Goal 4: Systems change

Goal 4: Systems change

Goal 4: Systems change

Our circular regional food system enables the systems change required for a circular regional food system through collective knowledge and action. A circular food economy – enables the systems change required for a circular regional economy, beginning with the food system, through collective knowledge, governance, and action.

goal 4

View our interactive program map


  1. Collective action is undertaken to create regional, whole-system change. 
  2. Policies, regulations, and practices are established to support a circular food economy.
  3. New governance practices and collaboration models are developed to strengthen and create new system relationships. 
  4. Data, systems analysis, continuous learning, and sharing are used to better understand local assets, opportunities, and issues. 
  5. Expertise is shared and learnings published in support of a national and global circular economy.   
  6. Relationships and teachings from traditional cultures and land stewards inform ways of living within planetary boundaries.



sSystems Change Enablers
7.1  Increased knowledge, skills, resources, capacity, and collaboration to design and implement innovative/strategic solutions
7.2  Greater understanding and awareness of circular practices through research and data
7.3  Change in practice and policies to enable circular innovation


- 	$14,223,374 of funding was leveraged - 	$1,275,004 in in-kind contributions was leveraged - 	52 relevant datasets were centralized in the Food Future Data Hub - 	995 stakeholders were engaged in Our Food Future


Spotlights and Stories

Our Stories

Building smart, healthy cities

studentsTo make cities healthier, more livable and more resilient, the University of Guelph is investing in an innovative training program. 

The Implementing Smart Cities Interventions to Build Healthy Cities (SMART) Training Platform will equip students with multidisciplinary and implementation skills needed to run and manage the ever-more complicated cities of tomorrow — cities that incorporate everything from healthy food and green space to public transportation, housing and social services.

Read more

Programs by Strategic Intervention Area

Collective Action

Community Steering Table

Community Steering Table – This governance body includes core delivery participants, as well as organizations that may not be directly involved in project implementation but play a supporting role in achieving the outcomes of the initiative. As a local community-coordination table, it provides advice regarding implementation, resource coordination, community and stakeholder engagement and outreach. The membership of this multi-sector group reflects principles of diversity and inclusion.

Food System Resiliency Table

Food System Resiliency Table – This table launched in December 2021 supports the development of a resilient regional food system that contributes to a green recovery from COVID-19. Members are gathering intelligence on the regional agri-food sector and developing recommendations and programs to support short-term and mid-term needs. The table is poised to be a legacy project of Our Food Future, with the goal of becoming a policy council that is embedded in both City and County government.

Kitchen Table Collaboration Platform

Kitchen Table Collaboration Platform – This digital engagement and innovation platform is where we will launch challenges, share knowledge, harvest great ideas and build community connections. Its purpose is to increase visibility for local projects and businesses, drive crowd-sourced innovation through challenge processes, rally new voices and lay the foundation for an active community that can sustain the circular food economy well into the future.

Policies, regulations, practices

Circular Economy Innovation Network (CEIN)

Circular Economy Innovation Network (CEIN) – This is a collaborative proposal for a national initiative to develop a Canadian circular economy strategy and portfolio of programs to integrate circular economy strategies into supply chains; support industry by developing new business models; and improve productivity through new approaches and technology applications. It will engage 5,000+ companies of all sizes across 500+ communities in sectors that include agri-food, forest bioeconomy, mining and metals, plastics, construction, and manufacturing. The resulting national circular economy roadmap will guide individual projects and program investments.

Circular Procurement Policies and Practices

Circular Procurement Policies and Practices – Circular public procurement can support the transition towards a circular economy. It helps cities and public sector partners purchase works, goods and services that contribute to closed-energy and closed-material loops within supply chains, minimizing or avoiding negative environmental impacts and waste creation. Our Food Future is conducting an analysis of opportunities for partners to implement circular procurement policies and practices.

Smart Cities Data Policies

Smart Cities Data Policies – We’re creating the technology and policy infrastructure to support deeper collaboration between the organizations participating in Our Food Future, as well as the broader community. This has included pursuing an umbrella MOU and governance structure between core public sector collaborators to support data sharing use cases as they are identified. Meanwhile, we have worked with Alectra Utilities to prototype technology solutions that enable decentralized data governance. We have also created new digital privacy and user policies for members of the public using our social network platform, Kitchen Table.

