Paula Daniels is an award-winning social entrepreneur and Ashoka Fellow with a deep history in food and water policy. She’s the founder of the Center for Good Food Purchasing, a nationwide program that uses the power of procurement at large public institutions to create a transparent and equitable food system that prioritizes the health and well-being of people, animals, and the environment. They are currently partnered with 18 cities and 40 large public institutions, impacting more than 2.2 million meals a day and something on the order of a billion dollars of institutional food spending each year.
Before her work on the Center for Good Food Purchasing, Paula’s worked as an attorney and then senior official in the city and state governments in Los Angeles and California. She was a senior advisor to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and a commissioner on the LA Department of Public Works, California Water Commission, and the California Coastal Commission. Among a litany of recognition for the leadership in food and water policy, in 2018 she was chosen as a global Ashoka Fellow, which is an extremely prestigious award for social entrepreneurs.
In this conversation, we discuss:
- the origin of the Good Food Purchasing program and the story of how it came to be over an 8 year period
- thinking about problems & systems holistically
- how to design solutions to problems you see
- collaborate with people very diff to get important things done
- how businesspeople should think about approaching government
- always being on edge of own becoming
SCROLL BELOW FOR LINKS AND SHOW NOTES
- Paula: @PaulaADaniels
- Center for Good Food Purchasing – @center4goodfood
- LA Food Policy Council
- Dorothy Green
- Heal the Bay
- LA Unified School District
- US Conference of Mayors
- Dana Gunders – NRDC
- Ashoka Fellows
- Advice from a Caterpillar, by Amy Gerstler
- Blade Runner
- “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” (Anna Karenina)
- CA Bay-Delta Authority
- The circular economy
- Mayor Antonio Villaroigosa
- “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.”
- “Luck comes to the prepared mind.”
- “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
- Jonathan Gold
- Paula’s favorite movie that informs her work [0:02:41]
- Paula’s mentor: Dorothy Green [0:05:20]
- How Paula originally got involved in environmental work [0:06:56]
- What did Paula learn from Dorothy? [0:10:45]
- Being against something vs being FOR something [0:13:35]
- LAFPC’s origin story & what was it like for Paula when the policy passed? [0:14:56]
- Keeping the light alive & finding the others [0:20:35]
- The moment that almost killed it all [0:24:49]
- What did Paula feel when it suddenly became real? [0:26:38]
- Where is the Center for Good Food Purchasing today? How’d it get here? [0:30:30]
- How should someone think about working with many types of stakeholders? [0:33:35]
- “I saw people yelling at a junior staffer, as if he didn’t have feelings. So I stood up there and told the story of this human being…sometimes people in government are seen for their role and not for their person.” [0:36:40]
- How does Paula coach somebody to be effective working with people who are different than they are? [0:37:20]
- Case study: How Paula got the city of LA to change their thinking on stormwater [0:39:00]
- “Usually it’s fear-based thinking. They don’t want to mess up. So they’re worried about something. If you can figure out what that something is, give them examples of how it’s handled differently, then you can start making a difference.” [0:40:25]
- How do you redirect a culture or group of people? [0:41:39]
- Why government & entrepreneurs is like baseball & surfing [0:42:13]
- The circular economy: what’s catching Paula’s attention? [0:44:33]
- Why is this the time to engage with the idea of the circular economy? [0:49:48]
- How does Paula teach people to be a systems thinker? [0:53:08]
- Paula’s monthly whiteboard review exercise [0:54:04]
- Polarity management [0:56:13]
- How does Paula design an intervention? [1:02:52]
- What lights Paula up? [1:10:28]
- Quotes & mantras that inspire Paula [1:11:59]
- “You’re always on the edge of your own invention. And every moment has that opportunity.” [1:13:56]
Transcripts may contain typos. With some episodes lasting 2+ hours, it can be difficult to catch minor errors. Enjoy!
Andrew 00:02:13 Paula, officially, welcome to the show. Thank you so much for being here. I’m excited for this.
Paula 00:02:17 Yeah, me too. Thank you for asking me
Andrew 00:02:20 Right before we hit record. You know, we were talking about, uh, how, how it’s really fun that no matter who you’re talking to and what people’s, what people do in the world, that we all connect over certain things and, and movies is one of those topics. I was hoping you could tell me a little bit about some of the movies you love, that inspired what you do.
Paula 00:02:36 You know, I have a bunch of favorite movies, but one of the ones that I think of as being somewhat, I would call it prophetic. Um, it’s, uh, post-apocalyptic movie. It’s not going to be the one you might be thinking of. It’s not blade runner, which is one of my favorite movies generally about needing to have, you know, a soul. But, um, the movie that I find really most closely related to my work is believe it or not, Wally really
Andrew 00:03:02 That’s okay. I was trying to guess before you said it, and I have a bunch of guesses and that was not on the list.
Paula 00:03:09 Tell me why, but when you think about Wally, so it’s a post apocalyptic environmental disaster that it portrays, um, animation has taken its place in the world and survives humanity actually. Um, because it’s the, you know, it’s a creation that, you know, we’d set into motion and this is in the Wally instance, it’s, there are some very lovable animated creatures, and they’re still trying to fulfill their role of farming. So they’re working on trying to get the last living plant products forward. You can kind of imagine in the movie that, um, industrialism has taken things too far to an extreme, and there are other reasons for, you know, this apocalypse, but then you go to where the humans are on this, you know, this bubble of a spaceship that’s run by robots and they’re just fat. They’re just consuming jobs that have no real agency.
Paula 00:04:06 So the robots, which were humanities creation actually start inspiring the fat blobs to remember who they were and start bringing life back to earth. So I just thought it was, um, let’s call it emblematic about the food system work that I embarked on about 10 years ago, because there were those problems, right. Of industrialization, maybe being too linear and its scale of just growth for the sake of growth, um, without thinking about consequences and, you know, the commons really of, of food production. And then also it was about the consequences of that kind of consuming society and people getting too fat. So I enjoyed the movie for what it was, you know, a love story between robots, but
Andrew 00:04:53 They’re cute robots,
Paula 00:04:54 Very cute Wally. But when you, when you watch it, you, you see what the writers were getting at in terms of really having a pretty significant, um, theme in and a significant point to make about consumerism and environmentalism kind of movie.
Andrew 00:05:16 I have heard you speak very powerfully in some of the research I was doing about a woman who was a, uh, I believe a dear mentor to you, uh, by the name of Dorothy Green. And I was hoping you could tell, tell me a little bit about like, what role did she play in your life and, and what did you know, what impact did she have on you? What did you,
Paula 00:05:34 Oh, well, so I’m sitting right now in the heal, the Bay office in Santa Monica, Dorothy Green was the founder of field of Bay. And, um, I, uh, had been practicing law and I was a partner in a civil issue, civil litigation law firm. I was a trial attorney, but cared a lot about the environment and heal the Bay was just, uh, coming to existence. When I learned about it through a tee shirt at a mall, you know, they were using t-shirts to get their message across at a time when that was kind of innovative. And I started working with the organization. And the main thing about it was it was a draw to me because I always cared about ocean protection. I’m from Hawaii. Um, I think it’s natural if you’re from Hawaii and part of why in which I am that there’s, um, just a deep connection to the ocean and the ocean, you know, it’s its own, uh, is not merely that it has an existence that needs to be protected, but it has its own kind of agency if you will, in the world.
Paula 00:06:38 Um, it, you know, it of just comes from the Hawaiian culture, I think, to have, um, a policy mystic society from a long time ago where things were each, you know, the wind, the rain, the harvest, the, the creation of the world they’re were all identified with different, um, gods, you know, so, um, people had a stronger connection to it and it sort of passes down. But, um, in essence, you know, I was looking at wanting to be involved with an organization that his mission was to protect the oceans. And Dorothy was the founder of that. So when I met her, she immediately recruited me to help with whatever there was. Um, how did I meet her? I volunteered. So I learned, I was shopping in a Santa Monica place mall. There was a little tea, you know, t-shirt stand on a cart, which was unusual.
