D.R.E.A.M- Diversify Reach Empower Activate Motivate

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Thornton's crowning achievement is AWS re:Invent, an educational conference for developers, partners and customers. Rachel Thornton, director of global field and partner marketing and global events at Amazon Web Services, the computer services arm of the tech giant, credits that tenet for the explosive growth of AWS re:Invent , its annual gathering of developers, partners and customers.

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What launched in with an initial group of 6, attendees in attracted a record 40, people who flocked to the five-day event for education, networking and a good bit of fun. But no question, it is re:Invent that draws industries of all sizes and people of all stripes from all over the world to attend deep technical sessions, hands-on learning, chalk talks, workshops and boot camps, all created with one goal in mind: education.

In , re:Invent drew attendees from locations as far flung as Korea, Japan and China and folks from industries as varied as financial services, media and entertainment, education, government, healthcare, telco, life sciences and more, all seeking enlightenment from AWS teams, partners and customers. That entails on-site focus groups during the event and throughout the year, dialogues with sales teams and in-person discussions with customers, asking what they liked and what they would like to see added to the event.

Those insights lead to session content and new activities such as the chalk talks added in recent years, along with hands-on learning opportunities, peer-to-peer learning and networking moments. In terms of tech, along with the mobile app that is now standard issue at just about every event, re:Invent incorporates AWS technology into training and certification boot camps and hands-on labs.

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It offers a YouTube channel with session content, daily recaps with video on social media and, a first this year, a re:Invent Twitch channel. We got a lot of positive feedback. Then there is the Tatonka chicken wing-eating challenge, which last year had teams dueling for the winning title and ultimately earning a Guinness Book of World Records award for the Most Chicken Wing Eaters in a competition.

Working hard and having fun is nothing new to Thornton who cut her teeth handling field marketing events, trade shows and mid-sized programs for Microsoft in , then moved on to Cisco in a similar role. She joined Salesforce in , and after a couple of years in field marketing, took over Dreamforce. People love feeling part of a community and they love to get educated and build their skills. Listening to customers and community are key to engendering that love, she says.

Besides that customer obsession, she draws on another Amazon leadership principle—hire and develop the best—to build the right team along with an event. Then, having a strong backup plan—and then another—is a must, she says.


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As is having the right reading material, especially on a long flight. This savvy leader knows how to cut back and go big in all the right ways. He also handles the corporate briefing programs in Dallas and Bedminster, NJ. The conference drew more than 2, attendees, 1, customers and a whopping 1.

With more than 25 years of marketing experience and a background in marketing communications, strategy and market segmentation, Laurence says the best event marketers balance the art and creativity of their discipline with the analytical skills and financial acumen it requires. Those attributes, along with a maniacal focus on the customer experience, are what it takes to succeed, he adds. Down the road, Laurence foresees a continued shift in the target attendee at b-to-b events, especially as more women enter technology. The technology will evolve from the shiny gadget it is now into a robust digital ecosystem.

Analytics and insights will be king as companies seek to understand the customer journey, create content and enhance experiences as attendees become more diverse and savvy. He credits an uncle who has been influential in his personal and business life for inspiring and mentoring him. Erin McElroy began her career as a consultant handling government technology implementations in Washington, D.

McElroy says b-to-b events in the future more and more will resemble consumer engagements because of the proliferation of devices and the need for b-to-b companies to enable consumer engagement. And we believe her. EM: Five years ago, if you had a Twitter or social wall, you were on the cutting edge. Now, there is more focus on visual, video and live stories. People are also delving more into conversation bots. EM: Most important, put yourself in the shoes of the audience, and that includes being knowledgeable about their business. He was a man of action who made me realize that anything I want or need to do, whether with my family or in my career, I need to do it now.

That motivates me in most of the decisions I make in my life. She knows how to right-size a portfolio of proprietary events to create customized touchpoints at every stage in the buying journey. The power sector she works in, and the company she works for, are in a constant state of flux and transformation.

Internal collaboration is something Yuzzi uses to create smarter, more effective events. She says skipping the opportunity to sit in with an engineer or a salesperson to understand their experiences with the customer is one way event marketers often miss the mark. Not too shabby for a former ski bum. We love the spirit of connection and reinvention she brings to her work, and her ability to transform legacy events into perennial sell-out experiences. After a short time at Facebook, she landed at Google, first in sales, then in marketing, where she honed the skills necessary to pull off thought leadership conferences, educational programs for ad agencies and business partners and consumer-facing hardware launch events.

