What is community-based social innovation? What does it look like in action? Where does it happen and how do I get involved?

Students in the SLS Internship Program and the IGniTe summer program’s sustainable communities track were invited to ask- and answer – these questions through their June 26th tour with Director of Impact, Daphne Fowler, at Global Grower’s Decatur-based community garden. Founded in 2010, Global Growers is a Georgia-based nonprofit that partners with more than 300 farmers from diverse backgrounds, including ‘community growers’ who farm on small plots for their families and ‘commercial growers’ who farm to sell at local marketplaces. Global Growers focuses particularly on refugee, immigrant, black, and indigenous growers, supporting them in cultivating the vegetables, fruits, and grains that are staples in the diets of their home countries and cultures.  Of the students who visited Global Growers, Mechanical Engineering major Tuelo Rapotsanyane (’24)  who is also an SLS Public Interest Technology Student Fellow and Grove Park Foundation intern, offered a reflection on what about his experience stayed with him- and why.

I am really appreciative of the work that Global Growers Network is doing. Connecting displaced communities to land, resources and markets is an essential part of the social integration process which promotes global citizenry by preserving cultural heritage and diversity. In the land of opportunity, opportunity is not always present. However, this program gives refugees hope and control over their lives as they look to succeed in a foreign land through regenerative agricultural practices, inclusive economies and both cultural and biodiversity. The use of an asset-based approach where the growers are allowed to run their gardens the way they see fit while capitalizing on their skills and using minimally invasive techniques, really promotes equity and social innovation.  I remember seeing some of the refugees working in the garden, growing fresh food for their families while keeping their heritage alive, and I thought to myself, they are tasting the American Dream. The level of investment they put into their gardens, unparalleled, a family affair indeed. All this, thanks to Global Growers!

If you’d like to get involved with Global Growers through volunteering or donating, just visit their website. If you are a faculty member hoping to work with Global Growers through a course or project, please reach out to Ruthie Yow or Rebecca Watts Hull.