Paula 00:07:32 I said, what’s this about, I saw the tee-shirt. I said, that’s great. You know, how do you get involved? I want to help. And, um, they, I got a piece of information on where to go to do the volunteer work. There was a big gathering it, Loyola, Marymount, no at Maryknoll. Um, and, uh, I signed up and then pretty soon there I am a partner in a law firm I’m organizing, um, tables for our children’s March on the beach that was pre, you know, there, the March was to highlight the plight of the oceans and to gain support for it. So I got my law firm, my entire law firm involved, including my husband, my soon to be husband. We were dating at the time. And, uh, we started, you know, just doing that work. So Dorothy appreciated my organizational capacity
Paula 00:08:24 And started pulling me in. He goes, you’re a lawyer. We need a lawyer to do blah, blah, blah. And I said, well, I actually, I’m not environmental lawyer. I was doing civil litigation. I was representing businesses. And, um, but I started going through the volunteer cards and pulling together all the lawyers who had volunteered and created a legal committee for Hilda base. So we did, you know, environmental work. We did some of the organizational work they needed, we did a whole bunch of stuff. So Dorsey. Um, so I got to know her because she tapped me, you know, and just wouldn’t take no for an answer and drove her ideas forward with passion. And the thing that I always really loved and admired about her is she always saw around the next corner. So there we were working on the, originally on the sewage treatment plant and trying to get it to a full secondary, you know, to get it to the point where it was complying with environmental laws. And as we were nearing that point,
Andrew 00:09:19 Just to clarify one thing, when you say full secondary, what does that mean?
Paula 00:09:23 Full secondary is an environmental standard. It means a full level of secondary treatment, so that when it’s, um, um, discharged down the ocean, there’s a three mile and a five mile pipe that, you know, is discharged out into the ocean that it’s been treated to the environmental regulation standards. Got it. Thank you. Um, and it hadn’t been, so that had been the organizing principle of heal the Bay. So we’re, you know, finally reaching a point where we see the end is, you know, we’re, we’re, you know, getting to where, um, Hyperion is operating full secondary and she goes, okay, now we’ve got to move on to the next thing, which was stormwater. And I remember saying dorm water, really the issue was stormwater’s polluting. I was like, what? And she would also talk about, well, now we need to unpaved the LA river where like you’re saying, you know, that can never happen, but she just kept moving to the next thing. She also pointed out, you know, a lot of issues with aquaculture, actually in some of the, you know, the things to pay attention to in that area. She was amazing and was quite a mentor and really got me involved. And it actually changed my life because being involved with heal the Bay, I got more deeply involved, ended up leading to me getting a political appointment.
Andrew 00:10:33 When you think back on, on, you know, the time you shared with her and, and all the work you did together, what about like, what lessons from that? Do you carry with you today? Like she seems like a really important figure in your life and someone who probably think about a lot as you’re going through your day to day, what, what stays with you? Like what’s the, what are the things you touch on constantly that you learned from your time together?
Paula 00:10:54 Well, she was, um, you know, it’s the, I think some of the things that resonated with me being a lawyer was she was very diligent and, um, researched her CA you know, her issues. Well, she wasn’t, she didn’t, she wasn’t just, um, emotional about them. She really put a lot of thought into it. And a lot of intellectual rigor into it believe a lot in science and worked well with, um, wanting to work with, um, the governmental entities. She, she never wanted to make enemies. So the whole point of the organization called heal the Bay because it had a positive association. She wanted to convey that it wasn’t about, um, being against or fighting, or she didn’t want to use fight words. Although she fought a lot, she’s very strong, but she didn’t want that to be the ethos of the organization. She wanted it to be positive, find the most, um, common ground, um, to make change.
Paula 00:11:50 And then she also really, really creativity. So her original, um, go her for her priorities in terms of putting the organization together were to brand it well. So she got some volunteer artists and we had Chiott day doing work for us in the beginning doing some volunteer, um, ads. Yeah. And one of them I thought was really compelling. It was, um, you know, sort of getting back to the point I was making about the ocean, having its own life, you know, to respect an early ad. I remember this is, we had some place on PBS, but it was also in movie trailer. You know, when you’d see trailers, you’d see this ad, which was the ocean just rising up and saying, you’ve abandoned me sort of like a love rehearsing. I miss you were abandoned me. Um, just, you know, having a soul basically. Um, so we had a lot of creative people around and she really encouraged it. Um, and it made it really special. So she’s really good at understanding how to engage people, uh, at the level of their heart and soul.
Andrew 00:12:59 Wow. That’s beautiful. That’s beautiful. You know, when I, when I was just listening to you talk about her, one of the things that I hear in that, that is, it just sort of is reminding me of a lesson that I learned, uh, again, not too long ago, was that, um, is the idea of when you’re trying to create something new and as you said, you wanted, she wanted it to be positive, like the language and the ethos of the organization to be positive. I think it’s a trap that a lot of leaders fall into is to, they never convert from a negative motivation to a positive motivation. So they’re always, they’re always against something they’re never for something. And it’s like, you can start, it seems like you can start with the, you can start against something like there’s often a negative impetus, but it seems like to really go the distance, um, and do it in a, in a sustainable, healthy way for people that there almost has to be this conversion process where you have to get beyond the initial negative spark and convert it somehow, or metabolize it into something positive. What do you, what do you think about that?
Paula 00:13:55 No, I think you’re absolutely right. And the idea of being for something is really key. And that really did shape my thinking about, you know, where I want it to be in terms of the work that’s being done. There’s a lot of good work done in environmental ism, but that the place I wanted to be was the place where I was for something, you identify the solution and start working toward that. And I think it’s, I think it’s important, you know, to have a range of voices when you’re trying to create change from 180 degree change, like from things being sort of really hardwired into where they are to a whole new place. But, um, the space I find personally most productive is the solution space. If you can point toward that and get everybody working toward it, I think it’s the best.
Andrew 00:14:38 That’s perfect. So I think that’s actually a really good, I want to segue slightly from, from that, which was a beautiful story. Thank you for opening up about that. And I want to talk, I want to hear a little bit about the, I love you to tell me, um, tell me the story origin story of what you’re working on now with the center for good food purchasing. And, you know, I know its origin came out at the food policy council, but if you would just tell us the story, the origin story of that, and then in particular, I’d love to hear what was like, what was the moment? What was it like for you when it finally became real? When it,
Paula 00:15:08 Hmm. Yeah. Okay. Uh, gosh, how much time do we really have? But, uh, you know, I had been appointed to a number of positions in government, so I was on the coastal commission and then I was appointed to the Bay Delta authority, which, um, oversees the state water project, which irrigate the central Valley of California. And it’s incredibly important. It’s the, the lifeblood of agriculture in the central Valley. So I got to know a lot of agricultural producers, mostly large and water districts there. And I’ve been thinking about this issue of the, the, the tension, um, that I see a lot between environmental interests and, you know, preserving the ecosystem and, and water, um, for the ecosystem and the agricultural interests. A lot of it was just around the farmers trying to make a profit in a setting. That’s not that easy to make a profit.
Paula 00:16:06 And so my, my concept was like, well, how about if we help them, um, make a profit in the way that we see could work both for the environment and for them, you know, organic was at the time I was thinking about this was still relatively new, but it was beginning to get some traction. Um, and that was an example of how you could have that organic seal. They could get price premium for it. And then, um, they could grow to that standard and make money while protecting the environment because the standard was set, but it hadn’t taken. It still was, you know, getting a foothold and it’s was still expensive and hard for people to afford that who don’t have a lot of discretionary income for food. So I was thinking about creating scale for the farmers. And my idea was to have a procurement program, like a, like to use the purchasing power of cities, um, in order to, um, direct, you know, to farmers like this, these are the send market signals.
