in local



Supported by

mapping social innovation in

local food systems

The Food-SCAN Tool captures stories of social innovation in local urban food systems.

Diverse stakeholders such as community organisers, small businesses, chefs, cooks, gardeners, public servants, elected representatives and researchers aspire to address emergent needs within urban food systems through social innovation. They strive to change and shape how our society grows, governs, produces, cooks, markets, commodifies, transports, buys and consumes food.

People around the world strive to contribute to a more resilient local food system for many reasons including food security, food justice and food sovereignty. We must provide healthy food for all people while protecting the climate and biosphere, and local food innovators are finding exciting ways to do this in their communities.

We designed the Food-SCAN Tool to profile, amplify and support food innovators who drive positive change and deserve to have their stories heard.

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Acknowledgement of Country

We acknowledge the traditional custodians of the lands, skies and waters across Australia and pay our respect to elders past and present.We acknowledge that sovereignty was never ceded.

The Food-SCAN Tool was developed on the lands of the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation and we acknowledge their ongoing connection to Country.

Funding and Sponsors

The Food-SCAN Tool was developed with funding from the City of Sydney, The Australian Sociological Association and Charles Sturt University.


The Food-SCAN Tool is the result of the independent work of the authors and does not necessarily reflect the views of the funders. The funders do not accept any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, content, completeness, legality, or reliability of the information contained herein.

How to Cite

Kilham, Sarina; Leimbach, Tania; Rosenqvist, Tanja (2023): Food-SCAN Tool: Mapping Social Innovation in Local Food Systems. figshare. Online resource.


Ebook - 9781864674286 | Print - 9781864674293

Using the Tool

Did you know that the Food-SCAN Tool is free to download and use?

The Food-SCAN Tool can be used as a stand-alone activity, or as part of a broader Food Systems conceptual mapping exercise. You can access other tools and resources developed as part of this project from our website:


Did you use the Food-SCAN Tool? We’d love to hear your feedback

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this license, visit or send a letter to Creative Commons, PO Box 1866, Mountain View, CA 94042, USA

Charles Sturt University CRICOS 00005F


To the food innovators who participated in the workshops that tested early iterations of the tool and shared their stories of food innovation and visions for a sustainable food system - thank you.

The research team has been strongly informed by and drawn on the work of the global Urban-Driven Innovations for Sustainable Food Systems (URBAL) project - a global network of food researchers focused on supporting sustainable food systems. You can read more about URBAL here

We would especially like to acknowledge and thank Professor Eloide Valette for her openness to global academic collaboration and allowing us to ‘tinker, adapt, play and repurpose’ the URBAL methodology to the Australian context.

We would like to acknowledge and thank the City of Sydney and our grant management partner Lauren Flaherty for their ongoing support of this project. We are excited to see the City of Sydney commit to the The Milan Urban Food Policy Pact.


Sarina Kilham, Tania Leimbach, Tanja Rosenqvist, Lauren Flaherty, Keren Moran


Spring in Alaska




The Food-SCAN Tool: overview

The Food-SCAN Tool is an interactive event where participants work together to explore their food innovation story. It is facilitated by a leader who encourages collaboration and sharing of ideas, perspectives and experiences. Participant's active listening and learning from each other is a key part of the process.

To help participants reflect on their food innovation story in new and exciting ways, facilitators provide a deck of visual icons (stickers) with illustrations symbolising elements of social innovation in food systems, grouped into categories.

Facilitators can use the Food-SCAN Tool to uncover and document the innovative stories that are unfolding in local communities.

By allowing participants to both orally share their stories and place stickers on a conceptual map to visually represent their story, the Food-SCAN process can be likened to a journey, which is why we refer to it as a Food-SCAN Map


is open-access & free for


We invite food innovators, community organisations, local councils, researchers, policy makers and think tanks to use the Food-SCAN tool to understand social innovations in local urban food systems: how food innovations gain momentum, and how social factors support or impede them.

