Our responsibility as a community-driven think tank working within food, beverage, and hospitality (FBH) is to center the individuals and groups most affected by existing inequities and use those recommendations as the basis of new industry standards and benchmarks.
Our approach is rooted in critical theory, with an explicit goal of creating a radically more equitable FBH industry through the analysis, critique, and redistribution of power. We reject tokenism and trickle-down social justice where change is ultimately still decided by those who benefit the most from existing inequities.
Our work is to design and implement unconventional, systems-based changes that pull at the roots of systemic issues. We embrace this uncertainty and discomfort because we know that more iterations of the status quo simply cannot set us free.
Theory of Change
Our theory of change is that it happens one conversation, one person, one relationship at a time. This is why social change feels so excruciatingly slow — it requires building individual connections to change perceptions and behaviors over time.
We apply the lens of critical theory to examine and contextualize existing industry issues as we educate folks about social justice within the food, beverage, and hospitality sector. We recognize that even knowledge and research are never neutral, but influenced by ongoing systems of power that privilege dominant perspectives. When ideating solutions, we believe in doing so in partnership with the communities most impacted; the all-affected principle we draw from is the idea that all those affected by a collective decision should be included in the decision, proportionate to how much they will be affected.
Our Audience & Impact
We aim to empower food, beverage, and hospitality workers & decision-makers with the necessary knowledge and tools to implement long-lasting, equitable change across the FBH industry. While widespread change may feel daunting, according to Professor Damon Centola, there only needs to be a committed minority of 25% to begin this process. At Studio ATAO, we approach this theoretical 25% within FBH in three distinct ways:
1. Building navigational spaces where individuals can grapple with the complexities of social change and identify where they fit in the cycle of liberation. We know that cultivating radically different solutions is neither readily scalable nor fast. We believe in small-group interactions that lead with vulnerability and prioritize the needs of frontline workers. Join our Discord & read more about our Hospitality Worker Town Halls here.
2. Creating transformational resources that offer new systems to reimagine the FBH industry. These recommendations for change are developed with those most affected, and we use our platform to advocate for these ideas to be implemented by major stakeholders. Read a case study on how our Think Tank applied this process to advance equity in food and beverage media.
3. Offer multiple educational platforms with resources on social justice specifically geared towards those working with FBH. We strongly believe a shared foundation and vocabulary are necessary to name our oppression and fight against it. Learn more about our Food Systems 101 curriculum here.
Practicing the Change We Hope to See
To us, social justice cannot just be a theoretical idea preached to others, but one we actively wrestle with and model ourselves. As part of this journey, we actively integrate transformative justice as we build, develop, and maintain relationships within our own team and our wider community. We believe in transparently sharing our own challenges of attempting to dismantle an oppressive system while simultaneously operating within it, and we always welcome constructive feedback on how we can improve and stay accountable to our mission and vision.
“In order for the oppressed to be able to wage the struggle for their liberation, they must perceive the reality of oppression not as a closed world from which there is no exit, but as a limiting situation which they can transform. This perception is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for liberation; it must become the motivating force for liberating action.”
- Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed
Support our work
We prefer to spend our time interfacing with the community and creating resources for all instead of fundraising. If you also believe in our theory of change, we kindly ask you to consider supporting us by becoming a monthly patron or with a one-time donation. We thank you for your generosity!
All contributions are tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the law.
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