Paula 00:17:10 Like, can you grow in this direction because we’ll buy it right. But you had to aggregate it. So that was an idea, but it started sat there and became the thing that I would talk about at cocktail parties or sometimes at lunches. And I sort of agitate about like, Oh, we should do this. You know, I talk to my friends in the environmental community about it. Everybody’s so busy. And I was actually working on in green infrastructure work. I was working on stormwater capture at the city of LA I’d become a public works commissioner. And I was, um, working on changing our building codes and ordinances to do more stormwater capture. Okay. Um, but so a friend of mine who wanted to put together who was at city hall, he was a deputy mayor at the time. And he wanted to, uh, celebrate farmer’s markets.
Paula 00:17:53 Cause a friend of his had started farmers markets in Los Angeles, 30 years before this time, when he tapped me to come to a meeting 2009 and he said, I want to do, I know you’re interested in agriculture and trying to make some changes. I forget what you talked about. I just know you’re interested in come to this meeting because we want to have a meeting about celebrating the 30th anniversary of farmer’s markets. And when you think about what farmer’s markets are, they were originally designed to help small farmers, um, who are having a hard time getting to market and to spend, to simultaneously serve low income communities who are having a hard time getting healthy food because there weren’t enough grocery stores and the food was too expensive for them, the produce. So it was like closing that circle on that, that problem. So when I was invited to come to this meeting and the idea was let’s have it be meaningful? Like we’re, we’re, we’ll do more than just applaud the 30 years. Like how can we take it to the next stage? And I thought, this is my opportunity to get my idea. This is my time. Yeah. And I had been, boy, I’d been agitating for maybe five years already.
Andrew 00:19:03 Okay. So you’ve been stewing on this for a minute.
Paula 00:19:06 Yeah. Which just, you know, it’s literally is one of those things in the back of your head, but I was really super busy with a bunch of other stuff, but you keep it there. Right. And you could sense, like this is the moment I’m going to start working toward it. And so we had a group of people who are interested in doing some food policy work. I started, you know, from there, like, um, bringing forward the idea of creating a food policy council, knowing that that would be an important stakeholder group that would be a precursor to developing these sorts of programs. So we did that and we had the 30th anniversary of farmer’s markets on, uh, September in 2009. It was about 10 years ago, Jonathan gold came and he, um, helped promote the event. We’d had a salsa tasting contest. We had press there.
Paula 00:19:49 We had the mayor announced the, um, the creation of the food policy task force. And he gave us the charge of the things that we should look for in terms of creating a food policy framework for the region. So that set us in motion. And then from that, the task force that we put together did come up with a range of ideas, including, you know, agreeing that the procurement program is something important. A lot of them had thought of it as well. So it was great to start having that synergy. You know, I’ve always found that, um, whenever I have an idea, I find that somebody else might have to, if you keep talking about it, which just tells me, it’s an idea whose time has come, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s time is coming. Even if it’s only a handful of you, it’s like you find each other and go, yes, because it’s just sort of out there, it’s like molecules out there in the air, you know, that somehow come together to make this wonderful
Andrew 00:20:43 It’s sort of floating, it’s floating in the ether and you guys all find each other. Yes, it can happen
Paula 00:20:48 If you put enough energy into it to keep it a low lit, right. To keep it as a light, um, and keep it alive if you believe in it that much. But then things sort of, you know, fit into that for sure. So this was one of those and we eventually did, uh, you know, all agree. We came up with 55 things that we thought needed to be done. They organized an eight issue areas and one of them was a procurement policy for, for the city and for the school district and for major institutions. So we set about, um, doing the research for that. And it took two years of, of a lot of research around, you know, and other policies around the country. Um, two years of convening stakeholders of thinking through how it can work, working with the, those who would be affected by a procurement policy, like food service directors and vendors and farmers like anybody else who would have to be part of something that we implemented getting their input on it.
Paula 00:21:43 And then, um, we finally were ready to go forward in 2012, right? So 20 2009 were, you know, we get everybody organized, 2010, we released our report with all these ideas, including that one. Then we start working on developing it. We get a basic concept together. We vet it like crazy. Um, you know, through again, everybody who would be affected by implementing it, including the city departments. And then we, we go forward with a good food day in October of 2012. It’s the last October we’ll have together at city hall. You know, as mayor theater, I was mayor better go says at that point I was a senior advisor on food policy. Cause this has gotten so interesting to him that he created a position for me in his administration at a senior level. And we were doing lots of stuff around the country. We were, um, he also was president of the us conference of mayors.
Paula 00:22:41 We created a food policy task force there and was really starting to move this thing from having cities connect up and get engaged in what they can do for food policy, for the region, what they can do for the rural communities, how they can engage in the agricultural economy in a meaningful way and seeing how their purchasing power can have an influence there. So it was finally ready after all our bedding. And the amazing thing for me was that there was no opposition. We were, we went forward with an executive order and a council motion on October 24, 2012, which was a food day, which we were celebrating with a big public event. And, um, I had done lots of things, um, in legislation that the city and state level, and there’s always opposition. Like I had had a change to the building code for green infrastructure.
Paula 00:23:33 There’s always opposition. You get it through cause you work it out, but there was never any opposition to this. It was truly a kumbaya moment. So we had sorts of support. Yeah, it was great. We had all kinds of support from the business community. I’m involved in food from farmers, from the American heart association, the American cancer society from environmental groups, labor groups, we had, it was the most from health organizations. It was the most unified, um, presence of testimony and support from stakeholders that I’d ever experienced. And it was just really, it was a pretty wonderful moment.
Andrew 00:24:10 I want you to paint that picture a little bit more. So it’s October, 2012. You’ve been grinding away on this thing for like three years, actively five years before that I’ve just percolating in your mind. So you’ve got eight years of built up, you know, like, ah, just working on this thing, but so where, what was, was there a specific moment where it just like the flood Gates open for you? And you’re like, wow, this is real well, at least that phase is done. Maybe.
Paula 00:24:37 Yeah. I mean, it was, it was nice to have it adopted there’s. Um, so we, you know, we had the mayor come and sign the executive order and until he signed it and there were those like movie moments, because I won’t go into too much detail here, but let’s just say I got a call at midnight from somebody saying what about, and it wasn’t opposition. It was just sort of a technical issue. And I was like, Oh my God, after all this,
Andrew 00:25:04 This is like midnight going into the day.
Paula 00:25:06 Yeah, no, like, can we talk this through? And I’m not, I can’t give you the detail. So I partly don’t even remember it. Um, I just remember the feeling of you’re kidding. This is not happening right now. Kind of working it out. It was really a technicality, you know, the procedural technicality. So it’s boring to even relate it, but to say that it might have scotched the whole thing. So, and I had a bunch of those moments going up to it, like somebody saying, but what about this? Like, okay, we’ll fix it. And we finally like, you know, so I don’t have much sleep and there’s hundreds of people coming to this event to testify for us and help celebrate. And we have like food, we have, you know, speakers and entertainment. We got a lot going on and then we have the mayor sign it, he signs it, it to me, that’s like, Oh my God, it was just such a great moment. And then we go in and testify in front of council because we simultaneously had a council motion. And so we’re on TV, you know, it’s like, it’s a televised hearing. Um, all the council members unanimously support it. And I can just say, it just felt really great. It just felt really great.
Andrew 00:26:23 Trying to imagine, like, what do you, can you remember, like when you think back to that moment where you saw him pull out the pen and he sits down and he signs the, he signs the thing, what did you, what was like, what was going through your mind or what did you feel in that moment?