The Food-SCAN Tool emphasises social innovation in local food systems and focuses on practitioner-led insights. The success and value of the session depends on stakeholders' participation and input.

Facilitators are not the 'experts' - the process encourages practitioners to generate insights, build capacity, and identify enablers of innovation to amplify over time. It is not about creating finished products, outputs, or marketing a food system venture

why use the food-scan tool?

The Food-SCAN Tool supports unlocking the potential of social innovations and social innovators in the food system.

Social innovators in food systems can benefit from:

  • Developing valuable insights on their work
  • Accessing resources to become more strategic
  • Supporting the evolution of their innovation
  • Sharing their experience with a community of practice
  • Communicating more effectively about the innovation
  • Attracting investments and/or public support

Local councils, policy-makers and funders can benefit from:

  • Facilitating sessions with innovators to generate deep understanding about different innovation projects
  • Assessing social impacts of innovations in the food system
  • Generating community-led ideas on future directions for local food systems
  • Helping in the decision-making process concerning support for innovation
  • Building capacities to strengthen local food policies

Researchers can benefit from:

  • Documenting existing pathways for food systems change
  • Building a knowledge base for scientific questions
  • Encouraging and feeding a community of practices and knowledge working for sustainable food systems
  • Preparing a quantitative and/or qualitative assessment

Adapting the Food-SCAN Tool

If you are an experienced facilitator and workshop organiser, please feel free to adapt the Food-SCAN Tool to your needs. You are welcome to adapt the Food-SCAN Tool as an online activity.

If you are less experienced with facilitation and workshop preparation - we recommend completing the full Food-SCAN process at least once as per these guidelines before adapting or tinkering.



10 tips

for workshop


  1. Establish the purpose of the workshop for your organisation
  2. Budget for speakers, food, venue and resources
  3. Identify the target participants
  4. Set a timeline for the process
  5. Determine the location of the workshop
  6. Create an agenda and run sheet for the workshop
  7. Liaise with your local Aboriginal Land Council or Native Title representative body to organise a Welcome to Country or Acknowledgement of Country
  8. Invite participants to the workshop
  9. Print the Food-SCAN Tool Resources
  10. Promote the workshop to ensure maximum attendance


We recommend inviting a mix of stakeholders, including food innovators, government stakeholders, and academics, for the Food-SCAN workshop. All participants should be interested in social innovations and involved in the food system, though they do not necessarily have to be practitioners themselves. Participants can come from one organisation or a range of different ones.

You need a minimum of 6 participants in order share, listen and learn from others' experiences, perspectives and stories, which is a core part of the Food-SCAN process.

We recommend a ratio of 1 facilitator for every 12 participants.

The facilitator’s role is to

  • support each group and manage group dynamics
  • to act as a timekeeper
  • to keep energy and momentum in the group
  • actively create time and space for all to contribute
  • to collect the information according to the workshop plan.

Scheduling and Agenda

The Food-SCAN process requires a minimum of 3 hours as a standalone activity .

This is divided into 2 sessions, with a 30 minute break.

You should allow additional time for:

  • Signing in attendees and providing venue details (toilets, lifts, emergency exits)
  • Introduction and purpose of the workshop
  • Establishing ground rules
  • Welcome to Country or Acknowledgement of Country
  • Trust-building and Networking Activities
  • Meal or drinks break
  • End of workshop reflection, wrap and next steps

8 prompts

for planning


  1. Plan how to capture the discussions, outcomes and outputs from the workshop
  2. Think how the documentation will be used and stored after the workshop
  3. Agree who will keep the original Food-SCAN Maps?
  4. Decide if participants can take photos of the Food-SCAN Maps
  5. Consider if you need notes from the group discussions and if the facilitators will write or audio-record them
  6. Seek permission from participants if their Food-SCAN Maps will be shared publicly
  7. Take into account sensitive, ethical and cultural considerations for capturing, sharing or storing documentation
  8. Harness the power of social media to crowd-source photos and documentation from the workshop, with a hashtag or group

trust building and networking

We recommend that the Food-SCAN process is ‘top’ and ‘tailed’ by trust building and networking between participants.