Here, Matuk discusses those changes, and what she sees ahead for b-to-b event marketing.

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We also wanted to have the capacity to bring more people to the keynote session. We are focused on that now. It will be less about conferences and more about connection. AM: If we are doing our job well, Google should be synonymous with technology, so we have a lot of tech moments integrated into our events, especially when we are showcasing developers. AM: Two main things: they are looking for information and innovation in experiences. They want to walk away feeling like they learned something and had a unique experience with us.

We strive very hard to make sure that when they walk into a Google event, activation or conference, it is something that only Google could produce. There is a level of magic and information that permeates the entire experience. Laine Mann landed in the healthcare industry on a bet. Take one recent gerontological conference where her team reengineered the experience away from talking about the brand to immersing attendees in a universal story about healthy aging—and how Pfizer supports consumers along the way.

Cutting-edge mirror technology took attendees on an emotional journey from infancy to high school to adulthood, illustrating the role the company can play at each stage. Industrialized systems also tend to treat complex environmental issues such as pests, weeds, livestock health, and soil fertility with one-off technological solutions, for example, through chemical inputs or genetically engineered crops.

Because such solutions are often reductionist, they may engender additional problems, such as new and more virulent pests, pesticide accumulation in nontarget organisms, and pesticide-related public health impacts Naylor and Ehrlich , Letourneau and Bothwell , such as increased levels of attention deficit disorder in children in farming communities Marks et al. Industrialized agricultural systems often trade off short-term crop productivity for long-term ecological sustainability Foley et al. In contrast, as a system that relies primarily on internal regeneration of critical inputs or ecosystem services Figure 1 , DFS must utilize holistic systems-oriented rather than reductionist approaches to succeed e.

For example, diversified farms cannot trade off production efficiency against maintenance of an essential service such as soil fertility, if soil fertility is to be generated from within the system. Box 2: DFS versus sustainable, organic, multifunctional and ecoagriculture While the concept of diversified farming systems shares much in common with multifunctional, organic, and sustainable and eco agriculture, it differs from each of these concepts in at least one subtle but fundamental way. Unlike any of these other concepts, the premise of DFS is that, through farming practices designed to support functional biodiversity across spatial and temporal scales, the necessary ecosystem properties providing critical inputs services to agriculture are supplied Figure 1.

While DFS generally exemplify the characteristics of multifunctional, organic, sustainable, or ecoagriculture, the reverse may not always be true. Specifically, the practices of DFS are the same as those utilized in sustainable agriculture or agriculture that equitably balances concerns of environmental soundness, economic viability, and social justice within communities, across societies and into future generations Allen and Sachs , Kloppenburg et al.

DFS should itself be ecologically sustainable because the farming practices that create a DFS maintain the underlying functional biodiversity that generates critical ecosystem services. However, a given farm can practice sustainable agriculture without being part of a DFS if situated within a homogeneous landscape that cannot provide ecosystem services that operate over larger scales, such as pest control or pollination Tscharntke et al.

In turn, a farm or landscape can use DFS strategies to increase ecological sustainability, but may not support social sustainability due to a lack of the institutions, attitudes, and actions that address these issues of justice and equity Alkon and Agyeman , Allen In principle, DFS should not require the use of pesticides or inorganic fertilizers and thus meets the definition of organic.

However, the converse is not always true: organic agriculture is now often practiced in large-scale monocultures Figure 2 that may do little to foster biodiversity or sustain ecosystem services. While multifunctional agriculture MFA aims at producing multiple amenities e. Merely diversifying crops and livestock may not necessarily create the multiscalar, multitemporal ecological heterogeneity and biotic interactions that would support the full suite of ecosystem services needed to support productive agriculture Figure 1, see also Zhang et al. DFS is similar to another concept, ecoagriculture, in recognizing that landscapes, not single farms, are important targets of land management.