New governance practices and collaboration models

Innovation Models – Full Circle, Civic Accelerator, Community

Innovation Models – Full Circle, Civic Accelerator, Community – We’ve established three complementary innovation models, which leverage Guelph’s proven Civic Accelerator innovation partnership approach to co-create new technologies and tools that advance Our Food Future objectives. These models have already been used for the Residential Waste Data Challenge, Circular Carbon Credit Challenge and the Urban Agriculture Challenge.

Data Utility Model

Data Utility Model – Data that can support shared economic, social and environmental priorities resides across a range of public, private and not-for-profit organizations. However, much of it is siloed off from each other. The Data Utility Model will test use cases for a civic data utility that will create a platform for sharing community data and sustainable digital infrastructure to support intelligent community solutions over the long term.

Food Future Data Hub

Food Future Data Hub – To facilitate data sharing, collaboration and app development, we launched a centralized data hub focused on food systems and the circular economy. It includes public-facing open data and apps (maps, dashboards, etc.), as well as a platform for controlled data collaboration (e.g., protected databases). The hub is accessible by the public, community groups, businesses and entrepreneurs, and food systems researchers to support the development of data-driven solutions.

Data, technology, education & training

Healthy Cities Smart Training Platform

Healthy Cities Smart Training Platform – Led by the University of Guelph, the SMART Training Platform builds on three Smart Cities proposals from the cities of Guelph, Montreal and the Opaskwayak Cree Nation. This $4.95 million investment from the Canadian Institute of Health Research will develop and deliver a high-impact training program for university students in implementation science. Focused on food and health issues, the program will give trainees access to 100+ ready-to-go projects, 100+ community partners and the expertise of 50+ researchers in epidemiology, public health, urban planning, management, economics, engineering, data sciences and more. 

Circular Food Economy Graduate Certificate Program

Circular Food Economy Graduate Certificate Program – Conestoga College is developing a new post-graduate program designed to train change-makers to shape the transition of the food system to a circular food economy. The program will produce graduates with employment potential in industry,
government and the non-profit sector. The program emphasizes applied learning and incorporates an internship or a co-operative placement.

Circular Economy Workshop Series

Circular Economy Workshop Series – One of the anticipated recommendations in the Guelph’s updated Solid Waste Management Master Plan will be to create a framework that provides a clear roadmap for developing a circular economy. The new approach will challenge the City to rethink how it delivers services to residents and provides an opportunity to be a leader in strengthening local ecosystems and resources. 

University of Guelph Research Collaborations and Work Integrated Learning

University of Guelph Research Collaborations and Work Integrated Learning – We engaged students in a variety of projects including the University of Guelph’s Agrifood Innovation course, the Arrell Food Institute and the ICON Ideas Congress. Students taking the Agrifood Innovation course conducted research to supplement the Food Environment Assessment with in-store audits of food retailers. Five Arrell Food Institute graduate students are participating in the design process for the Experimental Acres on-farm pilot and are developing our frameworks and metrics. As well, the undergraduate ICON Ideas Congress at the University of Guelph engaged with Our Food Future to use the project as a springboard for their curriculum in Fall 2021.

Circular Economy Summer Institute

Circular Economy Summer Institute – This is a partnership with the University of Guelph to develop a Circular Economy Summer Institute. Beginning with a national circular food economy course (2022) that links an elite cohort of students from across Canada with practitioners from business, civil society, government, and industry in an experiential multidisciplinary setting. This will be delivered via a combination of an immersive summer school, online workshops that run through the fall and winter semesters, and a team-based group project where groups of students will work with policy or corporate executives to design solutions for identified problems.

Knowledge Mobilization

Circular Food Solutions Series

Circular Food Solutions Series – A research project, supported by the Smart Cities Office in collaboration with Vancouver’s National Zero Waste Council, Circular Economy Leadership Canada and the NGen Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster. Part of the GLOBE Solution Series, the report aims to identify circular food practices present in communities across Canada. The project aligns with our commitment to develop replicable approaches to growing a circular food economy and to research policy innovations to accelerate the growth of circular businesses.

In Conversation with Our Food Future Podcast

In Conversation with Our Food Future Podcast – A monthly podcast that explores the creation of a circular food economy in Guelph-Wellington. Host Barbara Swartzentruber, who heads up Our Food Future, joins guests to discuss projects and policies, share the stories behind our work, discuss emerging ideas in the food sector and introduce listeners to the people who are working to take our community’s vision from theory to action.