My name is Asiya Wadud and I founded Forage Oakland in 2008. Forage Oakland ia a community fruit barter network serving North Oakland, California communities and aims to redistribute the enormous bounty of surplus backyard fruit amongst neighbors. The project is free and open to residents of North Oakland communities, and this blog is a record of Forage Oakland activities over the last 5 years. Careful documentation of Forage Oakland’s evolution will hopefully serve as a template for other communities interested in creating similar fruit barter networks.
Between 2010-2013, I completed two master’s programs, one in City and Regional Planning at Berkeley and one in African Studies at Stanford. I sharpened my civic media chops by exploring a wide array of community media tools, learned about the role of mobile technology in civic engagement, and explored best practices for creating inclusive cities. My work both here in the Bay Area and as far away as Nairobi, Kenya helped me think about new ways to think about the intersection of technology and community development. During the 3 years I was in grad school, Forage Oakland’s leadership was decentralized, and harvesting happened on an ad hoc basis. The group’s Facebook page continued to play a central role in mobilizing residents to harvest fruit during the high abundance seasons of summer and fall. Although it was difficult to take a back seat after being so dedicated to the project, I can say this was a great opportunity to reimagine Forage Oakland, as I repositioned it as a project at the nexus of civic media and community development within the greater Bay Area food justice landscape.
Forage Oakland has been an entry point for exploring how civic media can be a tool to increase civic engagement. I’m interested in exploring how online communities bolster on-the-ground community development & civic engagement, and our recent collaboration with Youth Radio’s Mobile App Lab was a perfect opportunity to explore the convergence of these two fields. Through a two year partnership, I worked with Youth Radio to developed the Forage City platform, which is a web-based tool that facilitates the redistribution of backyard produce. Over the course of 2 years, we worked hard to understand which components of Forage Oakland could be replicated and strengthened via an online system (efficient and equitable redistribution of backyard produce, for example) and which components could not be replicated (trust and all its attendant parts was the most obvious one). Forage City is an example of how online tools can augment on-the-ground community development efforts, and the goal of summer 2013 is to use the beta (a working version, though not totally polished) Forage City app to facilitate fruit harvesting and redistribution in North Oakland.
Please send your questions to forageoakland [at] gmail [dot] com.