Paula 00:26:40 Um, pretty relieved and, uh, and happy and appreciative. I definitely appreciated his confidence in this. It had been a lot of work to get to that point because for these things to happen, you have to have, it feels like a thousand conversations a week and I’m only slightly exaggerating, but it is a lot of persuasion. You know, you have to run the gauntlet of legitimate scrutiny and do your due diligence. It’s fair that people ask these questions. I’d certainly thought through a lot of them myself, but then as I was presenting it to, you know, the rest of the team, uh, in the mayor’s office and, you know, making sure like he understood it, the mayor himself and answering his questions about it. Um, they’re all fair questions. So there’d been a lot, a lot of that. So, uh, for me, like, I’d have a tendency to, Oh, I guess I learned this from being a lawyer. I’ll breathe a sigh of relief when the ink is dry on the signature page and not until then. And this is definitely one of those moments and having that happen was just, um, it was pretty amazing. It was great. And then you go, okay, and now we gotta do the work
Andrew 00:27:54 Now it’s real. Okay.
Paula 00:27:56 Yeah. It has been a doggy now we’ve got to actually do it well. So after that, we then took it to the school district, which was our, um, a really key objective because they serve their food budgets $150 million a year and they were really our target.
Andrew 00:28:10 And this is a LA USD, I think.
Paula 00:28:12 Yeah. Thank you. Yeah. LA unified school district. So they serve about 700, 750,000 meals a day. They have $150 million food budget. They’re the big player. They’re the biggest food service provider in the region. They’re the big player in terms of food. So the month later we took it to LA unified school district. And that was a great moment too. And that, you know, having both of those back-to-back was terrific. It was just exciting. I mean, you know, a lot of what it felt like.
Andrew 00:28:39 So just to clarify one question. So when, when, when the mayor signed off on this and it became real, did that, um, did that obligate the school district to do it? Or was it that now you had the legitimacy and then you could go effectively pitch it to the school district?
Paula 00:28:53 Yeah, because of the way our government is structured at L in LA, the city and County are not combined, you know, so the mayor doesn’t have jurisdiction over County entities and the school district is a separate governmental entity. That’s not true in other places. So you might hear how the mayor of New York has directed the school district to do X, Y, or Z in New York. The mayor had control in Chicago. The mayor had control in LA. The mayor did not. I mean, that was something they were very close to tried really hard to do in the very beginning of his term, because he wanted to improve education for students. He was trying to get more control over the school district. So we did what we had was persuasion. So the mayor was able to adopt it by executive order for the city, the council motion, um, also confirmed that it would be adopted for the city and also assured that we were six months from terming out. So it also assured that they would carry it forward, which they did. Yeah. So I have to say, I guess the best way I can describe it is it feels like surfing. It feels like you’ve been in the water, you’ve been paddling really hard and you caught that wave and you had an amazing, you wrote it. That’s what it felt like. That’s what it felt like.
Andrew 00:30:10 That is an idea. I know that feeling and that is an incredible feeling so well, well deserved and congratulations, of course. I mean, retroactively,
Paula 00:30:18 Thank you. It was, it felt right. You know, like everything lines up and it was a good way and a good ride.
Andrew 00:30:24 Yeah. So if it’s been seven years or so that, you know, since, since that, since that fateful day in October, 2012. And so tell me where I know the things have scaled tremendously since then, and it’s been quite a journey. So tell me about what’s what has changed since then, you know, where, where is the organization today in terms of the center for good food purchasing and, and what were some of those big milestone moments getting here from, from there?
Paula 00:30:50 Yeah, well, so we did, I mean, uh, I mentioned that we were part of the us conference of mayors food policy, task force, which I was, you know, pretty much running at the time or, you know, in a very leadership role of at the time. And we were sharing a lot of best practices. So we had, when we adopted it, I shared what we had done and developed with my colleagues around the country. They were very interested in it. Um, but it was a program at the time of the LA food policy council, which had also created, right. So I created the LA food policy council as an initiative of theater GOSA, um, mayor Villaraigosa and, but created it as a nonprofit. So it could survive passes administration. There’s lots of ways to structure initiatives and I deliberately wanted this one to outlast us. And so I started setting it up as a nonprofit and starting to use some Dorothy greens, you know, um, mentoring, uh, wisdom in creating something positive, creating something, cross-jurisdictional creating something with decision makers, you know, creating something that had a good, you know, creative vibe, you know, for, for outreach, um, in bringing in a lot of stakeholders.
Paula 00:31:59 So, um, we created a nonprofit, but so when other cities around the country were interested in the program, they didn’t feel they could adopt the LA food policy council program. So we realized after time that we should probably pull it out and create it as its own entity. So we did that in 2015, we created the center for good food purchasing. We moved the program from the LA food policy council to the center. So Alexa, Dell, which, who was my, my staff member, my key staff person when I was putting the LA food policy council together. And she’d also been, I’d asked her to lead. Um, you know, we had a bunch of different programs. We had a healthy neighborhood market network program, had a bunch of other programs. So Lexa was the lead on that program under my supervision. So then we pulled it out and, um, created the center for good food purchasing in 2015. And we immediately started getting interest, um, uh, from around the country, Oakland was interested. Um, Austin, Texas was interested. She soon we had San Francisco interested and they adopted it, uh, shortly after that, Chicago. Um, and we were working with partners in these different places. So we’re now at a place where we have 18 cities, 40 institutions, and close to a billion dollars worth of, uh, food purchasing information enrolled in our program. So we’re in Chicago, New York, Boston, DC, um, and in many other places around the country.
Andrew 00:33:29 So I think it’s so interesting. And I want to explore that a little bit. If someone’s trying to, to build a, whether it’s a new company or a new program intervention, and they need to think about working with lots of different people, lots of different stakeholders, communities, regulators, how, what would you recommend to that person? How should they actually think about approaching that kind of work?
Paula 00:33:49 Huh? Yeah. Uh, it’s, it’s, you know, it’s so different for every situation it’s, it’s unique as every family is unique, you know, every Thanksgiving dinner is unique, right? Cause every family is unique and, uh, I know there’s a great quote on it that I’m, I’m not going to remember. Well, it’s Russian quote. Um,
Andrew 00:34:09 I think I know the quote, it came up in a, it came up in one of the episodes that just actually just happened to go live it’s from Anna Karenina. And it’s, I believe it’s all, all happy families are alike. And every dysfunctional family is unique in their dysfunction, something like that, something to that effect.
Paula 00:34:24 We’re going to have to figure it out. But basically the point of it, the quote is that it’s mostly uniqueness, right? And so every situation is like that. But I think what is probably most important in every situation I’ve been in an every work I’ve ever done has always involved working with people because that’s really the only way you can get anything done. You can’t get ever get anything done by yourself ever, you know, you need it, it’s a team. So whether it’s you and your small team, which then expands to the broader team, it’s always gonna happen. Um, more through teamwork and through village work, I’ll call it that. Then I’m just thinking, go on just like snap your fingers and make it happen. So, um, I think that I had think having honest respect for whatever the position is that the person is you’re talking to like what their concerns are, what their interests are, what their particular unique type of humanity is like, who are they?
Paula 00:35:33 How did they orient themselves to the world? How do they process information? What do they need to make decisions? Um, and everybody’s different that way in every, every way everybody managed it differently. So as best as you can to, you know, to deal with each person as a complete human being and to really respect that I think is, will always work in your favor no matter what the situation. And one of the things that I find a little disappointing sometimes is that government, when somebody is in government, it’s like some veil was pulled down over their face and people just see the mask like the hotspot bureaucrat. And they assume certain things about that human being that they just, that, or it could be harm harmful to both of them. And definitely the relationship if they let that assumption go too far. Um, I mean, I was in many situations before I started doing this work, um, with the good food purchasing program where I saw people yelling at some junior staffers in a, in a, you know, a stakeholder meeting, um, about around a project as if he didn’t have feelings, you know, it was pretty amazing.
Paula 00:36:47 And I stood up there and said, let me, let me introduce you to Derek. Do you know that Derek likes to play the guitar? And some of his favorite music is, you know, whatever it was, I don’t remember. And then he likes to grow. Pumpkin’s telling the story of this human being. Um, and I think people just forget that sometimes. So I know that sounds simplistic, but I think it definitely happens when people have a role to play in government that they’re seen for their role and not for the person.