Trust building between workshop participants is essential for a successful Food-SCAN process so that participants feel comfortable sharing their experiences, perspectives, and stories.

This creates an environment of open communication and collaboration - and participants are more likely to share the challenges and obstacles they’ve experienced in their food innovation journey if there is a level of trust. Without trust between participants, the risk is that the Food-SCAN process will result in superficial food maps.

Networking allows participants to build relationships with each other, which can lead to further collaboration, knowledge sharing and innovation.

In our experience, if explicit networking time is not allocated- the risk is that participants use their food story mapping time focusing on networking.

3 ideas

for food-focused

trust building

  1. Food Photos: Ask participants to share a photo of a dish or snack that is special to them and to share with the group about this food. This allows participants to learn about each other’s cultures and backgrounds. Digital version: get participants to send the photo or upload it to a online whiteboard before the workshop so the photo can be displayed.
  2. First Food Memory: Ask participants to share a story about one of their first food experiences that has been meaningful to them. This allows participants to connect with each other on a deeper level.
  3. Food Innovator Profile: Create an 'About Me' profile card and ask participants to complete them for sharing. Stick to these to a wall where everyone can read.

3 ideas

for garden-focused

trust building

  1. Garden Tour: Start the workshop in a community garden or public green space and conduct the workshop welcome and introductions outside.
  2. Pair, Share and Walk: start the workshop outside (e.g. in a community garden) - pair up participants and give them 3 prompts to talk about on the walk to the workshop venue.
  3. Seed Sorting: Have trays of mixed seeds or dried seed pods on the participant tables, ask participants to seed sort and as a group, identify the seed types.

Tip: be sure to make these activities are inclusive for any participants with a disability or mobility issues.


The Food-SCAN process involves 5 facilitation steps.

Step 1 Divide into groups

Seat participants in groups of 6 people per table.

If you don't have enough tables, you can comfortably seat up to 10 people at the same table, while still allowing each group to work independently.

Distribute a set of stickers, marker pens and three blank Food-SCAN Maps for each group of 6 people.

Each group of 12 people should be allocated 1 facilitator

Step 2 food-SCAN mapping

Time: 1 hour.

This is done as a collaborative exercise with the whole group supporting the mapping.

  1. As a group, decide on the first food innovation story to map.
  2. Use the stickers to represent different aspects of the food innovation story
  3. The group members role is to prompt, support and ask questions
  4. Use the marker pens to show connections, write, clarify points, and leave questions.

Questions for the group to ask the story-teller:

  1. What were you trying to achieve?
  2. Who were you seeking to influence?
  3. Who did you need to work with to make your innovation happen?
  4. What resources did you draw on to make your innovation happen?
  5. What was needed to make your vision a reality?
  6. What were the risks associated with this decision?
  7. What was the most positive key influence ?
  8. What was the biggest obstacle or barrier?

After 20 minutes, each group should start a new Food-SCAN map.

Each group should have 3 complete Food-SCAN maps after 1 hour.

After this first hour, we recommend a 30 minute break to allow participants to eat, drink, use the amenities and stretch.

Step 3 enablers and barriers

Time: 30 minutes.

Participants should spend 10 minutes on each Food-SCAN Map reflecting, revising adding detail to the Food-SCAN Maps.

This step is focused on identifying

  1. Key enablers to innovation and change
  2. Key barriers to innovation and change
  3. Successful strategies used to enhance enablers and overcome barriers

Marker pens and stickers can be used to write directly on the maps.

Step 4 insights across food-scan maps

Time: 30 minutes

The group should discuss similarities and differences across the 3 Food-SCAN Maps and look for patterns and relationships in answering the prompts.

