Exploring collaboration within Edmonton's City Table on Household Food Insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic
Keywords:household food insecurity, community of practice, COVID-19, Alberta, Canada, emergency food provisioning
During the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been unprecedented attention and funding toward addressing household food insecurity (HFI) in Canada. In Edmonton, a virtual "City Table" was developed to coordinate the myriad of HFI responses and begin to explore and address systemic issues underlying HFI. In this qualitative descriptive study, we asked: what are the opportunities for and challenges to collaboratively addressing HFI within Edmonton's City Table? In 2020, we conducted nine interviews with diverse professionals representing a local funding agency, the municipal food council, the City of Edmonton (community social work), the Edmonton Food Bank, the University of Alberta, ethno-cultural organizations, and other not-for-profit organizations supporting people experiencing poverty. Wenger's three modes of identification in a community of practice (CoP)—engagement, imagination, and alignment—were used to conceptually frame our qualitative analysis. Overall, we found that the HFI response sector reflects the beginnings of a CoP, but that inter-agency competition for funding and donations presents obstacles to the collaborative process. Findings highlight parallels between agencies and their clients, such as the mazes they must navigate to access resources. However, collaboration was facilitated by agencies' ideological cohesion and their shared struggle to address root causes of HFI. Analyses revealed some engagement amongst City Table members, but sparser imagination and alignment. A CoP does not yet exist because all three modes of identification are deficient in varying ways. Building engagement between agencies, shifting staff's imagination to a collective cause, and aligning practices are monumental tasks in this context.
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Copyright (c) 2023 Alexa Rae Ferdinands, Oleg Lavriv, Mary Beckie, Maria Mayan
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