Andrew 00:37:16 So how do you coach somebody, you know, I’m sure you’ve had junior staffers who have struggled with this at times, or, or people who have come to you for advice. You know, they’re trying to get something done and they’re maybe, maybe they’re frustrated. Maybe they just don’t like the person they need to work with, but they need to work with them. How do you, how do you, how do you actually, like, if you can think back, you know, don’t have to give away any details that you don’t feel comfortable with, but if you can think back to a case or two where you’ve actually coached somebody through this process, what did, how did you advise them? What were the things that they needed to do differently to actually see that whole person and be effective despite their differences or frustrations or feelings or whatever the case may be?
Paula 00:37:57 You know, I mean, a lot of times it’s a matter of paying attention, you know, and, and having conversation a little bit of conversation in the beginning before you get right to the point, but also just trying to sit and listen and talk through what some of the cues were that they got from the person and help them understand it. And, uh, you know, I’ll just say too, sometimes even that doesn’t work, you know, you can try to be a real, real, genuine human to human interaction and it doesn’t get you anywhere. So then you have to start thinking about how else to influence that person, right? If you’re, if it’s about changing their mind, like else might influence them, um, what else might work or what other methods? So if the one-on-one isn’t working, could you ask for a meeting of a larger group, could you do something larger and have them come?
Paula 00:38:47 So you give them lots of points of interaction so that they can really, the goal is to get them to understand more. Um, and the more to me, like the more you can educate the better. So I guess I’ll give you a different example, which is when I was trying to get the city to change their thinking about this is I’m on a key official in the city at the time, and taking it back to that moment. And I’m, I have jurisdiction over this area, which was stormwater capture, and I was trying to get them to do it differently. They were just, you know, funneling it down, these drains and it wasn’t, you know, it could have soaked back into the ground, through green infrastructure would have been better, but they just weren’t wanting to do that. So instead of like, just working just at the top level, I said to the top level, folks, give me your middle managers.
Paula 00:39:36 I want them to come to meeting and I’m going to start by figuring out what, what the resistance is like, why they are having a hard time changing their mind about that. So I sat spent a lot of time sitting with them, hearing what their concerns were about, you know, making sure things were safe for people. So it wasn’t that they were completely opposing green infrastructure that just were worried about safety and they were worried about other things. Right. So how do you break through what those issues are? So I just started bringing in, um, I created a group called the green streets committee and I started bringing in their peers from other jurisdictions who had dealt with the issue. So basically became like a class so they can talk to their peers and they were able to ask their peers like, well, how did you deal with this? How did you deal with that issue? So their fears were overcome. And usually it’s, fear-based thinking, you know, they don’t necessarily want to mess up, you know? So they’re worried about something. If you can figure out what that something is, and then, you know, give them examples of how it’s handled differently, then you can start making a difference. We did in my time there, we did turn around, they’re thinking 180 degrees. So they are very much champions of green infrastructure. Now
Andrew 00:40:51 That’s fantastic. My assumption, based on some of the other conversations I’ve had with guests on this, on the show has been around when it comes to changing specifically culture, but also somewhat like thinking around it, right? If the organization, I’ll just say like the general thinking of a, of a group of people or an organization around an issue, um, and that is often represented and manifested in the culture of that organization. That it’s a slow process. And often my assumption is that it’s not that it’s impossible to do one 80, but it’s really hard. And often it’s in stages. Right. You know, if you’re going, if you’re going to the right, you have to go up a little bit, up a little bit, up a little bit, and then you eventually make your way back the other way. But it sounds like you were able to turn it around a lot faster. And I’m curious, how do you think about that? If you need to like, try to redirect a culture or a group of people, how do you, how do you actually think through that process? How do you do that?
Paula 00:41:44 Well, I don’t know how fast, I mean, it took a couple years, I will say for the green streets committee too. So it took some time. It does take time. There’s no question about it, especially if you’re working with government. I mean, I think the thing I love about entrepreneurial thinking is that it’s pretty nimble. It’s when you have all right. So let’s go back to our surfing analogy and I’ve used this before, but I do think that I do think that entrepreneurs are like surfers. You know, whether they actually surf or not. I think they’re more like surfers in this sense, they are, I’m really ready to deal with uncertainties. So they know they know how to, they have your basic skills, but they need to, they kind of know where the beaches are, but they have to have their equipment like the surf board and to be in the water.
Paula 00:42:32 And then everything else is uncertain. Like you have no idea how things are really going to go that day. So they embrace uncertainty and they’re just sort of ready when the moment comes, you feel the wave you go, most people in government are more used to baseball. They’re baseball. Fans are not. So baseball has a lot of rules. Baseball has, you know, rules for where you can stand for how long, um, what’s in, what’s out, what’s the right height, you know, for the fall, lots of precise rules. So it’s an amazing sport. But so there you have entrepreneurs and baseball players in the room, you’re playing different sports, right? So entrepreneurs are more like surfers, government. People are more like baseball players, cause they’re like, well, what’s the rules like what’s in, what’s out. You know what? What’s not, yeah, we’re the lines, but it’s, it’s legit.
Paula 00:43:23 You know, you need to have that for, for government to operate effectively, but you also need to make room for this other kind of entrepreneurial thinking. So, you know, one of the things that, um, executives are particularly in the political offices is they bring in people who are more willing to deal with uncertainty and risk. So those offices are going to be more likely to be entrepreneurial in their thinking. So, so you can kind of match it up. Some sometimes you just got to help. If you need somebody to take a risk, who’s not a risk taker. You need to help them see what the path might be in that risk. Right. And you need to help explain it and, and to see, to kind of minimize risk is kind of where it is. I think for some of those thinkers and minimizing risks sometimes can come from just understanding something more, if that makes sense.
Andrew 00:44:17 No, it totally does. Um, you know, one of the things I wanted to, I want to shift gears slightly here and ask you about is, um, one of the things that I think you are, you and I are both quite interested in, and I’m curious to hear just what your thinking is about it today. As a jumping point is the idea of the circular economy and regenerative systems. I want to go explore that idea and what’s happening today that you’re seeing and what’s like catching your attention in that space.
Paula 00:44:44 Oh, I am so interested in bugs. I just, I am fascinated by this concept of insects as a form of protein, um, in a way that makes complete sense. Like it, you know, is a less impact, less impactful from an environmental standpoint and probably more easily manageable. So, and it can really tie into the circular economy and food. So I’ve been learning over the past, uh, few years about food waste being used to grow insects for various types of feeds. So food waste could be used to grow, um, insects that people could eat. So crickets, I mean, that’s been happening for a long time in cultures like Wahaca, I think is very big on crickets, they’ve cricket tacos and so forth. And other parts of Asia, the humans eat the bugs directly. And I knew somebody who was using, um, brew, spent a Brewer’s yeast from the craft breweries to grow crickets, and then he would roast and grind them into flour and they’d be part of protein bars and it was actually pretty good.
Paula 00:45:50 Um, so there’s that, but then there’s also just an awful lot of protein that goes into animal feed around the world. So huge industry, and there’s a lot of potential for insects to be part of that process. So insects for animal feed, particularly for agriculture, um, it’s an exciting area and really taking off. And I find that the fact that we could take all our food waste, grow insects, have it be a more environmentally sustainable way to feed farm fish as well as all the other animals that were rearing, I think it’s, um, could make such a huge difference.
Andrew 00:46:28 Totally. So actually I realized I want to back up a quick second, when you think for someone listening to this, who’s not familiar with the idea of the circular economy or regenerative system. What does that mean to you?
Paula 00:46:40 Yeah, well, you know, it sort of means doing things the way that they were done in my grandfather’s day or before then, where you pretty much use everything in the cycles. So it’s, it’s cradle to cradle versus cradle to grave. So what’s that by the way, William McDonough, right? Yeah. It’s a fabulous book and, and he really pointed that out really well. So it’s making full use of everything. Am I Greg grandfather? What you, you know, who lived on Maui his whole life? Where were we go we’re from Maui way back, but he would reuse everything. Like he would compost. He would have great water. It would make nothing ever went to waste. It was always put to use. So in some ways there’s no such thing as waste. So in a circular economy, nothing is wasted. Waste means nothing because it’s always, um, whereas what we became enchanted with in the 20th century as a culture was a more linear process.
