Transform Food Festival, igniting ideas for systemic action to transform Kenya’s food systems

Stella Odhiambo

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Why the Transform Food Festival?

The need for food systems leadership in Africa is greater than ever. The nature of the challenges facing food systems is increasingly clear. There is no shortage of evidence, ideas, or ambition. What is needed now is action: more effective, systemic action toward healthier, more inclusive, and sustainable outcomes on the continent.

The idea for the Transform Food Festival was to inspire individual and collective action to transform food systems.

The Transform Food Festival was conceived within the African Food Fellowship that is bringing together a new crop of leaders who will build healthier, more inclusive, and sustainable food systems across the continent. The festival convened leaders and practitioners to unlock new ideas, connections, and systemic action for the collective transformation of Africa’s food systems.

The Festival & Award

The festival was an inspirational gathering designed to showcase innovations in food systems, unlock new ideas and foster strong connections for action. The exclusive guest list included Fellows and guests of the African Food Fellowship, innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers in government, the private sector and civil society.

Participants enjoyed a vibrant and action-packed afternoon, with sessions ranging from plenary presentations to more intimate discussions in break-out groups.

The festival culminated in the Food Systems Leadership Award, an annual, national award for outstanding leadership for transforming Food Systems. Aquaculture fellows Dr Erick Ogello and Fredrick Juma won the most promising food systems leader and most promising food system initiative awards respectively.

Ogello was recognised for his contributions to research in live fish food production while Juma won the judges over with his commitment to protecting community livelihoods through farming the black soldier fly.

Watch a short video documentary of their work.

Looking ahead

“The journey toward healthier, more inclusive, and sustainable outcomes requires new forms of collaborative leadership which is what the festival hopes to achieve,” said African Food Fellowship Kenya Dean and Implementation Lead Brenda Mareri.

“We need bold actions to radically transform food systems that are failing people and the environment. We know that leaders have an incredible power to harness change and that networks play a big role to connect like-minded leaders. Our ambition is to nurture and self a network of leaders that come together to drive this change”, said Claudia Piacenza, regional manager of the African Food Fellowship.

“The Transform Food Festival represents a journey of togetherness, hope and opportunity. This gathering includes the sharpest actors in the industry working on solutions to the most pressing challenges facing food systems today. The African Food Fellowship is proud to catalyse collaborations among different sectors represented here to spark impactful action on the ground,” said African Food Fellowship Director Joost Guijt.

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Practical approaches to systems thinking: the case for Community Led Research Action (CLRA)

At Wasafiri, we talk a lot about systems change. We are not alone in seeing the value of systems-based approaches to addressing some of the world’s most complex problems. But our true superpower lies in our ability to bring practicality to using systems thinking. So, we wanted to showcase one such practical approach, the case for Community Led Research and Action (CLRA).

The youth population across Africa is rapidly expanding, presenting valuable opportunities to harness the power and creativity of young people to confront some of the most pressing issues facing the continent, including unemployment, violent conflict, and climate change. Yet young people continue to feel frustrated by immense social pressure to provide for their families, dwindling economic opportunities in overcrowded market spaces, intergenerational divides that create further cleavages between authority figures and youth, and leaders who do not adequately represent the multitude of youth voices and perspectives.

How to flip this youth ‘challenge’ into ‘opportunity’ is not a new dilemma. It feels like a huge, unwieldy, how-long-is-a-piece-of-string type of issue. But what if we could start with one small microcosm of this issue in one location, to catalyse small shifts that could then be shared, amplified, and carried on in ways that led to clearer change over many years?

Enter CLRA

Community-led research and action (CLRA) is a context-sensitive research and action process that is designed, managed, and conducted by community members from marginalised settings who are affected by the issues under study – be that violent crime, climate change, or historical injustices.

It aims to at once amplify these youth voices while also building the critical thinking skills and agency of marginalised young people, to support their identification and articulation of key problems they face and their development and implementation of localised solutions to these problems. It does this through:

  • Research: Through CLRA, the most marginalised members of society are facilitated to recognise and expand their own individual and collective agency towards locally-led and durable change. In this sense, CLRA provides robust, detailed knowledge and new insights on marginalised populations, through ethnographic research conducted by people whose lived experiences are the focus of the research endeavour.
  • Action: CLRA also serves as an intervention, to promote transformative social change in individuals and groups through improved critical thinking skills, strengthened sense of agency and belonging, and enhanced understanding of the community in which people live. Through CLRA, marginalised individuals use their ethnographic research to co-create relevant knowledge and develop meaningful action to collectively and sustainably address specific problems.

