Our strategic framework

Our strategic framework

Our strategic framework


We are accelerating a circular regional economic system inspired by nature’s regenerative processes and by traditional cultures that live in harmony with the Earth. The food system is our entry point to foster innovation, collaboration, and system-wide change throughout many communities and sectors. Through these efforts, we are supporting healthy ecosystems, thriving communities, and a regenerative economy.

Guiding principles

To inform how we do our work with our partners and community, we established the following guiding principles: 

Context-sensitive — We design programs and projects that build on the unique place-based context of our community.

Resilient — We plan and design systems to respond and adapt to a changing environment.

Reciprocal, relational, responsible, and respectful — We are inspired by the Indigenous values of reciprocity, relationality, responsibility, and respect and are committed to learning and integrating traditional ways of knowing, being, and doing in our work. 

Equitable and inclusive — We strive to ensure that everyone (individuals, families, and neighbourhoods) can access a diverse range of affordable, nutritious, and culturally relevant foods, as well as equitable and inclusive access to opportunities in the circular economy. 

Circular initiatives

The City of Guelph and County of Wellington are collaborating with community partners on a growing number of circular economy initiatives led by:

  • Our Food Future, Smart Cities Initiative — funded by Infrastructure Canada
  • Circular Opportunities Innovation Launchpad (COIL) – funded by FedDev Ontario

These initiatives work together to support the common vision.


Our central vision is now reflected in four goals that we believe describe a circular food system and how it can support a regenerative economy.

A circular food system:

  • Values, shares, and celebrates a diversity of affordable, nutritious, and culturally relevant foods that support a healthy, resilient community (Affordable, nutritious foods)
  • Inspires and creates a thriving, circular, and regenerative economy (Circular businesses and collaborations)
  • Respects planetary boundaries by recognizing the impact of wasted resources and the value of what’s being thrown away (Waste as a resource)
  • Enables the systems change required for a circular regional economy, beginning with the food system, through collective knowledge, governance, and action (Systems change)

Goal 1: Affordable, Nutritious Food

  1. Everyone — individuals, families, and neighbourhoods — can access a diverse range of nutritious, affordable, and culturally relevant food. 
  2. Food is valued, celebrated, and shared. People are empowered to eat well, reduce waste, and are connected to local food, producers, and the land.
  3. Innovative community collaborations and new circular business models are developed that support food producers/farmers who are creating sustainable livelihoods and implementing regenerative practices.
  4. The demand for new circular economy business models, services and products is created through the development of a circular culture.
  5. Urban agriculture models are supported to increase local food production capacity, food security, and resiliency.

Goal 2: Circular Businesses and Collaborations

  1. Businesses collaborate to create circular supply chains that reduce and reuse resource inputs and design out greenhouse gas emissions and waste.
  2. The regional business innovation ecosystem acts as an urban-rural living lab and test bed for new circular business models, products and services.
  3. Purpose-driven businesses use circular economy principles, data and technology, and collaborate with public partners to transform the regional economy.
  4. Impact funding and services are readily available to community collaborations, demonstration
  5. projects, businesses and social enterprises to accelerate and scale their ideas.

Goal 3: Waste as a Resource

  1. Community members and businesses understand the true cost of food waste and the environmental and economic benefits of designing waste out of the food system.
  2. New collaborations to restore and regenerate environmental economic benefits are formed between businesses, researchers, public sector, and across the supply chain. 
  3. Innovative business models and approaches are tested to reduce waste, including upcycling, reducing avoidable waste, and repurposing unavoidable waste. Research, demonstration projects, experiments, data, and learnings help drive change. 

Goal 4: Systems Change

  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.

To achieve our goals, we have co-created a Theory of Change, which we revisit and adapt as we test and learn. Our theory of change takes a place-based, system wide approach, with objectives and strategic interventions in each area of the food system value chain.

Our approach:

  • begins with the creation of the circular food system because changes in the food system have the power to reshape economies, create healthy connected communities, and rebalance our relationship with the environment 
  • takes a whole of system and place-based approach where through local testing and learning, we will demonstrate the art of the possible
  • employs a distributed governance and community capacity building approach where we co-create projects that address the impacts of today’s linear economic system
  • uses circular principles and practices, smart data and technology, and city building approaches to effect system change and implement our shared vision
  • builds a regenerative economic system that is grounded in place and culture in Guelph-Wellington but connected to national and global supply chains 
  • measures our success with a quadruple bottom line that values purpose, planet, people and prosperity.

Ultimately, these changes will create a roadmap for a larger, inclusive circular culture, and regenerative economy.

System Transformation Tools

transformation tools


Strategic Intervention Areas

The circular economy is a roadmap for tackling climate change and biodiversity loss while supporting economic prosperity and addressing critical social needs. In Guelph-Wellington, we kickstarted our circular economy transformation with the development of a regional circular food system. The following key Strategic Intervention Areas aligned with components of the food system value chain, from field to fork, help us envisage the whole system transformation. We have added components to the traditional food system value chain to help transform it from a linear to a circular system. Our approach emphasizes waste reduction and recovery, circular business innovation, and increasing access to affordable, nutritious foods.

We realize that all of these components are not always connected in a sequential linear fashion, instead they are interconnected at every stage of the value chain. These nodes of interconnection present opportunities to create change and test innovations utilizing systems change enablers. The six R’s help close loops, reduce waste and create new circular practices, businesses, and supply chains in every step of the system. Systems change enablers help to break through barriers and better understand challenges in the system. Finally, inspired by the Doughnut economics framework, our work contributes to a strong social foundation for human well-being, while respecting the ecological ceiling or planetary boundaries within which we must live. 

Our Strategic Intervention Areas help us move from the linear model to a circular food system

Access and inclusion

accessSupport everyone’s right to nutritious food and create a culture where people who need help are supported, honoured, and validated.

Celebration and food culture

celebrationPromote, share, and celebrate food as an essential expression of culture and a key ingredient for the well-being of strong community members, families, and neighbourhoods. 

Growing, production, and land use

growingEnsure ample rural and urban spaces and sustainable methods to grow healthy food with climate-friendly agricultural practices that build ecological health.

Processing and distribution

processingDiscover efficiencies and responsible solutions when processing, storing, and distributing food products.

Buying, selling, and sharing

buyingEngage the full food supply chain — from wholesale to retail, institutions to restaurants, global grocers to local markets — to embed circular practices and strengthen the sharing economy.

Circular business innovation

circularEnable circular, collaborative and resilient business strategies for a regenerative economy.  

Waste reduction and recovery

wastePursue a system and society where all foods and food by-products continue to circle back into the system, contributing value rather than waste. 


Systems change enablers

systemsLeverage data and system analysis, new governance and collaboration approaches, supporting policy, continual learning and sharing to better understand current challenges of the linear system and transform them into sustainable circular economic opportunities.