Paula 00:47:37 And we became enchanted with our engineering prowess and industrialization, but it’s extractive and it’s one way, you know, so you pull it out of the ground or wherever else you’re pulling it out of tends to be the ground, but you pull it out of somewhere, use it and then throw it away. And you’ve got a lot of problems that you’ve created along the way, cause you haven’t closed the circle. So by reusing things like, um, even the idea of stormwater that I mentioned, it was to take storm water and run it over the, um, the bioswells over grasses that would nourish the grasses and replenish the groundwater that’s circular when it comes to water. So you can do the same with, with just about anything that you think of, but definitely with food, the idea that we’re, you know, really using up the soil and everything, that’s in it to grow food that we then just throw away is linear and wasteful because if we’re throwing it away, it just sits in a landfill and it doesn’t really do any good. It actually creates methane emissions, which aren’t great. So if we instead were to use that waste in some ways like repurpose ugly food or perfectly sized food, um, but then also find something that would, um, be made out of that food waste. Some people think of compost, but I think if you can make other materials out of food waste even better. So if you can make more food out of food waste, you’ve just created a circle it’s gone cradle to cradle.
Andrew 00:49:10 Totally. So when I have, so this is one of the ideas that I love and I’m so happy. You said you brought up cradle to cradle. Cause that was one of when I think over the last five, 10 years of my life, that was one of the books that has most impacted my thinking. And like I remember it was like getting hit us, hit upside the head with a baseball bat. When I read that book, I was just like, Whoa, this is completely different, you know, way of thinking about the world and then going on to read the following book, the upcycle was similarly, you know, deeply inspiring. So I think where I’m going with this is, um, I think this is going back to your, your fantastic reference, the Victor Hugo quote of nothing being more powerful than an idea whose time has come. Why is this the right time? Like, why is why now? And how does someone who likes this idea in,
Paula 00:49:58 Oh, that’s such a good question. Well, I think the awareness of the issue has just really taken hold it, like particularly for food waste. Um, I want to give a lot of credit here to my good friend, Dana Gunders from NRDC who, uh, worked on a report that, um, I remember food waste was not on people’s radar. She released the report. Um, it was, you know, uh, published the New York times did a story on it and boom, it became what everybody was talking about. So an idea whose time has come, but she was catalytic. So that’s one thing that I think people can have faith in is that even though they may feel they’re at a point where they’re maybe a lone voice in that, in the discussion, they actually can catalyze a lot of other ideas that can move it forward. So Dana was tremendous in, in bringing that idea forward in hadn’t quantifying the level of problems we’re having from food waste.
Paula 00:50:50 So the awareness of these issues, I’ve never seen it be so great. And there’s so many companies, there are so many, so much, it’s so many people everywhere in government and nonprofit organizations who are willing to, to work on these issues. And we also have the ability, I think that the tools we developed in the 20th century, um, we were applying them differently then, but, but now we know how to use them in a way that really supports our values of, of, you know, nurturing the environment versus extract merrily, extracting from it, um, and being respectful of people as well as planets. So, um, I think a lot of the tools can be put to good use and there’s a lot of opportunity for innovation in that space. Cause there’s a lot of people searching for the particular solution for their and product of food waste. So one of the things that I think has been promising over time is matchmaking software, right? To connect, um, the pounds and pounds of imperfect produce where somebody who might do some value add like make jams out of them or otherwise, you know, Apple sauce, Apple pie, whatever, you know, just probably who cares what they look like. It’s going to be cut up anyway.
Andrew 00:52:03 Yeah. The best banana bread comes from really ugly bananas, by the way, they are almost like they’re super dark Brown and they look like they’re about to rock. That’s actually the best for banana bread.
Paula 00:52:11 That’s right. They’re super right. Yeah. Um, so I think all those things are, are, are more possible and it’s just only left to someone’s imagination to, to figure out a way to connect the dots. So it’s a matter of seeing, you know, where the gaps are and connecting the dots and there’s eagerness, um, there’s funding, there’s all sorts of investments in it. It’s a great time to innovate in those areas.
Andrew 00:52:39 One of the things that is very clear to me in the, from the conversations you and I have had so far, even outside this conversation we’re having now is you are clearly a holistic thinker, a systems thinker, right? You’re not just looking at the particular situation. You’re looking at the system around that situation and what are the causes? What are the effects? Um, if we do this, then what happens? What happens after that, et cetera. Um, how do you, how do you teach the people who you work with, you know, like your junior staff, how do you teach them to think that way and how do you actually implement those ideas and put them into reality?
Paula 00:53:17 You know, I think a lot of them come to us because they are that way. Anyway, I have to say, I mean, I think they’re attracted to the enterprise because they see what it does do for the system. But, you know, I think part of what I find important is to continue to have the broader discussion and you can get lost in the detail of moving something from point a to point B or responding to the a hundred emails or, you know, whatever it is, um, and get lost in details. But so we do always have the conversation and we do always remember the bigger picture and, and have opportunity for, um, exploration of ideas. Um, we used to do a whiteboard. We used to check in periodically, uh, was my favorite, um, thing to do where we met every month. We would, um, use the whiteboard and say, okay, what are we doing now?
Paula 00:54:13 Um, and one of these things is going well and what are we not doing that we would like to be doing? And what are we doing that we don’t think we should do anymore? Right. So just kind of doing that gut check. And usually when you ask her, what are we not doing that we think, you know, we’d like to be doing more of, that’s kind of when you get into that picture of what’s the wraparound here of this day to day that we’re moving forward and that’s, that generally does invoke the system’s issue. Cause we’ll, if we’re already, you know, sort of attuned to being mindful of it, like what are we hearing from folks about what they need that we’re not addressing that will trigger the need to think about, you know, what the whole system, or at least our conversation around it would be that way. For sure.
Andrew 00:55:01 Are there any particular tools or approaches you use in your work to think through and understand the system?
Paula 00:55:09 That’s not really a good question. I don’t know. What, what do you think of, tell me some of your ideas. Well, I’m sure you’ve heard something.
Andrew 00:55:17 Sure. Yeah, no, I, I definitely, probably probably too many, actually. I think the hard part of is actually in a lot of these things is figuring out which tool do you pick out of the, out of the toolbox because there’s so many available. Um, let’s see. So one that came to mind when, when we were, before we hit record, you know, you were discussing how certainly for a lot of the important issues that need, that need to get worked on and solved, whether it’s in a food in food policy or, you know, pick your, pick your favorite issue here. Um, there is sort of inherent tensions that have to be managed, right? Like for example, the, the tensions that arise, if, if between the private sector and good regulation, right. That’s, that’s an inherent tension in capitalism, frankly. And when, when you said that, what came to mind was, um, a tool set that I learned about, um, I’m blinking at where I learned it it’ll come to me in a minute, but basically called polarity management. I believe, I guess polarity management, maybe polarity mapping. I can’t remember. It was this idea that there we approach, at least historically this, this hit me like a ton of, because I’ve always, I’m very problem, solution oriented. Like you were describing where it’s like, I see a thing, what’s the solution. How do I solve it?
Andrew 00:56:32 And it turns out that this idea of polarities are, I also refer to them as like, think of them as paradoxes there. They’re not solvable, they’re inherent, built in interdependent tensions that can’t be solved. They can only be managed. And when you manage that tension, well, you get, you minimize the downside and maximize the upside when you mismanage it, you get mostly downside. So that’s an example of one, that one that comes to mind. I’m just listening to you.