CLRA is guided by four social change dimensions, that not only serve as a framework for designing effective engagement with CLRA participants but equally serve as a framework for measuring individual and group social transformation:

  1. Diversity of social networks: Wider social networks signify a diversity of perspectives and influence that encourage individuals to think critically and be more tolerant of ‘others’;
  2. Strength of decision-making skills: Improved ability to non-violently handle difficult situations and emotions and pursue new financial opportunities encourages more considered and reflective decision-making;
  3. Sense of agency: Transitioning from a feeling of victimhood to a sense of agency promotes greater self-reflection, proactive behaviour, and hope for a future past tomorrow;
  4. Status within a community: A two-way sense of belonging and acceptance between the individual and his/her community creates a social contract between the two, where both the individual and the community rediscover their shared interest in peace and social cohesion.

CLRA, therefore, allows us to start small, with a group of marginalised young men or women, who may be facing extremely complex and challenging issues – such as land degradation affecting their livelihood opportunities, violent groups infiltrating their peer networks, or lack of access to transparent justice systems – and offer a framework for a practical way of tackling these large issues through small-scale activities.

Small-scale change can then have an amplified impact through CLRA’s systems-based approach to drive forward individual, to community, to society-level behaviour changes.

Individual behaviour change: Linking research to action to identify a problem and think critically about solutions.

CLRA functions as a structured yet informal cycle connecting problem identification – pilot action – evidence – iteration, all led and driven by marginalised community members.

As opposed to more controlled, programme-led approaches where participatory methods to research sit separately from activity design and implementation, CLRA’s informal approach and integrated research-to-action methodology allows it to be guided by the lived experiences of the group members, so that resulting action can focus specifically on their life circumstances and the community dynamics at play. This approach also generates ownership over the solutions and the commitment to carry them forward, long after the CLRA cycle ends.

For example, CLRA participants, whom we call ‘community researchers’ in Mombasa, Kenya, began the CLRA process with a heightened sense of victimhood – they felt that their community ostracised them and that there was nothing they could do about it. These community researchers live in a community in Mombasa that does not receive many basic services or access to sustainable livelihoods, has been plagued by community violence and police harassment, and as a result, many young people fall into lives of crime to make ends meet.

Following their design of research questions to dig into why they felt shunned by their community, the community researchers’ ethnographic research revealed that community members felt fearful around them, because of their history of violence and disturbance.

This research helped the CLRA community researchers to understand that they had a role to play in their feelings of ostracisation, and therefore also had a role to play in changing those perceptions. As noted by one participant:

"This program has opened my mind. I was closed. Now I can think. I lacked that guidance, exposure. Your questions help me to think to see how I can change my life. I make sure I do my homework, so I have something to share when we meet. No one has ever asked me these questions. I can’t stop thinking. It changes the way I feel about my life and what I can do."

CLRA Participant, Mombasa

Community behaviour change: the power of anchoring change in existing social arrangements and structures

CLRA catalyses durable social change and advances inclusive development and stability ‘from below.’ The knowledge, action and evidence that is collectively developed through this process works with and builds on existing local social arrangements and efforts to improve everyday lives and living conditions.

For example, those same CLRA community researchers in Mombasa collectively worked to address the negative perceptions that community members had of them by taking the initiative to re-establish relationships and build more positive connections.

In one instance, the community researchers decided to repaint a local police station, as a show of goodwill and collaboration with an entity that had previously targeted them, and to demonstrate their mentality shift to the community. In the words of one participant:

"CLRA has shown me that I can be independent and equally be my own boss. It has also made me a free thinker. A critical thinker, it has widened my mind very much. I get to think of the possibility of tomorrow and how I can be of help to the community."

