Brisbane Local Food

Growing local

Well, the time has come. I must bow out of BLF.

It's been five years since BLF started, and it has grown into a vibrant community of great service to the people of Brisbane and to people searching for information on the internet.

I am very pleased and proud.

It has been almost three years since I moved to country Victoria, and I feel I must now retire from the site. I am not exactly a Brisbane local anymore ;)

This leaves us all with several options.

If you wish to be considered to take over as creator of the network, or as an administrator (job descriptions below) in order to keep the site running, then please message me.

Otherwise, I will shut the site down at the end of June. If you wish to keep your content you will need to copy/ archive it manually I'm afraid :(

Ning requires a subscription fee to host our content, so I'm afraid we can't just leave it on the internet. 

Job descriptions as follows:

NETWORK CREATOR

* personal credit is card is billed monthly for ning subscription fee. Currently it's $25 per month, or $300 p.a., but it's about to go up to $49 per month i.e. $600 per year (with a lot more features like apps and facebook integration and phone support apparently)

* creates an adsense account to generate revenue. FY 11-12 earnings $442. So far, since I put more ads on this year, current FY earnings are $612. Google ad money is paid every few months when the amount reaches $150 or more. I've received almost $400 so far and gave $150 to the new farm house community garden and paid $40 for some fairly dud BLF badges from the internet :)

* create a google analytics account (optional?) to view traffic statistics

* approve new members

* check posts, moderate content for appropriate content and tone

* be available by email, preferably via smartphone, to act on inappropriate content asap (i.e. ban offending members and delete their content)

* design network appearance, choose elements

* send out notifications - e.g. events and selected discussions

* feature photos and discussion

* add tag words to content

* close off and unfeature old content

* create a brisbane local food facebook page and post selected links to it

ADMINISTRATORS

* approve new members

* check posts, moderate content for appropriate content and tone

* send out notifications - e.g. events and selected discussions

* feature photos and discussion

* add tag words to content

* close off and unfeature old content

*******

Note I have been donating any additional revenue to local food gardens and businesses in Brisbane but with the new fee structure, I foresee minimal funds left over.

The creator (and administrators) needs to check the network at least twice a week, preferably at least every 48 hours. 

I have intervened (deleting content and contacting members as appropriate) as a moderator, on 5 occasions in 5 years where I felt discussions were overly negative, or contained content I deemed inappropriate (swearing, and links to an offsite profile detailing sexual preferences). Some members join explicitly to send spam, and when these bogus members get through it is necessary to delete them. You get better at spotting them before you approve them, but there are still several per year - maybe 15 per year?

From April 6th 2012 - April 7th 2013,  115, 000 unique visitors have visited BLF, from all over the world. In the last month, there have been 12, 000 unique visitors and 16, 000 visitors altogether. 35% are returning visitors. Most arrive by search engines, some directly, and some from links on other websites. There seem to be about 5, 000 regular (returning) visitors per month - circa 300 to 600 per day.

I will cede direction, flavour etc entirely to whoever takes it over. 

Personally, I see BLF as a community service, a change catalyst, a knowledge exchange repository, an empowerment and resilience tool. I see the creator role as a facilitator, not a preacher. Although I have considered spamming you all with my 'world according to scarlett' views on the way out, heh heh. Okay, I won't ;)

If you would be interested in either of these roles please let me know - otherwise please consider saving your favourite blogs/ photos/info before they disappear on the 1st July 2013.

Without a new creator, the network will have to close down. Administrators can help share the workload re approving new members etc.

If I can share one observation here -I believe that in any community endeavour, it is the key people and the governance arrangements which are the most important for longevity. You can make a garden on any site, but you must have the gardeners. The best land in the world will lie fallow without the people who want to tend it. That's how we got things happening in Cuba - we found the key, capable, motivated  people and built what they wanted and needed. Same for community gardens. And unfortunately, my failure to attend to succession arrangements is what brings us to this pass now :(

I would like to say a huge thankyou to the biggest contributors to the site - especially Lissa, Elaine, Andrew, Donna,  Christopher, Joseph, Florence, Vanessa and Trinette. And indeed, to everyone who has ever posted on BLF . Your generosity and openness, willingness to share and exchange has helped thousands of other people. A special mention to all who have copied event details onto BLF - that is a real community service. May your positive karma return to you all threefold.

I do hope, though, that someone will take it over and keep it going. Give it some thought. It's amazing how much you get back from it in terms of happiness, pride, sense of agency, sense of helping. Also it's a CV stuffer :)

Ach, the end of an era!

Farewell

(although I'll stick around until end June)

and thanks for all the good times

Scarlett

PS I'd love to hear any thoughts/ comments you might have about this. Please feel free to leave some feedback.

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Some of the reasons why I think BLF works:

* it's free and anyone can join

* there is no power group/ committee etc

* there is no hierarchical pushing of agendas/ cultural norms/ value judgements/ political points of view

* it's about the practical side of local food, not the endlessly hashed over aren't we righteous side of why you would do it in the first place. people have already found their way here - so give them what they want. don't tell them endlessly why they want it. 

* it's about enabling change, not pushing people to change by following an example of how/who you should be in the world: i.e. the green celebrity model (identity example driven change only works for those who have committed to change themselves and seek instruction in how to do so - it doesn't work for all of the other population segments, which is more than 90%). Example driven change does work for specific tasks though - e.g. like how to trellis something. A lot of the sites that are out there are pitching at the wrong level to catalyse action. Don't tell people they should trellis some raspberries, or show pictures of how fantastic you are because you have trellised raspberries with a cool t-shirt on - show them how to build a trellis and talk about how you did it and what you learnt. Let them ask questions, offer ideas, and post their own photos of how fantastic their trellis is too :) It doesn't work if it's a one way broadcast-only street.