DFS emphasizes how farming practices operating from plot to landscape scales maintain functional biodiversity and thus ecosystem services. The DFS concept highlights the critical reciprocity underlying the ecoagriculture concept, that is, that the ecoagricultural landscape promotes biodiversity and in turn, critical components of biodiversity i. In summary, DFS, while closely allied to all of these concepts, places more emphasis upon the relationship between functional biodiversity and ecosystem services.

As many political ecology scholars emphasize, ecosystems are densely interconnected with social relationships Robbins et al. Ecological variables such as soil, water, and habitat help configure an array of farming practices, exchanges of food and resources, and landscape management decisions that, in turn, influence the structure and function of the ecosystem. Further, as ecosystem services are generated and regenerated within a DFS, the resulting social benefits including a range of livelihood benefits, such as healthier diets and increased farmer autonomy in turn support the maintenance of the DFS, enhancing its ability to provision these services sustainably Bacon et al.

This interplay underlies numerous historically occurring and emerging DFS worldwide. Conversely, socio-political and economic processes such as the decrease of access and control over seeds often associated with the expansion of crop biotechnology or increased dependence on commodity markets can intervene to disrupt such feedback cycles, thus weakening DFS.

The industrialization of agriculture has led to growing homogeneity across food systems as farming techniques and markets become more standardized Beus and Dunlop , Lyson As a consequence, the complex social relationships underlying agriculture and ecosystem service provision have become less visible. Focusing on DFS can help farming communities, researchers, policy makers, and industry recognize and restore these relationships.

At their core, DFS depend on agroecological principles that are developed in and through the social relationships among working farmers, their communities and environments, and researchers, including ecologists, anthropologists, agronomists, and ethnobiologists Wezel et al.

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As seen in the Kreman et al. To understand how DFS may develop, function, and evolve over time and space, the particular context of each DFS needs to be studied, paying particular attention to the politics and power relations that reciprocally shape its ecological conditions.

Many DFS were developed through traditional and indigenous farming knowledge and agrobiodiversity that was accumulated over millennia e. More recently, other DFS have been created through targeted agroecological studies designed by scientists to solve particular problems e. These relationships continue to be critical to the growth of DFS in new societal contexts and geographic locations. Since the s, with the rise of the Campesino-a-Campesino and La Via Campesina movements, institutions such as government agencies, domestic and international NGOs, and universities have become increasingly active in promoting and diffusing agroecological principles through research networks and programs e.

These actors have added new institutional dimensions to the social relationships that help sustain DFS. An illustration of how social and ecological systems interpenetrate within DFS is in the Andean highlands, where indigenous farmers have managed their lands agroecologically for 3, years Brush The ongoing interplay between human management and physical ecology has created a landscape of agroclimatic belts at different altitudes, each characterized by specific field rotation practices, terraces, and irrigation systems, and the selection of specific animals, crops, and crop varieties Altieri and Toledo Within these belts, traditional knowledge has helped sustain tremendous genetic diversity, by perpetuating adapted landraces and wild relatives of crops.

Social cooperation is essential to managing the verticality and heterogeneity of the Andean ecosystem. A barter economy based on reciprocity, for example, facilitated complementary exchanges of plants and animals between ecological zones along the steep elevation gradient Box 3. Box 3: The Andean highlands. Several Andean cultures, including the Inca, adopted a political economy known as the ayllu system Argumedo Each ayllu was an independent group with three levels of administration: the family, multiple families in a shared territory, and multiple territories in a larger organizing unit.

Land was owned and managed collectively, with an assembly of farmers coordinating crop production in active fields while fallow spaces were used for livestock grazing. Thus, landscape ecology helped define a social system of nucleated settlements, communal landholdings, and land redistribution that reinforced the health of the ecosystem, a balance reflecting the Andean principles of reciprocity, duality, and equilibrium Godoy On the Bolivian and Peruvian altiplano, entwined systems of social and ecological diversity still thrive.

These communities feed and clothe themselves and also generate new livelihoods from tourism, seeds, and medicinal plants that in turn enable them to maintain ecosystem services by being able to implement DFS practices when many workers could otherwise be forced to migrate to urban centers. In industrialized systems in both developed and developing countries, farmers must now negotiate with corporate food buyers, buy agrochemical and seed inputs from agents, seek loans from bank officials, and work with agricultural extension experts trained in pesticide use. Farmers rely on such relationships to compete effectively in supply chains and to manage changing ecological conditions, such as pest outbreaks.

