Slow Food Is Defined By Its People: Communities Bring New Energy to the International Movement

© Paola Viesi

Slow Food was founded over 30 years ago. The world has changed dramatically since then, and so too has the association, which has transformed into a global movement of thousands of people who share a common vision, summed up in the Chengdu Declaration.

Today the movement faces demanding, urgent and complex challenges that are pushing its members to come up with new ideas for how to adjust to the current international reality, how to have an increased impact in local areas and how to cultivate an organization capable of adapt to the complexity of the world, and translating the Slow Food philosophy into concrete actions, campaigns, activities and projects.

Why change is necessary

New, simpler, and more direct ways of bringing people together are needed. Slow Food cannot hope to influence and change the food system—and everything that derives from it—while remaining isolated and perhaps even fearful of contamination and intermingling. It is essential to bring different paths together and to listen to voices from near and far, and the foundation of the Slow Food communities is a response to this.

The movement must have the strength and capacity to open itself up and involve the many people who share its essential objectives, like combating waste, overcoming inequality, protecting biodiversity and fighting climate change, to name a few. It must cooperate more closely with other associations, with individual citizens, with local administrations, with rural communities, and with urban movements, in order to attract and bring together everyone who interprets the Slow Food philosophy in order to democratize culture, elevating traditional wisdom to be considered as an authority level with scientific knowledge.

The path towards the Slow Food communities

This process actually began with the first Terra Madre, in 2004. Between then and the last International Congress, held in Chengdu in 2017, Slow Food has been following a very specific path, guided by the values of inclusivity, participation and sharing. This process has reflected the profound complexity of the movement while also highlighting its enormous wealth of stories, values, bodies of knowledge and skills. It is worth noting that everything has always developed from the ground up, from the local areas that, at a regional and international level, are the beating heart of the Slow Food mission: to guarantee that everyone has the right to good, clean and fair food and to keep fighting until every last person has access to it. This is where, thanks to the work of the International Council, the Slow Food communities come in, an organizational concept deeply rooted in the history of the movement, thanks to the Terra Madre network, but only now officially taking shape.

What is a Slow Food community and how are they started?

Made up of a group of people active at a local level who share the Slow Food vision, a community is started with a founding declaration, which states:

  • adherence to the ideals of Slow Food and the principles of the Chengdu Declaration
  • the commitments and the objectives that the community has set itself
  • the activities, initiatives and projects that it is planning, in order to realize its objectives
  • the contribution that the community will make to supporting the international network’s strategic projects (Presidia, Ark of Taste, food gardens, Chefs’ Alliance, campaigns, etc.)

 The founding declaration of a Slow Food community

The declaration is divided into three sections. The first is the most important, outlining an adherence to the ideals and values of Slow Food and reasserting the centrality of the community as a way of bringing people together, that represents and promotes a system based on knowledge, relationships, inclusion, emotional security, and democracy. The second part describes the organizational model of the community, summarizing the common reference points for all communities, guidelines on the use of the logo and other essential points, such as the need to be open and inclusive and the ban on attempts to veto the formation of other communities. Lastly, the third part clearly defines the objective of the specific community and its commitments. Undertaking to support the international movement has always been an important element in the organization’s history: Slow Food is a global movement to which people belong first and foremost in order to contribute to a common cause. This contribution, which can manifest itself in different ways, also needs a formal declaration and a model for participation which can be shared by everyone around the world.

Looking to the future

This is the future of Slow Food. The course has been set. In 2020, the year of the next International Congress, there will be a chance to assess the situation, to identify the strengths and weaknesses of this new model and to make any changes necessary to bring about a transformation of the movement. The Slow Food communities will not be the only reference point for the international network: Already-existing organizational forms (convivia, Presidia, etc.) will continue to play a key role in the life of the movement and to act as pieces of the extraordinary mosaic that represents the Slow Food international network.

Find out more

For more information, have a look at the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page.

Read about the first Slow Food communities

Journey around the world to find out more about the first Slow Food communities.

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