Practical Visionaries Field Project Methodology
The following flowchart and accompanying narrative describe the activities and processes that have supported our project and led to our deliverables:

flow chart2

Fig. 2. The above flow chart describes the three project components of the 2013 Practical Visionaries Field Project and how the team visualized their connections. Figure by Rebecca Schofield, “Project Flow Chart,” 2013.


1)  Background Research and Literature Review:  The ongoing research process has focused on three major areas which have served as our theoretical framework for developing our deliverables (see “Theoretical Framework” and “Bibliography” sections for more information on our findings).

2)  Interviews:  We conducted interviews with various local experts in popular education curriculum development, food and agriculture systems, labor and union activism, and community economic development.  These interviews helped to inform the development of our popular education curriculum as well as steer our food system data collection in a direction that has not yet been explored:  the local food economy.  The seven interviews we conducted are as follows:
  • Brandy Brooks (Regional Director of the Food Project)
  • Christina Gibson (co-author of A Community Food System Assessment for Concord)
  • Timothy Griffin and Christian Peters (professors at Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy)
  • Jen Faigel (CropCircle Kitchen board member and economic development consultant with the Pearl & Bornstein Food Production Small Business Center)
  • Mari Pierce-Quinonez (UEP alum, Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (NESAWG) affiliation)
  • Jamie Pottern (co-author of A Community Food System Assessment for Concord, current Farm Conservation Program Manager at Mt Grace Land Conservation Land Trust)
  • Mike Prokosch (United for a Fair Economy)

Our process for choosing this sample:  Throughout the first few weeks of our project, once we had established our research questions, purpose and scope of our project, we brainstormed with each other and the Steering Committee to come up with a list of local experts with whom to speak in our areas of focus (popular education, food systems assessments, and community economy).

How the interviews were conducted:  We drafted a list of interview questions, which guided our conversations with these experts.  Two FP team members went on each interview, so one could take notes while the other led the conversation.  Some were audio recorded and some were not.

How the results were analyzed:  Since we were not focused on directly quoting or using exact data from our interviews in our report, our results were not analyzed by strictly following a particular method.  We used the information we gathered from our interviews to guide the development of our tools and add to our knowledge of what has been done in the Boston area, to ensure that our project was not redundant and that we were working to add new information to the local food economy discussion. For more information on our interview methodology and what we learned, please CLICK HERE.

3)  Development of community engagement tools:  Each of our community engagement tools went through a development process that included drafting then revising based Steering Committee (SC) feedback.  Two tools, FEET and Workshop 1 of our Popular Education Curriculum, were also piloted and revised again based on pilot feedback.  Results and feedback from these pilots are discussed further in Conclusions, Recommendations and Next Steps.

Food Economy Engagement Tool (FEET):  Data collection and engagement tool to evaluate how much people spend on food, where the money is spent, and whether that money stays in their community or flows outside.  There are three parts to FEET:  1. Pre-log survey questions:  survey of involvement in the current food economy; 2. Food expense log where participants track food purchases for one week; 3. Post-log Reflection questions:  Reflections from filling out log and comparing to pre-log questions.  These three parts begin collecting individual experiences that can feed into Workshop 1:  Food Economy Experience.

FEET was developed through the following steps:

  • Drafted survey questions and food purchasing log based on SC desires for data collection and engagement, and FP team members knowledge of survey development.
  • Revised questions and log based on SC feedback of initial draft and internal FEET feedback (each FP team member filled out FEET for one week prior to pilot)
  • Piloted FEET:  Recruited participants for pilot through Steering Committee, the Practical Visionaries Workshop, Field Projects and UEP peers, and other campus and community-based groups.  40 FEET were distributed to above-mentioned participants.
  • Revised FEET based on pilot feedback.
  • Results, feedback and revisions are discussed in Conclusions, Recommendations and Next Steps section.

Popular Education Curriculum:  Three workshops following the steps in the popular education spiral have been envisioned by the FP team, with each in multiple stages of development.  Workshop 1 (Experience Patterns) has been drafted, piloted and revised.  The goal of this workshop is to identify and record individual and community relationships to food economy.  Workshop 2 (New Information) has been drafted incorporating the Food Economy Maps we have developed with activities we have created, with plans to pilot in Summer 2013.  The goals of this workshop are to analyze food economy in terms of its social, environmental, and financial impact.  Workshop 3 (Plan for Action) has been discussed between the FP team and our SC members, and we believe this is where our SC members have the most expertise and can create their own valuable workshop activities from the resources we have developed for them.

The popular education curriculum was developed through the following steps:

  • Drafted Facilitator Guides (including workshop activities, sample agendas and discussion/reflection questions), based on SC desires, information gleaned from interviews, and FP team members’ knowledge of curriculum and activity design, some of which was learned through Practical Visionaries Workshop.  
  • Revised Facilitator Guides based on SC feedback.
  • Piloted Workshop 1:  Food Economy Experience at Tufts’ New Economy’s Cultivating a New Food Economy Summit.
  • Revised Workshop 1 based on pilot feedback.
  • Results, feedback and revisions are discussed in Conclusions, Recommendations and Next Steps section.

Food Economy Maps:  Both static and dynamic/editable maps have been developed for our SC members and their constituents as a springboard for discussing the community food economy.  We see these maps serving multiple purposes: to develop a greater understanding of the food economy; to engage in collective analysis of the food economy; to encourage dialogue around the current challenges and possible opportunities in the food economy.

The food economy maps were developed through the following steps:

  • Drafted maps based on SC desires for data collection, as well as guidance from interviews and literature review research.  This was done by collecting and analyzing secondary data from multiple data inputs (see “Data Collection” for links to the specific data collected):  2010 Census Data – NAICS, Reference USA; geographic data – Boston area and state-level data; Bureau of Labor Statistics Data; and demographic data – American Fact Finder, American Community Survey.
  • Inserted data into both ArcGIS and Google Fusion tables to create static and dynamic/editable maps.
  • Revised maps based on SC feedback of initial drafts to ensure that data being collected would be beneficial to engaging their constituents.