Paula 00:57:00 Yeah. I can’t say, I mean, it’s good to hear about that. I can’t say I’ve thought of tools. I think, I guess I probably just am a systems thinker, so my conversations tend to be in that vein. So when staff were working with me, that’s how we roll. It’s what we talk about, you know, it’s, it’s how the conversations go, but I would be, you know, it’d be helpful to have tools. I just hadn’t honestly, I hadn’t thought about that.
Andrew 00:57:24 Yeah, for sure. I mean, it’s just, this kind of just goes to the idea with the podcast, always trying to find like ways, how do we make this useful and applicable where someone who is interested in the idea can, can run with it. Right. Um, two other two tools, since, since you asked that I’ve heard of and engaged with directly to some extent that I, I, I don’t know them well enough to say they’re slam dunks, but they seem legit and I want to work with them more and see, you know, see what emerges. Um, one just as a resource that I’ve heard recommended a lot. And I finally read is, um, I believe it is the book called thinking in systems by, I want to say it’s Donna Meadows. I don’t remember the exact name, but I’ll put it in the show notes. And the other one is, uh, I’m pretty sure he’s writing a book right now. Cause it looks like he’s been posting all of his drafts for the last two years. There is a guy who I have mad respect for based out of the UK named Simon. Wardley who I think everyone do, you know, Simon?
Paula 00:58:17 I’ve heard of him. No. Keep talking. I’ve heard of him now.
Andrew 00:58:21 Have you seen it? I’ve seen any of the stuff he’s been working on with like the whole, all the strategy work?
Paula 00:58:26 I think so. I want to know more.
Andrew 00:58:30 Okay. So, so, um, this, uh, this guy’s fascinating to me. If anyone knows him and can get him on this podcast, I would be deeply in your debt forever for anyone who’s listening to this. But, um, so he has a fascinating story. He has a background in technology and, um, I’ll, I’ll link to some of these in the show notes, but long story short, he has developed a method for doing systems and strategy mapping that I find to be totally innovative and fascinating. And it I’ve read a lot of strategy stuff cause you know, my interest in business over the years and, and leadership, et cetera. And most of it is crap, frankly. And his stuff was the first time I read or came across any, anything that was really about strategy, where I went like, Holy crap. I think somebody cracked it. Like I think, I think this guy is nailing something here and in a way that I heard or seen anyone else do. So, um, I’ll link to this in the show notes, but I think if anyone’s interested in systems thinking strategic thinking, especially, um, I will link to the drafts and in his YouTube talk, I will say the drafts are very long, but the payoff is tremendous. So like I can’t wait for the, for the, for the final book. Cause it’s clearly on the way to a book.
Paula 00:59:43 I actually am seeing it here. So, you know what, you’re making me realize how I, how that I have tools that I didn’t realize I had, I guess, but that I, how I use that with my staff, it’s that I mentioned the whiteboard and I mentioned the exercise we go through. But, um, usually I map it out. It’s usually a series of circles and lines and diagrams. So it just shows a flow that I think, you know, creates the system, the context, the system context. So I’m looking at while we were speaking, I looked it up. So I’m looking at is mapping and that looks so familiar to me. It’s like, what I do, you know, like with my, and I have conversations, I would say, well, it’s this way. So I’ll draw something out, but then I’ll have one of the other team members draw it out too.
Paula 01:00:31 So you can see how they’re thinking about things and how I’m thinking about things. And then it sort of matches up somehow. So I think a visual is a really good exercise. You might even map out. So we were talking once about how to sort of shift roles in the organization. And so we mapped it out, you know, w what are we doing and where do people go? How what’s the overlap like, cause it’s been diagrams, something like that. Um, minor, always circles and arrows. Somebody else has boxes, you know, that move along. So, um, we have a, so this is helpful. It looks really great and fun.
Andrew 01:01:10 Yeah. It’s a, I will say it is a deep rabbit hole when you read the drafts and I spent a solid month reading them all like a year and a half ago, totally worth. It changed the way I see the world completely. Uh, I’ll link to this in the show notes. And, um, if anyone’s interested in this, I highly recommend checking it out and I cannot wait for it for the book whenever it comes out.
Paula 01:01:28 Well, it gives you a bigger picture thinking and it also invokes something other than just words, right. To describe things. So it helps use like a lot more of the cylinders that you have in your brain.
Andrew 01:01:40 W th the obvious piece of value, at least that I went to was like, Oh, great. This will help me understand this better. But probably the bigger piece of value is the communication, the interaction around the ideas that it enables us between people and stuff like, okay, I drew a map and then you independently drew your own map. And then we put our maps side by side and we talk about what’s different and why we’re both getting, we’re all getting smarter.
Paula 01:02:04 Yeah. And we’re learning a little bit more how the other person thinks and you know, where, how to fit that in. And we, we do, we do whiteboards all the time, um, all the time. So that’s, I guess, part of our, part of our team thing,
Andrew 01:02:17 For sure. I’m still, it’s still nothing better, two people in front of her or multiple people in front of a whiteboard, um, best ways of thinking of all time. Um, awesome. So I want to build on this really quick. So, um, I wanna, I wanna try to do, if we can do this as a practical case example, to whatever extent that’s possible. So I really like how you approach thinking about solutions, right? And, and you like looking at the system like we’re talking about and figuring out how the components of the system interact, what are they, what are the forces at play, et cetera, et cetera. I am sure over the years, and in currently you have people who come to you and they’re looking for advice or guidance on how to, you know, they’re passionate about some issue and they know they want to do something about it, but they don’t know what exactly they there is to do or what they want to do. How do you walk through, walk someone through choosing the right intervention for them to pursue and then designing that intervention?
Paula 01:03:14 Yeah. Well, once again, that’s so different and so unique to every situation, but I feel like I’m probably, if I was to lay out the most typical process, it would be really talking through what they want to accomplish and why they think it’s not already happening. Um, because it’s, if it’s already happening, then you can support what’s already happening. As an example, when we were designing the good food purchasing program, my first step was to find out, was there one out there that we could just adopt? If there was a good one, why reinvent the wheel, there’s enough, need to support good things that are going on, and we all have lots to do so. Um, but what we found when we did the research was there was something missing. So what was missing is a bit of re you know, the, the metrics. So what was missing is the verification there’s, and there were components values that were missing.
Paula 01:04:11 So we added them in, but usually, so once you start it always to me starts with really rigorous research, finding out what’s already happening in the field. Cause sometimes you’ll find out as you go through the process that it is already being done. Um, but maybe it needs to be modified a little bit to do a little bit more where you want. So it’s kind of a gap analysis really is what you need to get to. And then you need to look at who the players are like, who’s who is creating the most movement in this area that you’re concerned about, where, where are the powers structures that are moving things in, whatever direction they’re in and what would be interesting to them to change how they’re doing or what would just sort of make them not relevant in one or the other? So the good food purchasing program, I looked at the power structures and I said, well, how do I get them to shift what they’re doing and created something that is making that shift?
Paula 01:05:16 Um, if you look at it, you know, another company, like, I guess Airbnb, they did something that was the started making hotels less relevant, right. They came up with a model that said, well, they’re not doing what we want to do. So we’re just going to do something better and make them less relevant. So w w what their goal was, was being able to let people use properties. They were trying to solve for that problem, that they had, that they wanted to get some income from a good goal. So I think it starts with the gap analysis, looking at the, the, the power structures and like who’s making those moments. And then I think creativity comes from having a lot of good ideas in the room. I usually put a brand trust together, um, of, of good thinkers and start just talking, like, what do you think about this idea?
Paula 01:06:09 Um, and, uh, it might have one on one conversations. I might do it in a dinner party. This is why my friend knew that I was interested in agriculture. Cause I tend to talk about these things at cocktail parties and over drinks. Cause it’s always on my mind. So, but there’s just lots of places where, um, there’s a fertility and conversation that we don’t always tap into, you know? And there’s lots of, particularly if people have different work experiences than you do, they’re going to be able to bring a lot more good thinking into the, into the equation. So it’s just kind of fun to get ideas from those places. So research, gap analysis, identify power bases and movements, um, Intuit to me, it’s like you Intuit your way into an idea, um, that could solve, like, what if this happened? How would that change things and then kind of vet it like initially through brain trust and then you can refine, what do you think about that?