Nonetheless, these particular types of relationships often push individual farms to increased dependence on banks, damaging livelihoods, and undermining collaborative social learning groups as farmers specialize in a single crop and maximize short-term yields through the use of external inputs, to meet loan repayments. The economic pressures in these tightly linked systems generally corrode ecosystem services, which are the very foundation of support for potential DFS.

Farmers in industrialized systems may also engage in exploitative relations with immigrant or impoverished laborers, paying inadequate wages and enforcing long hours, helping perpetuate the apparent cheapness of food. Thus within the industrial agri-food system, consumers remain relatively ignorant about the conditions of production, and would be less able to choose between products based on sustainability criteria, if they value these, and to exercise their buying power in favor of DFS.

In turn, the risk perceptions of consumers and corporations may inhibit the growth of DFS. For example, during the recent food safety scare in fresh leafy vegetables in California, corporate buyers insisted that growers remove native vegetation bordering fields that might attract wildlife.

This action was taken largely to assuage consumer concerns, despite the lack of scientific support Beretti and Stuart In alternative agricultural systems such as organic or low-input farming, farmers can build particular forms of relationships that help sustain ecosystem services and social infrastructure more effectively. We discuss many of these relationships, including direct marketing, fair trade certification, and food justice movements. In developing and studying these alternative systems, however, researchers, policy makers, and NGOs often neglect race, socioeconomic, and gender issues, or sublimate them into a broad social justice category.

Finding ways to be far more inclusive of diverse racial, gender, and socioeconomic groups can help strengthen the social-ecological basis of agriculture. For instance, African-American growers once represented a sizable proportion of the U. Many of these black farmers used DFS practices; their displacement helped create an opening for industrialized monocultures.

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Now, many new farmers in rural and urban areas are black, Latino, or Asian; there is evidence that these farmers are more likely than their established peers to embrace sustainable agriculture practices if adequately supported National Academy of Sciences Immigrants such as the Hmong may sometimes develop culturally relevant, more diversified food production enclaves within industrialized systems that preserve their traditions and provide livelihoods Brown and Getz African-American groups have sought to reclaim and remold their rich heritage through urban farming.

They are developing new linkages between cities and nearby rural areas, potentially helping recreate DFS. For example, Will Allen founded Growing Power, an urban farming NGO that serves disadvantaged neighborhoods in Milwaukee and Chicago, attempting to encourage youth of all races to take up diversified farming. In Chicago, black activists and physicians have formed the Healthy Food Hub, a food aggregation NGO which sources produce from a historically black farming community, Pembroke Township, about an hour from Chicago.

These efforts show how people can demand greater political agency in building a democratic DFS Bacon et al. New quantitative and qualitative research is badly needed to evaluate and critique the social benefits that DFS may provide in contrast to industrialized systems. In general, further analysis is needed to understand how the social elements of DFS can help generate and regenerate ecosystem services, thus maintaining diversified farming systems. In turn, more research is required on the political and socioeconomic interventions that could help rebuild or sustain the social-ecological cycles that underlie DFS.

Yet, DFS may not always be able to realize their potential social-ecological benefits due to the lack of enabling environments. We explore how alternative agri-food networks AAFN and social movements relate to DFS and assess their potential to both maximize social benefits and promote DFS through their demands for food sovereignty and food justice. The agri-food systems approach reveals the interconnected systems of inputs, labor, land, capital, governance and knowledge that maintain specific types of agricultural production, distribution, and consumption systems Friedland The governance and structure of the food system upstream from the farm, such as international agricultural trade liberalization policies that promote cheap food imports from industrial into developing countries, government subsidies for fossil fuel-based agrochemicals and commodity crops Pimentel et al.

This system then creates substantial obstacles to farmers seeking to use diversified farming methods, generate value from ecosystem services, and sell food products to viable markets. It also leaves consumers and communities disconnected from the origins, qualities, and the social and ecological consequences of the production of their food, fuel, and fiber. In the same way that industrialized monoculture production systems are sustained by industrialized agri-food systems, diversified farming systems are frequently interdependent with alternative agri-food networks AAFNs Goodman and Watts They are often, but not always, rooted in agroecological farming practices Kloppenburg et al.

