The growing complexity of the shared challenges facing agri-food systems require new approaches. Convening stakeholders with diverse perspectives allows for the broad assembly of knowledge necessary for more holistic and effective solutions.

The Illinois Agri-Food Alliance was created to address the untapped potential that could be inflected if collective leadership spanning Illinois’ agri-food system worked together to innovate solutions to complex issues, a partnership process called a collaborative network. 


A collaborative network is an interconnected web of individuals and organizations prepared to leverage their time, insight, and resources to achieve greater impact. Success is dependent on the network’s ability to exchange ideas, build relationships, explore opportunities, share power and resources, and spark innovation to solve complex problems of mutual interest.


Circumventing the traditional organizational model, ILAFA operates as a catalyst for network collaboration in Illinois’ agri-food system. We create “value webs” of cross-sector stakeholders to pool insight and develop shared understanding around complex issues. The interconnected web that is created is vast, involving engagement from a diverse array of participants spanning business, academia, government, and the nonprofit sector.

Our collaborative networks are designed to be fluid and responsive, evolving as external factors change, and support equitable distribution of authority, accountability, and decision making among participants.  The network is built on a foundation of guiding principles and equipped with tools and frameworks for individuals and organizations to break down complexity by putting the “system in the room.” With this intentionally systems-oriented approach, ILAFA’s partners work together to enhance understanding, embrace complexity, identify unique opportunities, and create value for all involved.