James Beard Foundation

What was the challenge?

The food system is full of complex challenges such as food waste, sustainable agriculture, labor equity, and food insecurity. The culinary community has a powerful role to play in building a sustainable food system that promotes both nutritious and delicious food. The James Beard Foundation is tackling these challenges by leveraging its position in the culinary community and its relationships with chefs, corporations, and consumers.

In 2010, James Beard Foundation hosted its first ever Food Conference, launching the organization’s efforts to address food-system issues, chef advocacy, and sustainability. During its first five years, JBF grew the annual conference; established the prestigious JBF Leadership Awards to complement its longstanding industry recognition program, the James Beard Awards; launched the Chefs Boot Camp for Policy and Change; convened numerous regional food policy salons; played a critical role in the creation of the Chef Action Network; and launched the JBF Culinary Labs to engage chefs in hands-on sustainability education.

JBF engaged Third Plateau to facilitate a strategic planning process for its “impact programs,” with the aim of setting ambitious, outcome-oriented advocacy goals and designing long-term programs to achieve them.

How did we address it?

Third Plateau facilitated this work through a three-phased approach:

  • Learning: In partnership with leadership at JBF, Third Plateau undertook a targeted and thorough process to understand the organization’s internal and external landscape. This work consisted of analyzing all relevant program data; conducting a landscape analysis; researching comparable organizations; and interviewing dozens of key stakeholders, ranging from JBF board members to chefs to strategic partners and funders. This phase culminated in a learning session wherein Third Plateau presented the key findings to the project’s steering committee.
  • Ideation: With the knowledge from the Learning phase, Third Plateau convened the steering committee to brainstorm, analyze, and prioritize the strategic options available to JBF. Based on these conversations, we developed the Theory of Change and consensus around the 3-year goals.
  • Iterative Design: Through an engaging, open conversation, Third Plateau spearheaded the effort to organize and plan for implementing and testing the identified organizational strategies.

What is the impact?

JBF’s board approved the final strategic plan in March 2016. JBF’s staff and stakeholders are focused on delivering the ambitious impact agenda along with the new programs that are being rolled out. Given JBF’s strong brand and network, JBF leadership anticipates a warm reception for its new priorities as well as strong support for the strategic plan’s vision to make our food system healthy, nutritious, delicious, affordable, accessible, equitable, and sustainable.