AAFNs regularly use the trust and engagement generated through alternative forms of distribution to increase access to healthy, fresh, and diverse foods among consumers while providing farmers with diverse revenue streams, and risk-sharing and direct marketing strategies that cut the costs of distribution and decrease reliance on industrialized agri-food systems. These partnerships represent a new wave of social activism as Northern and Southern communities and NGOs increasingly focus on the politics and cultures of food, and identify economic incentives to transform industrialized agri-food into alternative systems that seek to produce and distribute healthy, environmentally sustainable, and socially just food.

The equitable treatment of producers is central to achieving broader adoption of DFS. If farmers are impoverished or are forced to compete with subsidized producers or importers from the industrialized food system, they are less likely to sustain diversified farming practices. Farmers markets are one example of efforts that more equitably support small-scale producers, as well as urban consumers. The estimated farmer markets in the U. Farmers markets can provide a mechanism for farmers to reach consumers directly, educate them about DFS practices, and bypass the processing and distribution infrastructure of the industrialized agri-food systems.

Yet, while farmers markets and other AAFNs may help develop and maintain DFS and vice versa, they do not yet adequately recognize ecological diversification and sustainability as core values.


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Farmers markets often provide a venue for organic agriculture, but they rarely use ecological sustainability as a criterion for allowing producer participation, and such markets may also include organic foods harvested from industrial monoculture Payne In addition, while farmers markets may improve equity for smaller scale growers, they may not provide equity for consumers.

Farmers markets may not reach poorer socioeconomic groups, due to both price and location. Efforts are underway to increase the number of farmers markets accepting government food assistance vouchers Zezima These inequalities can be traced back to how, under what conditions, and by whom food is produced, processed, distributed, and consumed, and the role of corporations and governments in shaping these conditions.

Food justice issues include the unfair treatment of workers in housing, health, and labor conditions Shreck et al. By addressing these issues, food justice activism is evolving toward a strategy that encompasses both social justice and ecological sustainability Gottlieb and Joshi These local and national efforts are complemented by several international projects to create AAFNs and connect them to sustainable agriculture.

One example is the global fair trade movement, which aims to enable consumers, often in developed countries, to pay more equitable prices to cover the full costs of production and ensure sustainable farmer livelihoods. Fair trade is not synonymous with DFS or sustainable agriculture because its criteria focus primarily on the social and economic aspects of trade and production. However, the Mesoamerican smallholders who cofounded this movement with political and religious activists manage agricultural systems that are far closer to DFS than industrial monocultures Bacon et al.

Their shade coffee systems now often resemble native forests and help conserve biodiversity, reduce soil erosion, conserve water, improve microclimates and resist hurricane damage Perfecto et al. In particular, a food sovereignty agenda has emerged from the aspirations and survival needs of smallholders and indigenous social movement leaders in the Global South Windfuhr and Jonsen , Rosset Food sovereignty La Via Campesina refers to the right of local peoples to control their own agricultural and food systems, including markets, resources, food cultures, and production modes, in the face of an increasingly globalized economic system.

This approach contrasts with charity-based food security models that have occasionally buffered human populations from famines Kaluski et al. It also contrasts with dominant neoclassical trade liberalization policies that open up domestic markets worldwide to competition from multinational corporations, which has often resulted in import dumping, the erosion of smallholder livelihoods, and greater industrialization of agriculture McMichael Food sovereignty movements promote agrarian reforms, resist state and corporate land grabs, and critique proposals that contribute to farmer debt and dependence Wittman et al.

Despite the potential of AAFNs such as farmers markets and fair trade networks to sustain and promote DFS, many alternative agri-food activities have come to resemble the industrialized agri-food systems they set out to transform. For example, the dramatic growth in organic sales in the past two decades facilitated by product certification has promoted the expansion of large-scale industrialized organic monocultures to supply this new demand Guthman , Bacon et al.

In search of new markets, many dominant food corporations have purchased and integrated successful organic producers and alternative food companies into their product portfolios Kearins and Collins Researchers suggest that expanding corporate control over alternative products can generate some benefits e. Yet these changes may accelerate efforts to industrialize production rather than expand alternative systems Goodman and Watts These developments call for careful scrutiny of the changing standards, price premiums, ingredients, farm level practices, and benefits to producers and consumers Bacon et al.