hope you do not loose threads :wink:

Happy to see this thread developing. We have been discussing in France also with the AMAP network Miramap. What I use to explain is that softwares are not tools, they are infrastructures. Buying groups, CSA, coops, whatever the specificities, the “job to be done” is very close from one model to the other, and basically what we observe is that 80% of features needed are the same. My rationality drives me to say: why not mutualizing ressources on those?
The OFN has already a good base of features, is internationalized, has a worldwide community already gathering various types of food hubs. Not all features are there, recurring orders are not yet subscriptions, but we are heading toward it. But more important for me is the community. Yes, there are other ways of building applications that are more and more decentralizing things, we are going that way in OFN with modularizing and going more toward API strategies. But maybe tomorrow the OFN code can be totally replaced by some more “module based application enabling a huge flexibility and separating data from application”, or achieved that step by step. The most important is to gather the people around the table and build a collaborative governance around the commons that needs to be govern at that level. That’s what we are trying to achieve with OFN, more than building a piece of code.
We are super happy to talk with other softwares in that area to see how we can more cooperate and avoid rebuilding the things others have already built. In our ecosystem resources are still scarce, so let’s use them efficiently and maximize the impact of our collective spendings for our global network… this is for me the new economy of the commons :slight_smile:

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