University of Vermont

Food Systems Initiative

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Call for Proposals

UVM Food Systems Summit
June 14-15, 2016 | Burlington, VT

Submission period: January 25 – February 29
Voting period:
March 1 – March 10

How it Works | Types of Sessions | FAQs

The UVM Food Systems Summit is an annual event drawing scholars, practitioners, and food systems leaders to engage in dialogue on the pressing food systems issues facing our world.

The 2016 Summit will feature several rounds of concurrent sessions organized by Summit participants. We invite you to propose ideas for concurrent sessions in response to the 2016 Summit theme: "What Makes Food Good?"

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Update on proposal selection process:

We received a fantastic range of session proposals for the Summit, which you can see here. Thank you to everyone who voted by March 10 to let us know which sessions you want to see at the Summit.

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This year, we are piloting a participatory session selection process. Here’s how it will work:

Step 1: You suggest.
Submit your session idea(s) on the Summit website between January 25 and February 29, 2016. Anyone with a scholarly, professional, or personal interest in food systems is invited to submit.

You may submit:

  • A session you wish to organize (by yourself or with others)
  • A session you are interested in seeing offered (which may inspire someone else to submit a proposal for it)

We especially encourage submissions that feature:

  • Systems-based analyses of food and agriculture issues
  • Transdisciplinarity approaches to understanding and addressing food systems issues
  • Collaboration between multiple actors (e.g. scholars and nonprofits)
  • Innovative session formats – see “Types of Sessions” below (e.g., group discussions on hot topics, peer-to-peer knowledge exchanges, hands-on workshops, etc.)

Step 2: You vote.
Between March 1 and March 10, vote on your favorite session submissions (you do not need to submit a session proposal to vote). The Summit organizing team will use the results of the submission and voting process to build the schedule of concurrent sessions. Successful applicants will be notified by March 21.

Step 3: Come to the Summit!
This is when you encounter the most difficult challenge: picking which interesting session you will attend! The schedule will also include open slots for the spontaneous creation of sessions. A limited number of need-based travel scholarships will be available to session conveners who do not have a travel budget.

Types of Sessions

When you submit, you will be prompted to select a session model. Please consider your goals for organizing the session, and which of these models would best meet those goals. Below is a description of the session models we suggest. Have an idea for a session that doesn’t fit one of these models? Choose the Other category and describe how you’ll organize it in your narrative.

In this model, the session organizer prompts a facilitated conversation among all participants at the session. Unlike a panel, which highlights conversation among experts, a roundtable is a discussion among peers. This model is effective for advancing conversations about hot topics, informal knowledge sharing among a group, and exploring issues that may not have easy answers.

Birds of a Feather Gathering
This session provides a space for people with common interests and/or identities to meet each other, explore shared interests, and build their networks. The session organizer prompts introductions and potential topics of conversation, but unlike a roundtable, a Birds of a Feather Gathering is informal and may evolve into multiple conversations.

A workshop is useful when one or more sessions organizers are in a position to transfer a particular set of skills or concepts to a group of participants. This interactive model is distinct from a presentation in that it has specific learning objectives, incorporates a variety of activities to meet different learning styles, and provides participants with opportunities to make plans for how they will apply their new skills after the conference. If you could describe your session starting with the words “How To,” then this model is for you.

This model allows a session organizer to transfer specific information to a group of participants. The information may be research findings, a case study on a program, or project updates. We encourage the session organizer to include a facilitated discussion, small group work, or interaction among participants, following the presentation.

A panel features several individuals with topical expertise. Rather than a series of presentations, we encourage the session organizer to facilitate a discussion among the panelists on the selected subject, leaving time for discussion with the participants.


Why are you organizing the Summit this way this year? Will there still be keynote speakers and a plenary session?
The Summit will feature keynote speakers during plenary sessions, as well as the concurrent sessions that will be selected through this process. We listened to the feedback we heard from our participants, who told us loud and clear that while they enjoy the keynote speakers, they also want more time to interact with other participants and dig into particular topics that interest them. For this reason, we want to provide everyone with a chance to weigh in on the concurrent sessions offered at the Summit in 2016.

What can I submit?
There are no strict guidelines for sessions. While the Summit theme may call to mind taste, the values that make food “good” go far beyond the culinary experience. We invite sessions that consider the question from a variety of perspectives. Feeling stumped? Think in terms of what you know a lot about that you want to talk to other people about, or something you know how to do that you want to share with others. Consider asking friends and colleagues for input on topics they’d be excited to sit down and talk about with you, or skills they’d like to learn from you.

How do I plan a session?
Here are some things to in mind as you develop your ideas:

  • Who might be interested in this session?
  • What will a participant get out of this session?
  • Who might be a good collaborator for me as I organize this session?
  • How much time will I need to successfully cover the topic?
  • What sorts of materials might I need? Can I procure those things with relative ease?

Can I submit more than one proposal?
You are welcome to propose more than one session, but we will limit each session organizer to one session. If you propose more than one, we'll let you know which of your proposals was the most popular, based on the votes they received.

If I didn’t submit a proposal, can I still participate in the voting process?
Yes! You can help us a great deal with this process by voting on proposed sessions that would be of interest to you. This participatory process helps us develop a schedule tailored to meet your desires!

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Contact for more information on the UVM Food Systems Summit.

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Photos via Flickr: FightFor15-1330361 by Mark Dixon (CC BY 2.0); Croque-Madame by LearningLark (CC BY 2.0); Chef Alejandra Schrader Cooks up a Yummy Recipe for Safety by State Farm (CC BY 2.0); Clagett Farm Day 2008 by (CC BY 2.0); Exchange by Phil Whitehouse (CC BY 2.0); Wasabi Sushi Chef – Fayetteville by Ed Schipul (CC BY-SA 2.0); Istanbul Eats food tour by LWYang (CC BY 2.0); Fresh Blueberries - Shelburne Falls by MassTravel (CC BY-ND 2.0); Port of San Diego's Top Green Chef Cook-off by Port of San Diego (CC BY 2.0); Minya Country Side with Better Life by oxfamnovib (CC BY-ND 2.0); Compost sign by Kristy Hall (CC BY 2.0)

Last modified June 09 2016 09:26 PM