CLRA Participant, Mombasa

Society behaviour change: Reinforcing horizontal and vertical connections across segments of society to push for change at multiple levels

Inherent to the social change dimensions are connections forged across individuals and communities (and their governance structures), reinforcing the importance of mindset and behaviour shifts required not just by individuals, but by different layers of society, to achieve lasting and sustainable system changes.

For example, following the repainting of the police station, community members and local officials began to view the CLRA community researchers differently; the mindset change in the young men catalysed a mindset change in their surrounding society, cyclically reinforcing each other.

The local Member of County Assembly (MCA) even asked these CLRA community researchers to join him at an event to counter violent extremism and named them as peace champions within their community.

Repainting a police station and being invited to attend an event by an MCA might feel small, even inconsequential, but when understood within the context of a specific community, a microcosm of the issues faced by young people across Kenya, they are significant and signal longer-term behavioural shifts that lead to other small, but significant behavioural shifts.

CLRA can set in motion longer-term, systems-level changes through these small “wins,” generating momentum and incentivising the system to catalyse more positive change.

So, is CLRA a silver bullet to address complex problems? No. But it can offer a practical framework for working with and through marginalised populations to drive forward their own small but meaningful solutions to complex issues that plague communities across the world.

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

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Africa deserves better food systems; this is how we are making it happen

Wasafiri together with Wageningen University and Research, is growing a movement of food systems leaders working to transform food on the continent

The African Food Fellowship is just 16 months old, opening its doors in Kenya in May 2021 with a cohort of 27 food systems professionals drawn from aquaculture, horticulture and agri-finance. It expanded to Rwanda in October of the same year admitting another group of 27 Fellows this time drawn from actors working in food entrepreneurship, access to nutritious food and sustainable land use.

The Fellowship completed its pilot phase in June this year, counting among its successes the graduation of Kenyan and Rwandan Fellows from the Food Systems Leadership Programme in April and September respectively.

“[The programme so far] exceeded our expectations in many ways. Firstly, we confirmed that there are a great number of wonderful leaders working on food systems transformation in their communities and countries, who really want to up their leadership role and effectiveness. Secondly, we developed from scratch and implemented a top-quality food systems leadership programme,” says Fellowship Director Joost Guijt.

There is a big need for a dedicated programme like this to complement the efforts of others. The Fellowship is co-run by world-class experts from Wageningen University and Research and has just secured additional funding to help support its operations for the next five years. This is wonderful news and shows we are well on our way to being here for the long haul.

“In the next phase, we will be working on building the core components of the African Food Fellowship including country Fellowships, the leadership programme, and research. Until 2024 we will expand and create solid foundations in Rwanda and Kenya, and then grow to other countries. Our hope is to be in at least seven countries across Africa by 2027,” added Joost.

Upon graduation, Fellows form country Fellowships to which they have a lifetime membership. While they still enjoy support from the Fellowship secretariat, especially in their nascent phase, country Fellowships are envisioned as semi-autonomous platforms that allow Fellows to congregate and remain engaged in each other’s work.

The Kenya Food Fellowship will, for instance, host a Transform Food Festival event in November this year bringing together top food systems leaders from across the country for a day of showcasing initiatives and learning from each other.

The Fellowship’s formidable Fellows are making big splashes in the food world with incredible results – healthier, more accessible and more sustainable food in East Africa.

Discover some of the cool things our Fellows are doing. Also, follow our pages to keep up with more Fellowship news.

Photo by Jan Kopřiva on Unsplash

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Wasafiri empowering food systems transformation leaders in Rwanda

The African Food Fellowship initiative which is empowering a dedicated network of food systems leaders across Africa, launches the Rwanda Food Fellowship.

Rwanda cohort of the African Food Fellowship
The pioneering Rwanda cohort graduates after successfully completing the Food Systems Leadership Programme.

Lots of promise during the showcasing event

The African Food Fellowship officially established its roots in Rwanda last week during a lively, engaging and activity-packed event held at Norrsken Kigali House, Kigali. Attendees included representatives from the Fellowship’s faculty, a representative from Rwanda’s Ministry of Agriculture, Mr. Jean Claude Ndorimana who is the Advisor to the Minister, and of course, the thrilled fellows and their equally thrilled guests.

Representing three impact areas: Access to Nutritious Food, Sustainable Land Use, and Food Entrepreneurship, Rwanda’s first cohort of fellows showcased their systems initiatives under the backdrop of an exciting, creative, and insightful session.

