Our case studies suggest that CFEs have many pathways to their success. The real key to improving the probability of the next generation of CFEs succeeding is networking and peer mentoring that can pass along these insights.
In creating an initial database of CFE successes, this project provides a preliminary framework for such networking. As a next step, we recommend creating an open-source model, perhaps a web-based Locopedia, where great business models can be posted from all over the world. A reliable, sophisticated database of innovation could be invaluable. That’s a lesson from the work of Dr. Richard Jefferson, who, in 1992, founded CAMBIA, a nonprofit agricultural research center based in Australia. A website, BioForge.net, provides a forum for scientists from North nd South to openly share information, research, projects, and innovations in fields like agriculture and pharmaceuticals.
The Locopedia should aim to do this for CFE practitioners everywhere. For any particular food business, whether food growing, processing, or distributing, users could find examples of competitive small-scale businesses. Moreover, they could find information about successful finance, entrepreneurship, and public policy programs that facilitated the success of these businesses. Plus, users would be encouraged to post contact information and references to relevant research, organizations, events, and activities around the world.
Like any virtual community, the Locopedia will be most effective if its members periodically meet and develop real relationships with one another. We therefore also recommend establishing a network of “CFE public scholars,” at least one from every country, who meet regularly and help one another build a true global community of CFEs. We encourage anyone interested in this effort—practitioners, scholars, funders, organizers—to sign up for project updates.
Ultimately, this network should include all kinds of local businesses, not just those linked to food. But food is a catalytic place to begin. For the world’s six billion people, our report suggests that CFEs can provide powerful, self-financing mechanisms for improving their nutrition, health, and economic vitality.