From Thursday 29 September to Sunday 2 October, a gathering of roughly thirty members from different parts of Italy met in Valledrane (BS). They were woofers, hosts, supporting members, coordinators and councillors, who confronted each other on the current moment of the WWOOF movement and the WWOOF Italia Association, starting to look at possible future perspectives. An important time in the life of the association, to be able to feel close and strengthen relationships, regain trust and feel part of a community.
What did they talk about?
Friday 30 September
The WWOOF movement after 51 years. What is WWOOF for us today? Do we feel like a global community? Do we have a common vision? What is the vision of the movement today?
WWOOF (W) is it tourism or agriculture?
Organic on a broad scale… beyond the vegetable garden.
WWOOF Italia is about meeting, relating, and living together. It brings together people with a common passion, to allow them to interact, as well as to save nature, exchange experiences and knowledge. It is a global community with a clear common view in which people are less isolated. It proposes alternatives to the agricultural industry, in order to rebuild agriculture, with an innovative perspective from organic to regenerative. WWOOF Italia represents a steadfastness in the alternative agricultural field as well as among the new farmers, it brings together many different views on how to do agriculture, allowing anyone, anyone seeking, to participate; WWOOF Italia farming is conscious. It is worldwide because it is made up of many small parts that live their day-to-day existence with essentiality. WWOOF Italia is personal growth in the service of human relations, it is confrontation with diversity, it is tolerance. Farms are meeting places for people leaving the city. W is a movement that collaborates and communicates internationally for ruralisation.
WWOOF Italia Association after 23 years – Organisation.
How is WWOOF Italia organised? As a member, how do I relate to the social bodies What are their roles?
How can we continue to feel united in a world dominated by technology? Do we really feel closer together because of technology? Can there be a ‘good use’ of technology? Does technology give us time or does it take it away?
It has enhanced the possibility of contacts and relations, especially when it has been impossible to meet face-to-face, thus allowing the organisation of the association to continue to work fruitfully, both in terms of wwoofing and the various associative activities and networking with the outside world. In online meetings, the Board and Staff dealt with more day-to-day emergencies and decisions, while more complex decisions are made online. Thanks to technology, it is also possible to organise live meetings and have tools to broaden the participation beyond the two annual meetings.
During the past two years, less motivated members have reduced their participation.
The current Board of Directors has been working to ensure general functioning and to reorganise WWOOF Italia. The Board is not a ring of bosses, but a group of people who interpret and try to implement the mandate that the members have given them. Try to understand how the association will function in the coming years and how to relate to all the members. There has been a generational transition and a participative approach. The Bord is useful to the association to interface with the system, but it may also be organised internally into a kind of co-ordinating group, of which the Board itself is a member and draws support from this group to better fulfil its role. The current Board was elected in October 2020, after having flanked the previous Board for more than six months, and is considering an early re-election in March 2023. This would be an opportunity to find new people and new stimuli, who have a real, grounded knowledge of the association, of the people who do not actively participate but are bearers of needs and demands. A new mandate?
Humanising an institutional role and not people becoming the role they temporarily play, decreasing the distance between people and institutions.
How WWOOF Italy is managed -Administration.
The association’s evolution of infrastructure, staff, wwoofing, what is changing?
WWOOF Italia has grown over the years and the needs and demands to manage it effectively have increased accordingly. The Board of Directors has worked in its last two terms of office on the idea and realisation of the reorganisation of the staff that administers the activities of the association. an eye towards participation also in the form of volunteer work (in addition to paid hours all staff members do a certain amount of unpaid hours), so as not to break the balance of the life/structure of the association. It is important that the staff does not become an anonymous interface, but continues to have a human-to-human level of communication, as is in the values of WWOOF Italia, which allows members and non-members to know that they are talking to people on the other side of a screen. The staff can thus take care of administrative matters, ensure the day-to-day management of WWOOF Italia, responding to the needs of the members, and unburden the Board or other active members to do additional things. The work between board and staff will serve to pinpoint defined staff roles and tasks, which can be filled by anyone who wants to apply, with a view to possible replacements, without the accumulation of information and habits in individual persons, which then cannot be shared. Having a formal staff serves to be able to communicate and manage information better. It was a conscious choice to give work to members. The staff is a synergetic role with the other components of the association.
FOWO Federation and WWOOF Italia.
What is done in FOWO? How does WI participate in the international movement? How do we implement a common vision together, what mission?
The international spirit of WWOOF Italy is rooted in its identity and history, right from its origins. The statutory aims are in line with the international WWOOF Movement, whose name is identified as World Wide Opportunities. At WI’s foundation, the hosts were practically all foreigners who had set up their own farms in Italy, and the WWOOFers also came from other countries. The members of the association immediately took part in international meetings, becoming the promoters of what in 2013 became the Federation of WWOOF Organisations (FOWO) and which today, in the process of establishing an international charity, is taking the Italian statute as a model to write its own. FoWO’s aim is to support, promote and protect the WWOOF movement, in particular by ensuring that larger national organisations, such as WI, help smaller ones by building a network based on trust, collaboration and co-responsibility.