Rwanda Implementation Lead and Dean, Anysie Ishimwe was left hopeful and inspired. “The systems initiatives showcase was an opportunity for fellows to share with their guests and each other the opportunities and challenges they are encountering on their journey. Their initiatives are very promising as they entail solutions with the potential to bring out system-wide change” she said.

“One of our fellows, Janvier Ahimanishyize, is working on digitising existing farmer extension guides so that farmers can access needed information using a USSD code and another fellow, Alexis Rutangengwa, from National Land Authority, leveraged his team to work on a district-level land use plan using in-house expertise. He has been tasked to do the same for country-wide districts by the aforementioned institution”, she added.

The event also marked the launch of the Rwanda Food Fellowship and for the Fellows, the beginning of a lifelong leadership journey towards more inclusive, sustainable, and healthy food systems for Rwanda and for the continent; a challenge they now feel they have the tools to take on.

The bigger picture

The African Food Fellowship aims to catalyse a continental network of national chapters working towards common principles and to be a one-stop shop for food systems knowledge and action support. This launch marks an important next step in realising that vision.

The Rwanda Food Fellowship will continue to foster a community that will inspire informed and influential peer connectivity, spur action and actionable ideas, and offer a forum for Africa-focused and collaborative solutions.

Echoing the words of Dean Anysie Ishimwe, “today is the beginning of an even longer and more exciting journey of collaboration towards the transformation of Rwanda’s food systems, and as our inaugural cohort you have a unique opportunity to leverage and shape this network, as well as pave the way for those who will join you from future cohorts.”

For Wasafiri, the launch of the Kenya and now Rwanda Food Fellowship shows our continued contribution to ongoing systemic efforts to change the narrative around African Leadership within food systems. We also keep advancing our aim to help deliver the progress promised in the 2014 Malabo Declaration, which aims to end hunger on the continent by 2025 and to promote intra-Africa food exchange through the continental free trade area.

Have a peek at the photos of our graduated Fellows and follow us on our social media pages to keep up with what’s next for the Fellows and other Fellowship-related news.

The food systems leadership programme is a 10-month flagship programme of the African Food Fellowship, an initiative facilitated by the Wageningen University & Research and Wasafiri Consulting & Institute, with support from IKEA Foundation.

Connect with Africa Food Fellowship

Photo by Suad Kamardeen on Unsplash

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Powering inclusive technologies: Good Food Hub helps serve digitally excluded rural communities

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are quiet revolutionaries that nourish families, improve equity in their communities, and innovate for sustainability and health.

Wasafiri launched the Good Food Hub in 2021 for pioneering entrepreneurs to access support, meet peers, and advocate for a more conducive business ecosystem. Since then, the hub has continued to include the voice of food SMEs in the global policy space in various ways.

Among them, the Hub has hosted a series of dialogues with five UN Food Systems Summit coalitions, asking how they can each integrate and support the transformative potential of pioneering small businesses, collaborated with SAFIN, IFC and IFAD to ensure financial service providers and policy experts hear from food entrepreneurs amidst the growing Ukraine crisis, and together with HarvestPlus, has provided opportunities to entrepreneurs to procure and market nutrient-enriched grains and other staples to their customers.

Recently, the Good Food Hub provided a valuable platform for Mastercard to engage directly with Good Food entrepreneurs who use digital technology to work with farmers, supply chain partners, or consumers. The learning event introduced a tool to help entrepreneurs expand their access and reach to remote communities with limited connectivity, reduce costs, and realise new revenue opportunities.

Mastercard has recently developed technical solutions for serving digitally excluded individuals, especially for rural communities in Africa and South Asia. They’ve discovered that the same four common components are required for such services.

They have moved these components into a single platform called Community Pass. It offers a shared, interoperable infrastructure for any service providers seeking to build applications. These components are:

  1. Functional Identity (Inclusive Identity Service): Everyone on the Community Pass platform has a singular identity that simplifies their access to multiple services.
  2. Digital Acceptance Devices (Point of Interaction Service): An Android-based device that enables programme and service delivery of multiple Community Pass programmes, while supporting third-party solutions and digital payment methods through standard or biometric-based authentication
  3. Shared Wallets (Multi-Wallet Service): One chip card that allows offline access to multiple services and products – making digital account issuance possible and enabling a seamless and cost-effective transition to traditional financial products.
  4. Secure & Protected Data (Data Services): Access to data that is otherwise difficult to attain across geographies and use cases, for impact and more effective service delivery.

