Four years ago, the Foundation created the Regional Value Chain program to support the development of sustainable and viable regional food economies. In a dozen communities across Canada, groups of entrepreneurs, community organizations and academics developed assessments of their local food systems; these are available on Foundation partner Food Secure Canada’s website.

The lists of challenges and opportunities for food systems in the assessments are extensive, but a common theme is the need for local and sustainable food processing and distribution infrastructure.  The Foundation is supporting business planning and implementation of initiatives that address this marketplace gap. Projects include a sustainable seafood food hub being developed by the Ecology Action Centre in Nova Scotia, the Really Local Harvest in New Brunswick,  Accès Québec in the Eastern Townships, and the Ottawa Food Hub, a social enterprise which includes the Ottawa Incubator Kitchen.

Shifting food systems with work like this is complex and at times unpredictable, yet change happens. Tracking this change and demonstrating its value to business partners, community members, policy makers, funders and other stakeholders is critical. While business plans and financial reports provide important information about the state of a social enterprise, they don’t capture non-financial assets that are essential measures of project wellbeing.

The Sustainable Livelihoods Framework can be used to track change across several dimensions of a project — physical, natural, financial and human. Based on a theory often used in international development projects, it was  developed by Ricardo Ramirez with input from several partners. It was tested by two projects in Saskatoon and Nova Scotia, and while it was developed to support projects funded under the Regional Value Chain program, we hope that it proves useful to a wider audience.