Briefing for Project Partners about developing final Local Action Plans – things to consider

Joy Carey, Thematic Expert

Making use of the project themes as a basic framework

The food system is complicated and it can feel overwhelming trying to work out what actions should be included in the LAP. The three themes of this URBACT project provide a simple framework for considering the different parts of an urban food system.

  • Growing
  • Delivering
  • Enjoying

You could begin by doing a simple audit of the activities already going on in your city that relate to these categories. There are plenty of examples in each of the three thematic reports. These three themes are developed in more detail in the Handbook.  It may be that you need to include all three angles in your action plan, or you may want to focus more specifically on just one or two.

Making use of the cross-cutting themes

All four cross-cutting themes have all been explored to different extents in the three thematic reports and further insights were gained from the various workshops. They are also explored in the Handbook.

  • Reducing CO2 emissions and improving resource efficiency
  • Improving skills & creating jobs
  • Influencing and changing behavior
  • Ensuring social inclusion

It is important to ensure that they are included in your sustainability criteria for selecting the most appropriate actions. For each action that you are considering, you could ask to what extent it will contribute to each of the above themes.

Finding a starting point

As you think about where to start with your action plan, here are some questions to ask yourself.

  • What experiences/cases from elsewhere have really inspired you and your Local Support Group, and why is that?
  • What experiences/cases from elsewhere are most relevant to your city?
  • What changes do you most need to achieve?
  • If you are successful, what specific results do you want to see?
  • Where will you find most energy & enthusiasm from others? This may show you where to start or to help you get started?

What changes do you want to see?

Perhaps the most important question to really get clear is around what changes you want to see as a result of an action plan. This may not be as simple as it sounds, and it will be important to get some consensus from other stakeholders. In deciding what those changes should be it’s also important to ensure that they will be measurable in some way to you can judget the extent to which change has occurred.

Deciding on the best actions to take

In deciding on what approach to take with practical action on food, there are some useful criteria to bear in mind. (These are similar questions to the ones above, but this time they relate to your planned new activity)

  • What type of activity are you proposing?
  • What is the overall ‘food sustainability’ purpose – CO2 emissions reduction and resource efficiency, skills & jobs, behavior change, social inclusion?
  • Impacts – what is it that you want to change through this activity?
  • What is the scale of activity, and audience – thousands of people; a small number of people?
  • Who is your target audience and what do you want to enable them to do?
  • Who are the instigators and who are the key ‘actors’
  • Successes & challenges
  • How will you measure impacts ie what has actually changed?

Taking a simple approach to reducing CO2 emissions and improving resource efficiency

We know from existing research that the main ways urban communities can contribute to reducing CO2 emissions in the food system is by eating less meat and more fruit and vegetables; reducing food waste and by making fresh seasonal food from the surrounding regions available to everyone. Food should be produced with less use of fossil-fuel derived inputs like fertilizers and pesticides. If it is certified organic then we know it will have good standards of animal welfare and will produced in a way that is in harmony with nature.

Fun activities can help engage the public especially if there is an interesting challenge with tangible results. There are many opportunities for new innovative urban food production businesses that create jobs. Labeling and recognition schemes need to be simple, aimed at the non-green audiences and help people to make a small shift. Cities can use recognition schemes to inspire and encourage collective action around fresh seasonal and local food; reducing food waste and encouraging the circular economy.

Planning a process to develop the LAP

Don’t forget the tools and resources to help you plan a process and work with different groups to stimulate ideas and build ownership and participation. The key to a good action plan is the process through which it is developed.


Some practicalities to consider as you develop your action plan

Leadership – who leads?

  • Top down
  • Bottom up

Level and scale – which is most appropriate and realistic?

  • Big picture/whole system
  • More specific and manageable ‘sections’ of the system

Timescales – over what length of time is your action plan relevant and when will it be completed?

  • Achievable within the URBACT project period
  • Beyond URBACT

Resources – what do you REALLY need to i) develop the action plan and ii) to deliver the action plan?

  • What is available at no financial cost? (eg volunteer time, recycled materials, free meeting venues etc)
  • What existing ‘infrastructure’ could be used in a different way to support the action plan? (eg existing newsletters, websites, events, networks & interest groups)
  • What existing financial resources do members of the network have that could be pooled, or used to collaborate?
  • What new financial resources are available from the municipality?
  • What financial resources are available from other sources?


People – where is the energy in reality?

  • Who are the people that are not engaged but needed? Eg for their skills and knowledge; current activity; power to influence etc
  • Who are the people that are very engaged and what do they bring to the group?
  • Who are the people who are not engaged and are also the most likely to be a hinderance? YOU NEED TO GET THEM INVOLVED!


Communications and purpose – what communication is needed and why/to achieve what?

  • Key messages and intended outcome
  • Style of message
  • Aimed at whom
  • Regularity
  • Most effective communication channels

Policy impacts – putting and keeping food on the city agenda

  • To what extent do you want or need to influence policy and why?
  • What specific policy do you want to influence and in what way?
  • How will you include actions that relate to influencing policy in your action plan?
  • How can you best align practical grassroots action alongside the higher level policy aims?


Tools and mechanisms – to help with coordination and communication

  • A definition of what you mean by sustainable food that other people can understand – eg a public Charter
  • Communication and PR toolkit including social media planning
  • A simple framework that helps to explain your LAP to new audiences eg an inspiring vision and key aims
  • A coordinating group within the municipality to help with internal communication and coordination between different departments



This article does not of course cover every angle, but I hope it offers some practical help with some basic steps that you will need to go through as you develop your sustainable urban food system action plan. Some of the critical steps are to find a place to start, agree an easy to understand framework and define some of the terms you will be using eg sustainable or urban food system. An audit of some kind will enable you to see what is already going on and to identify where the energy currently lies. It’s very important to acknowledge existing work as you develop the action plan. It may be helpful to agree some criteria for the actions that will be included that relate to principles of sustainability. Given the complexity of the food system, it’s a good idea to do some research into how other cities are addressing the issues. Having a clear process with timescales will help you make the best of this task.