* it gives people credit for knowing their own minds and making their own, completely valid value judgements about the world, the way it works and how they want to live in it. No 'should's.

* it does not expect conformity or consensus, or exert cultural norming pressure ('in group' positive reinforcement and ignoring 'out group' elements)

* no-one stakes a permanent claim on the expert position

* it is not afraid to use the benevolent leader model as an alternative to the often dysfunctional and dis-empowering (for the people who are actually trying to get the work done) democratic model. You'll note that in most workplaces, there is a leader - preferably someone who is good at it, has the right attitudes and processes for accepting direction and feedback and is well accepted. It is only in rare cases that you see functioning, leaderless teams - and these are generally extremely high performing teams of elite specialists united to achieve a common goal, with interweaving but distinct specialties and skills. Essentially they have transcended the need for a leader - they are self managed and united. Without an effective leader, humans usually fall into endless processes of trying to make everyone feel included, trying to allocate work effectively and fairly, and of making decisions. Quality control, workload, work completion etc etc all become problematic and an industry in documenting the collective efforts to manage this is created - effectively a bureaucracy. And then you get factions and power plays - blerg. Personally, I think democracy functions better under a gentle but firm, responsive leader with direct communication channels to the people. 

*It is location specific - so actual goods and services can be listed, and sub-tropical and locally specific gardening information can be discussed and shared

Oh, and most importantly, it has genuine functions and services to offer members:

* searchable, storeable information, discussion, blogs and photos

* potential one stop information shop for what's on and who offers what in the local food business in Brisbane

* group communication tools

* event posting and notification tools

* ability to sell, swap, give away and exchange goods with people in a geographic area

* safe front end mailbox and wall for communicating with people you don't know personally

People also seem to like that you can personalise it.

I have consciously made it not too slick looking, and not done branding/advertising etc - because that would make it look like I'm selling something, and I'm not. I figure it's a community sharing site, and it's better if that's what it looks like. My theory is that this helps people to recognise what the site is and what it does, and builds trust faster.

Wow skipped over this, thought it was another article on the monopoly of Coles and Woolworthes! How silly of me.

Such initiative and drive behind the members to keep this site active, it's fantastic to see. To me it seems more logical and easier for one person to take responsibility of the site. Just to reiterate the costings, the advertising has brought in $612 with almost 3 months to go this financial year. Going by the new Ning charges of $49 per month you would be $12 in positive territory. If its already in the black why do we need to generate money?

yep :)

Why not incorporate BLF into a not-for-profit group and then it can apply for funding through community grants? All the generous members who have offered to take on a role could get together, form a committee and start the process. It's fairly simple, costs $129 for incorporation and only needs 3 office bearers to form a management committee who could then take on the website. It removes any personal liability, taxation problems and makes BLF an entity in its own right. Individuals cannot apply for funding from community or government grant providers so incorporation would give BLF that ability. Financial auditing requirements are very, very basic - the Chairperson or Treasurer just has to verify the accounts are accurate. This would mean the burden is taken off one person. Then other members could volunteer to do part of the work as well.

And keep the ads going, hey if someone wants to pay to advertise on the site, don't look a gift horse in the mouth, there is no other realistic revenue stream. I think membership would plummet if a subscription fee is charged, even $1, and it becomes a nightmare trying to administer it - it's hard enough getting members to pay fees when they physcially turn up each week to an activity without trying to get 'cyber members' to pay.

Logan Food Gardeners has just started the process to incorporation but we're slightly different in that we have an income from monthly garden visits to member's gardens where member's contribute coinage. And that is thanks to the forsight of our founder, Lyn Buffett, who started the garden visits by way of trying to get the local gardening community together. We also do stalls at gardening events and occassional workshops where the proceeds go back to the group.

How about get one person to run it, and incorporate as a not-for-profit (the fees haven't gone up yet, so the extra from this year could pay for the fee). Then apply for grants and give them to local food initiatives on the site :)

The two extra office bearers required for incorporation could be administrators (good for if the creator goes on holiday for example). Approving/rejecting members is the most pressing job, which needs to happen almost daily. They wouldn't have to do much else!

I think the garden visits on this site take a gold coin donation towards the tea provided (depending) and they generally have a seed/plant swap too.

It's nice to keep everything free and let the advertising take care of it if we can I think (a necessary evil - they are quite yucky at times I know - but for every 'lose weight fast' I also see a local solar panel installer, so I think it evens out in the end :)

With a basic committee of 3 it would spread the load and ensure there is someone overseeing the website all the time. But if it becomes incorporated there are certain structures and procedures that need to be followed - committee meetings have to be held every 4 months, financial records need keeping and an AGM has to be held annually. You only need to have a quorum of 3 for a meeting and they don't have to there in person, on the phone is acceptable if the group's rules allow it.

And when you apply for grants they usually require the applicants to have a very specific need or use for the money like running the website, a new computer, banners, tables etc. I am not sure how it would go if you wanted to give the grant money away. Pretty sure it can only be used by the applying group.

Hmm, yes that sounds right. Might not be worth it then - there are only so many tables etc the BLF Seed Swappers could use really. The grant money would be better spent in community gardens probably.

You could still apply for enough grant money to cover the cost of the website only, then any revenue from ads could be given away??

well yes, you could!

you're welcome Reyna :)

Well I was in Brisbane until 2.5 years ago - it's just taken me this long to let go, because I really do enjoy this site.

Scarlett, I am not a very active member, but I love reading everything that is going on, it is wonderful to know so many people are actively interested in gardening, and this site is a wonderful forum.

You have done an immense amount for the local gardening community, you should be very proud. Thank you, Susan

thanks Susan :)

I don't know what I'll do without it - I'll have to find something else!

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