These are emergent insights because they should

  • be unique
  • be grounded in each of the Food-SCAN maps
  • are discovered through the process of storytelling, mapping and exploration.
  • may not be immediately obvious, but have emerged from the process.

The group should write down their emerging insights on a piece of paper.

Questions for the group to discuss:

1. What patterns, trends or similarities can we see across the food story maps?

2. What common relationships are there between different stickers on each food story map?

3. What unexpected insights have been revealed?

4. What implications does our group think this has for food innovation in our local area?

5. What new questions do we have now?


Time: 30 minutes

This last step should be adapted depending on the number of participants

Short Version:

A group spokesperson should present the 3 Food-SCAN Map and summarise the insights from their group. 10 minutes per group

Longer Version:

Each participant should present their own Food-SCAN Map, allocating 3-5 minutes per story. A group spokesperson should present group's emerging insights.

10 elements

of successful


  1. Plan ahead and develop a communication strategy
  2. Incentivise participation - people are busy and time is a resource
  3. Demonstrate respect for First Nations presenters by budgeting and compensating for their time and knowledge
  4. Design for diversity, inclusion and access
  5. Create lead-in activities that establish trust, inclusivity and full participation before going into the Food-SCAN process.
  6. Incorporate food and eating into workshop design
  7. Mix cognitive and creative activities - plan for comfort, ease and playful exchange
  8. Include inspiring and informal guest talks to warm up and excite participants
  9. Ensure time for shared reflection and rich discussion
  10. Capture findings and thank participants with follow up communication.


Congratulations! You've now facilitated your first Food-SCAN workshop. Your next steps will depend on the original purpose of your workshop.

The Food-SCAN process can be considered completed after one workshop because as an interactive event participants have shared, listened, mapped, reflected and collaborated.

If you used the Food-SCAN Tool as part of a larger project, you are likely to have follow up activities. It is helpful to provide resources and contact information to all participants.


resources print instructions

Here are the printing instructions.

You must download the print-version files.

food-scan Map [Blank template]

The Food-SCAN map should be printed in A2 or A1 size. We printed in A2 at printer store on thick paper for durability.

We not recommend printing in A4 or A3 size as due to the size of the stickers icons - anything smaller than A2 will result in a crowded or incomplete Food-SCAN map.

resources print instructions

sticker sheets

The stickers icons have been formatted for Avery L7104 round format, 12 stickers per page.

Each sticker set uses 1 box of Avery_L7104REV stickers (cost ~AUD$25 in 2022).

Each sticker set can be used by 2 groups (12 participants).

Our local print store would not print these for us due to stickers jamming their machines. We printed on a home office Canon Maxify in colour.

We recommend printing in a cool environment or on a cool day. We found that the stickers were more likely to come off the sticker sheet and jam the printer in warm environments.

food-scan map-Example

sticker icons- example

Photo Film Frame
Photo Film Frame


Dr Sarina Kilham, Dr Tania Leimbach and Dr Tanja Rosenqvist provided the academic and creative drive for the Food-SCAN Tool as part of a broader research project titled Mapping Urban Driven Innovations for Sustainable Food Systems in Sydney.

The research team is a multi-disciplinary team working across domains of sociology, design, engineering, art, environmental communications, agriculture and climate action - all with a specialisation in systems thinking and transdisciplinary research.

The team have developed this tool for conceptually mapping social innovation in local food systems with the following aims:

  • To explore social innovation in Australian urban food systems
  • To develop a tool that is easy to use, inexpensive and open-source so it can be used by practitioners and public servants
  • To design a participatory form of engagement that generates useful information about the current situation and future trajectories in the food system
  • To share collective knowledge through peer-2-peer interaction
  • To understand how social innovation can activate change in larger food systems.

The findings from the Sydney-focused Mapping Urban Driven Innovations for Sustainable Food Systems will contribute to the URBAL suite of global food innovation projects.