Grace Gershuny's Reviews > No Table Too Small: Engaging in the Art and Attitude of Social Change

No Table Too Small by Laura M. Titzer
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In No Table Too Small, Laura Titzer relates her insights from years of helping food-related organizations be more effective change makers. While she gears her simple self-published book towards food system activists, her advice is valuable for any social change group, especially those working to help local communities work together across political and cultural divides.

At this time of increased polarization and heightening extremes, change agents must avoid falling into the trap of "us versus them" thinking in order to be effective, and Laura's book offers some clear and friendly guidance for how to do this. Her advice is grounded in systems thinking, complexity theory, and the educational philosophy of thinkers like John Dewey and Paolo Freire. A collaborative, process-oriented form of engagement is needed, along with patience and humility. The book presents a set of techniques aimed at establishing a participatory dialogue, essential to effecting sustainable change. This can be developed, according to the author, using six capabilities of engagement, which she walks us through in her book.

One chapter of the book discusses each of these capabilities, all of which are interrelated, in turn: Holding Space, Communication, Reflection in Action, Cocreation, Leadership, and Systems Thinking. Laura uses her own experience working with various food system change projects to illustrate these capabilities, including examples of hard lessons learned. Each chapter concludes with a brief summary of its key "take away" points. Throughout, the reader is challenged to pay respectful attention to opposing opinions, question our own assumptions, and embrace the paradox of "seemingly incompatible ideas and people." Changing the food system, Laura suggests, requires "corporations, grassroots organizations, and everything in between in the same room."

The author acknowledges that the necessary conversations will be tough ones. "Deeply entrenched issues of racism, colonization, and gender inequities" will rise up to confront us as we grope our way towards shared goals and recognition of our common humanity. She points out that diversity is key, and notes that "many change agents tout diversity and inclusion and yet at the same time practice uniformity and segegation to covet and protect their ideas." For instance, although the concept of agroecology is based on the importance of diversity in the natural environment, diversity of ideas and strategies is not always welcomed by its advocates. "We try to make everyone think the same exact way about the food system."

It is unfortunate that those who most need the kind of advice it contains might dismiss this book as naive or idealistic. True it is not a slickly polished presentation, but Laura Titzer deserves credit for sharing her caring and honest insights that can help us all get better at our critically important work of food system transformation.
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
January 25, 2018 – Shelved

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