Andrew 01:07:12 That makes sense. It’s a, it’s it like, I can, I can sort of see the steps in the cycle, right? It’s like clearly a cyclical approach that you’re, you’re, you’re cycling through this over and over, over and over. And as you, as you go through that cycle, your thinking is evolving. Your understanding of the gaps are changing. Um, yeah, I think, I think it’s, I mean, it makes sense. I think there’s um, is there anything that really makes a difference in that process? Like that makes that process more effective? Cause I think, I think that a lot, that, that makes good sense. Everything you just said, but I’m wondering, um, if there’s anything in particular, any yeah. What’s the secret sauce? How do you do it? Well,
Paula 01:07:49 You know, I don’t know. I took it. I think I just, um, I think I have a tendency to recognize patterns across sectors. Um, so I, I know for me, I tend to draw on other sectors. So for example, in working on the food system issues, I started seeing an analogy in my mind between how we were trying to make this change in the food and what had been happening in the energy sector with renewable energy. And, you know, I don’t know how apparent that was to others, but I know I saw it. So I started thinking, well, how did, so I started researching that, like, how did they hunt? How did they get renewable energy to be such a strong force? I started started talking to people who did it, right. I learned from the energy sector, what they did. And there were a lot of analogies that I could think of to what we’re trying to do in the food system and create a stronger, um, local food economy, um, that also supports, you know, environmental, um, and the nutritional health, um, and, you know, started moving in that direction for the next stage.
Paula 01:08:59 So I, I think of that a lot. So I’ll draw on that source. There are probably people who think about this in more rigorous terms. I think I tend to follow, you know, Malcolm Gladwell’s book blink, um, where he talked about it sort of what I saw it as, as a cultivated kind of intuition and intuition that was based on experience. And for me, I think because I am a cross sector person, I’ve gone from a lawyer representing private sector businesses to being involved in government, to being a nonprofit, to, you know, sort of start. And I’ve been in water, I’ve been involved in a bunch of different issue areas. When I represented private sector businesses, I represented a medical company. I had a lot of exposure to a lot of different kinds of businesses. So to me, things sort of line up as patterns that you can draw from. So I think it’s the learning from, um, cross-sector learning, I think is really helpful.
Andrew 01:10:03 I want to start at shift gears and start to wrap up here with some rapid fire questions. They are short questions, your answers don’t have to be short. You can refer as long as you like, but hopefully the questions are short. Um, so the first question is, you know, this podcast is called enliven. And my question is, as you do your work and go through you through your life, who or what is enlivening to you, what keeps you full of life and doing your work?
Paula 01:10:31 Well, I mean, I wonder how many people have given you the same answer, but it’s the people that, you know, it’s that really amazing spark of human interaction. When you see your ideas land with somebody and, you know, you have a whole moments together that’s wonderful and it drives it forward. Um, but also just getting the sense that you’re making a difference, uh, contributing to the conversation. A lot of it just feels so much like music to me. Um, you know, when you have music, there’s a lot of levels of harmony involved that make it music. And, and that’s what I see that that’s, you know, fun for me and exciting for me and encouraging. And I can sort of ride on that through the rough moments of knowing that it is making a difference to somebody else. And it’s, you know, we’re all creating this fabric together, creating this harmony together. How corny was that?
Andrew 01:11:41 No, it’s corny. If it’s true. That’s what matters. Well, there you go. Thank you. Yeah. And I love that. So, um, thinking about that, are there, are there any particular, I don’t know, mantras or quotes or things like that that you continually use to keep yourself grounded or inspired to yourself?
Paula 01:12:06 Yes, there’s a bunch and you know, I have them on my, um, my home office tied up, but the one that I really love is we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore is not an act, but a habit. That’s what I like a lot. So it just reminds me to, to not, um, to not, you know, Slack off, you know, like every, every moment matters in terms of the quality of interaction and what you’re putting out there into the world, every moment matters, particularly when it comes to your work. I mean, obviously we can have our relaxing moments, but, um, but you know, the work requires that. And then I love the quote, um, luck comes to the prepared mind. Cause I think that’s really true. I think that you make your own opportunity. Um, and my mom always loved this quote. Um, the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams, Eleanor Roosevelt’s. Yeah. Then there’s another one that I keep, but there was a poem that I, I read to her cause I really liked it and she loved it and put it, my mom loved it and put it in her signature line. And it’s a poem from Amy Gertler, it’s called advice to a Caterpillar. Um, let’s see if I can remember the beginning few lines. It says, choose your way into a new world. Molt rest malt again, self reinvention is everything.
Paula 01:13:45 That’s the line.
Andrew 01:13:46 That’s beautiful. That’s cute.
Paula 01:13:49 It’s that? It’s advice from a Caterpillar by unique or slur. It’s that you’re always, you’re always on the edge of your own invention and every moment has that opportunity. It’s part of what I love about LA, to be honest, living here in LA is that I feel like LA people have asked me about it when they come from other places. Like, what do you love about LA? I don’t get it. And I think if you don’t get it, you, you have, you have to live through a reinvention because LA is always on the edge of its own reinvention. It never stays in one place. There’s the only tradition about it is that it changes and it’s a very crazy place. It’s always becoming that’s exactly right. And so are we
Andrew 01:14:38 Indeed, and I think that that is like the perfect place formatically to end this and, and I think this will probably be a part one. And though I think there’ll be a part two later on. Um, but just as, as a way of wrapping up, I have two final questions. Um, the first question is before I ask my last question, where can anyone listening to this find you online, connect with you, support what you’re up to in the world?
Paula 01:15:00 Oh, sure. Yeah. Uh, well I have a Twitter handle, so I’m, uh, my Twitter handle is an easy one. It’s Paula, a Daniels. And then, um, we, our website is, um, good food purchasing.org for the center for good food purchasing.
Andrew 01:15:16 Perfect. And just actually riffing on this. This will be my question before the last question. Uh, is there any requests you have of the listener? Is there anything, if someone’s listening to this and has felt really inspired by this conversation and what you’re up to, what would you ask them to do?
Paula 01:15:31 Oh, I mean, I would just love to hear their ideas for, um, supporting the circular economy in the food system. Cause I’m sure there’s lots and I I’d love to hear them, but, um, you know, supporting our organization, um, would be great, um, learn about what we do. Um, but keep the conversation going, I think is the main thing and to keep the ideas generating and to keep on becoming
Andrew 01:16:00 So riffing on that theme, I think you have one of the coolest titles I’ve ever come across being the chief, the chief of what’s next. So with the theme of always being on the edge of your own becoming what’s next for you,
Paula 01:16:12 What are the things that I want to look at next is our sustainable aquatic food economy. I feel like so much of the work that we’ve been doing in the food system, very important work relates to land based agriculture and separately. We have the folks who work on fisheries and sustainable fisheries. We need to marry that up as well as looking at agriculture because it’s a really important force in the world right now. Um, and there’s more, you know, agriculture being cultivated worldwide than there is beef production worldwide, but in the United States, we’re not doing as much at all and yet we’re consuming an awful lot of seafood. So there’s a big opportunity there. Um, and that’s what’s next for me is I want to start looking at, um, how to, how to manage the potential growth in that area. Um, in a way that, um, protects the environment, um, provides good jobs and nourishes our, and I think that it’s entirely possible. Um, and I’m really excited to be working on that.
Andrew 01:17:16 I love it. Well, Paula, thank you so much for the time for sharing your stories and just really inspired by what you’re doing. So thanks. Thank you for what you’re doing and keep it up.
Paula 01:17:26 Thank you. Thank you very much. This is a lot of fun. Thank you for having me on the show.