Systems Thinking, Collective Impact, & Policy Change

Engage people, illuminate priorities, organize and advocate for social justice.

We support communities and organizations to facilitate multi-stakeholder engagement and public participation processes to advance transformative systems and policy change.

How do we influence the systems that create inequities in societies? How do we navigate complexity? Transforming the behavior of systems requires new approaches to listening, new ways of interacting and building relationships, new narratives.

How do we influence the systems that create inequities in societies?

  • Co-Designing stakeholder analysis in order to understand who is at the table and who needs to be at the table.
  • Generate multi-stakeholder input for policy planning. What is the change you want to see? How do you prioritize change efforts? How will you know you have succeeded?
  • Support communities to design public participation processes to ensure policy recommendations are just, equitable, and inclusive.



Holyoke Food and Fitness Policy Council

For nearly ten years, Fertile Ground has collaborated with Partnership in Practice. Together we co-directed the W.K. Kellogg Foundation Cross-Site Evaluation for the Holyoke Food and Fitness Policy Council 2007-2017.

In this project we facilitated a multi-stakeholder team responsible for measuring, communicating, and improving HFFPC’s system and policy change efforts to increase food resilience in low-resourced Holyoke, MA communities. As part of this process, Fertile Ground designed cutting edge community-based participatory methodologies and published findings in academic journals with a national thought leadership evaluation team.

Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan

The Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan was developed through a multi-year, state-wide engagement process aimed at identifying and addressing the most critical food system challenges and opportunities in Massachusetts. Fertile Ground contributed to the Food Access, Security, and Health chapter, developing recommendations based on listening sessions with food justice organizations, school food leaders, and community health advocates.

Good Food For All

Good for Food For All (GFFA) Collaborative unites grassroots and national organizations around a vision for a just, equitable and sustainable food system. Catherine Sands joins GFFA participants to work together to transform the food system through policy advocacy.

Williamsburg Elementary School Garden

In collaboration with Williamsburg Elementary School, Fertile Ground spearheaded the first School Garden program in the district, modeled after the Edible Schoolyard program in Berkeley, CA. Click here to read about it in Edible Pioneer Valley, Fall 2017. Fertile Ground developed the program by gaining support from teachers and administrators, securing funding for a garden educator to create the school’s first gardening curriculum, and helping to build the schools’ first garden beds. In addition, Fertile Ground established a partnership between the school and Nuestras Raices, a Holyoke-based community garden and youth development organization, bringing youth leaders from Holyoke to Williamsburg to share food and garden education across cultures. The Williamsburg Elementary School Garden project resulted in a permanent shift in the school toward supporting garden education, healthy eating, and local food systems, becoming a model for other schools across the state.

“Fertile Ground is a great example of how connecting kids to food and farming can enhance curriculum, engage children, involve parents and the larger community, and encourage healthy eating. Visit the garden, come to the harvest feast, or sample the dishes and read the stories in this cookbook, and you learn that all of this can be accomplished through the beauty of the garden, the taste of real food, and the connections between people.” – Margaret Christie, Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture
“This project is a really valuable and progressive program that feeds off the growing interest in local food production.” – former Massachusetts State Representative Steve Kulik