How might entrepreneurs benefit from Community Pass?

CK Japheth, Co-Founder of The Innovation Village noted how powerful it was for his Ugandan entrepreneurs to enter into partnership with a global company like Mastercard. The Community Pass platform provides a plug n’ play digital foundation upon which they can build their applications, whilst the brand association gives them increased credibility with users, investors and local partners.

Community Pass also allows entrepreneurs to pursue a significant scale. For example, instead of having to build an agent network in rural areas, an entrepreneur can quickly access all the digital agents already using the platform.

This opportunity linked Mastercard with entrepreneurs who are already doing inspiring work with smallholder farmers. The entrepreneurs articulated how Community Pass might help them overcome diverse pain points such as data management and dependability, financial payments, farmer registration, digital literacy, supply chain transparency, and bank integration.

To watch the event and access further information about Community Pass, go to the Good Food Hub.

Do you want to reach pioneering food entrepreneurs?

If your organisation also wants to support SMEs to scale, innovate, or advocate as they pioneer better food for all, then please join us at the Good Food Hub or get in touch at hub@goodfood.business to explore how we might work together.

Read more about the Good Food Hub

Photo by Pixabay

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Where’s the coffee at the AGRF?

‘Where’s the coffee?’ was a question I overheard as a leading farmers representative walked past me talking with a colleague at the AGRF summit 2022 in Kigali this week.

Africa’s premier forum for agriculture and food systems is a hard but rewarding set of meetings and sessions.

The AGRF is impressive and valuable because it is well attended. It comprises many of the leading players on food systems transformation in Africa. A networking frenzy is the result as all of us participants make up for lost human contact due to Covid19 in recent years. Handshakes are in plenty, and rooms are abuzz with groups clustered together.

Meeting so many passionate people in person and exploring what is working and not working with Africa’s food systems gives us all energy for the road ahead. What is clear is that we have a long way to go but there is no shortage of positive stories of progress to build the spirit.

Four years ago, also in Kigali, I attended my first AGRF. While it was a good event there were some important aspects that received little attention.

So, what’s different in 2022?

Nutrition is a big focus

Well for one, nutrition has a much higher profile with several dedicated sessions. There are regular references to the importance of good nutrition from notable policymakers and influencers on the continent, including the African Union Commissioner Lionel Sacko, AGRA President Agnes Kalibata, leaders of international organisations, as well as first ladies across the continent including Her Excellency Jeannette Kagame here in Rwanda.

This is helped by the AU designating 2022 as the year of nutrition with the goal of “Strengthening Resilience in Nutrition and Food Security on the African Continent”. This is great. I’ve been a passionate supporter on advancing good nutrition for over 15 years. If anything, we need to do more.

Climate and nature counts

Second, I’ve noticed a big shift in emphasis on how to deliver improvements in food systems (particularly food production) that can contribute to climate resilience and stronger nature outcomes. The environment now appears to matter to agriculture policymakers and influencers.

Hooray! This is huge.

I think it reflects in part some encouragement to focus on the issue by AGRF’s partners as well as global climate discourse and the upcoming COP 27 in Africa.

A new generation of leaders is emerging

As an action-oriented person, a truly inspiring element of the AGRF this year is a new force for change on the continent. I’m referring to a powerful and fresh generation of leaders for transforming national food systems in Africa.

While it is still early days, the African Food Fellowship, and the Centre for African Leaders in Agriculture (CALA) are impressive as they work to empower food systems leaders for the journey ahead. I enjoyed meeting many CALA delegates and African Food Fellows.

This force of leaders is essential in the months, years, and decades ahead if the talk of transforming food systems is to turn into reality. More of them are needed. Food Systems Leaders that can grow businesses, lead civil society, and shape government policy and support services with a systems mindset are the catalyst to the changes that the world needs.