The federation has a council and is divided into several commissions ( work groups) dealing with communication, public relations and promotion, computer science and technology, finance, and others to safeguard the WWOOF movement and to ensure that the founding values are universally respected and communicated in the correct way. The work groups consist of representatives of the national organisations, further volunteers and a paid staff. The intention of the Federation is to standardise the WWOOF movement, while at the same time maintaining the peculiarities of the national organisations. The switch to the new Common WWOOF Platform 2 (CWP2), which has been the result of intensive collaboration between the different WWOOF member organisations of FoWO is an important step in this direction.
Saturday 1 October
The work of coordinators and active members – “Community involvement”.
How do I participate in the life of the association, do I have any role? What do I look for in WI? What does a coordinator do?
Territorial and comunity involvement, how to bring together different territorial realities and needs?
Organising local meetings, holding thematic workshops, farm days, with staff support. Networking, creating connections in small areas, between local hosts but also with other networks and associations in the area, reducing WI self-referentiality. How to run and faclitate meetings? How to communicate with local members now that there is the new website? What activities can members participate in? There is the option of participating in work groups (“Custodia ecologica dei Terreni”, Budget and other potential ones) orof collaborating with the staff by writing articles, being in communication, helping to plan the annual members’ gatherings, assemblies and local meetings. It is also important to build up relations with other movements and associations with which WI cooperates or might cooperate.
Relations between coordinators and new hosts is also changing. They not inspectors but rather welcoming new members, they begin a neighbourly relationship with whoever has chosen to be a WI membe and while also giving feedback to the staff if they find them unsuitable to be hosts. An experiment is under way in areas without a coordinator, or where the coordinator is not available all year round. The prospective hosts are to be introduced to other hosts in the area. Hosts must take on the responsibility of defining themselves within a network of Educational Centres. Welcome visits to new hosts with several people accompanying the coordinator. Take inspiration from widespread coordination, as is done in Sicily.
Beware of preconceptions.
WWOOF Italia members – “Community involvement”.
Ua survey aimed at ‘taking a snapshot’ of the state of the art of the members’ actions at home and in the fields and collecting data to give an overview of the association, with a view to helping it adapt to the reality that has evolved since it was founded in 1999. ACurated by the project “Buone Pratiche”.
A host was interviewed to show the survey model that the team has developed so far.
After a brief presentation of the project during a meeting, these ideas and suggestions were made:
– Host interviews may also take place during local meetings, perhaps choosing a couple of farms beforehand. The co-ordinator can be previously briefed on how to carry out the interview. Alternatively, one of the project’s team should attend the meeting.
– The information sheet and interview could be used during the first visit by the co-ordinator to a newly registered host.
– The figure of the impollinator emerges, i.e. a person who, moving from farm to farm, carries information and facilitates exchanges. This figure could be a wwoofer who, being involved in the project, interviews the realities he/she visits, but also brings back possible “good habits” from one farm to another, thus facilitating the circulation of WI knowledge.
– How should the data collected be presented? Videos and podcasts were suggested. This point gave rise to reflections on the use of computer technology.
Towards a shared coordination – Innovation and Participation.
What emerges from previous sessions? Creating a group of people active in the association, besides social roles.
What is the future prospect of WI? A proposal to create a more substantial coordinating group, which would work beyond meetings in person, which would be the political spirit of the association, and which would designate the board. Agriculture is and must continue to be the highest common denominator of WI’s activities. The WI Statute is a good constitutional charter and we hope that FOWO will draw inspiration from it to write its own for the WWOOF movement. Imagine flexibility in social roles in respect to the Statute, to broaden the participative areas. Rereading the Statute to understand what we do and do not do, e.g. relations with institutions. How can WI relate to schools?
To what extent do we nurture relationships beyond roles and/or objectives? Resuming a Social Responsibility balance sheet.
Sunday 2 October
Thoughts on the need to take a stand as an association in the case of discriminatory regulations (eg. Green Pass).
The WI Statute regulates relations between members and non-members outside what is WI. In difficult situations that do not fall within the specific competences of WI, it would be advisable to confront and consult other associations that deal with the defence of human rights or other relevant issues. In the event of disputes, it is important to work on the divisive process, to re-establish a climate of trust. Responsibility is first and foremost personal, in individuals’ choices. Where can WI’s political action be pushed? Is it possible not to remain passive? Always pay great attention to the choices and communication methods with which sensitive and conflicting issues are addressed. The association has a long timeframe by its very nature, how can action be taken more rapidly if necessary? How can members’ opinions be gathered so that they are as representative as possible of the majority?
What are the discriminations to be defended as an association? The need to create areas for broad discussion in order to create mediation, allow inclusiveness and to strive for balance in order to be able to resist as an association. Create a working group to prepare proposals.
For the future:
Organising agricultural resilience for the years ahead
Reconsidering WWOOFing in the wake of climate change
Proposals were also made for work groups that will be activated in the coming months on the relationship between computerisation and human relations, educating communities, anti-discrimination, and supporting the preparation and presentation of the budget at the AGM.