New map shows lie of the land on food and farming
It is difficult to imagine a world without maps. Whether it is the Ordanance Survey 1:25,000 for planning a walk in the Lake District, the iconic tube map on the back of a battered A-Z of London, or a mapping app on your smartphone, life without maps would be much more confusing and maddeningly inefficient.
Yet, for the intrepid new philanthropist, there really are very few maps. There are some good general guidebooks about how to be a philanthropist, and with a bit of rummaging in the internet she may also find out useful basic facts about the size and shape of the philanthropic world. However, if the philanthropist wants to actually find her way about, she will need more detailed information. She might engage a professional guide - there seem to be a lot of them about now. She might ask philanthropic friends who have journeyed that way before, or hope that the charities she meets along the way will give her good directions - although they are likely to try to sell her something at the same time. A few printed maps are now available, though of variable quality, and whilst some make them publicly available, others are pricey.
On 7th June, a new map, of civil society activity on food and farming, was launched. The Food Issues Census was commissioned by six members of the Environmental Funders Network - the A Team Foundation, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, JMG Foundation, Mark Leonard Trust, Organix Foundation and the Tubney Charitable Trust.
Each of these foundations have very different histories, strategies, and funding policies. What they share is a deep-seated concern about the food we eat, and a common interest in gaining a more objective picture of the landscape within which they operate. The Census, based on a survey of over 300 organisations, is the result.
The Food Issues Census is not a detailed guide to every organisation - more Mappa Mundi than Google Streetview.
However, it does provide for the first time an independent and impartial overview of the landscape of civil society activity on food and farming. It tells you the size of the landscape, who is at the hub points, what people work on, what they just talk about, and what the sector collectively identifies as funding priorities. It also tells you something about the values you will find amongst the organisations that work in this sector, their heroes and villains, and who they are trying to help. The physical report is accompanied by an online tool, so you can interrogate the data with your own questions.
Above all, the Census shows that this is a landscape well worth exploring. It estimates that less than 1% of total voluntary sector income is spent working on food and farming issues. Set against the share of social and environmental challenges attributable to food - including 10% of total UK mortality and at least a fifth of greenhouse gas emissions - this is hopefully a destination that philanthropy will be visiting much more in the future.