Already, they are seeking new forms of collaboration and are better at overcoming barriers to change. The bigger shared picture that binds food systems leaders is a food system that delivers good outcomes for people in terms of incomes and nutrition, while also looking after the climate and nature. For too long there has been a mindset of seeking one outcome to the detriment of the others.

As I sit on a KQ flight from Kigali to Nairobi, I find myself asking the question: “Where’s the coffee?” And I quietly appreciate all those people that work hard to bring us the things we value and often take for granted.

The African Food Fellowship

The African Food Fellowship is a practical, collaborative, and visionary leadership initiative for inclusive and regenerative food futures on the continent.

Wageningen University & Research and Wasafiri Consulting initiated this fellowship to help deliver progress promised in the 2014 Malabo Declaration, which aims to end hunger on the continent by 2025, and to promote intra-Africa food exchange through the continental free trade area.

The initiative enjoys support from the IKEA Foundation.

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Systemcraft in action: Fighting institutional sexism within the Met Police

Why things needed to change

In September 2021, it was reported that more than 750 police employees had faced allegations of sexual misconduct since the year 2010, with only 83 having been dismissed. Following that, 50 investigators were brought in to review around 300 cases where allegations had been made against Met officers.

With its toxic history, it’s no wonder that when Tara McGovern first joined the Metropolitan Police Service, commonly known as the Met, over 25 years ago, she admits that women were poorly treated and often the victims of inappropriate behaviour and misconduct. Throughout her career, she felt, however, that things were progressing for the better – and then came the high-profile murder of Sarah Everard in March 2021.

When it was discovered that her attacker was a then-serving police officer, it was one case out of many that sparked national outrage and called for urgent action to tackle violence against women. However, for McGovern and many of her co-workers, the shock and anger hit even closer to home.

The feelings of betrayal were further compounded by colleagues who denied there was an underlying systemic misogyny problem within the organisation to begin with.

The series of events following the poor way in which Everard’s case was handled ultimately drove McGovern to set up the Network of Women and later, with the help and collaboration of the Forward Institute, Operation Signa, a project that worked to capture the experiences of women within the Met and use these stories to educate others and create change.

They collected stories, anonymised them, and then shared them with the entire 45,000-large organisation. They also created a Signa app for training purposes.

Systemcraft in action

Systemcraft helps answer the question, ‘So what do we do next?’. At this point, the problem was clear to McGovern, but she needed practical tools to achieve positive change. At that time, she was part of the Forward Institute’s Fellowship programme where Wasafiri’s Kate Simpson was teaching Systemcraft as part of the programme.

“I’ve tried to bring about change in the past that hasn’t landed, and Kate opened my eyes to looking at this in a different way including by asking “what are the blockers of this change?”

Tara McGovern, Metropolitan Police Service

Three key learnings:

  1. Identify your blockers early on – In hindsight, McGovern wished she had taken the time to really consider what the blockers would be earlier on. She would ask questions like ‘who has the most to lose from this change? Who could this change negatively impact?’ sooner.
  2. Change is collective – The potential to change systems depends on our ability to work collectively. From her Deputy Commissioner to volunteers and sponsors, to the brave women who came forward to have their stories documented and all the way to institutions such as the Forward Institute, McGovern built coalitions along the way that helped her achieve the change she sought.
  3. Make it matter – McGovern tapped into an important dimension of transformation and that is, she made the issue matter to those who did not see the problem. She forged an inclusive movement championing a transformation and through storytelling and frank dialogue, she connected emotionally with people’s concerns and lived realities. “Once people became part of the solution, they could see the positive impact my work was having and wanted to do more.”

The outcome

Since Operation Signa launched in 2021, Signa training is mandated for all Met officers and staff. Sexism and sexual harassment are now openly discussed. In this friendlier environment, there has also been an increase in women reporting harassment. There is now a special unit that deals just with internal complaints of this nature.

As part of her new role as Head of Professional Standards at the Met, McGoven is part of the key team helping change the wider culture. “I would tell others who are trying to bring about change to get their heads around Systemcraft, as this has really explained change management to me in a way nothing else has.”

Hers is a brilliant story of how Systemcraft is equipping leaders and organisations with the skills and tools to drive system change at scale. In this case, creating systemic change to deal with the complex, murky problems of sexism within the Met.

Read more about Systemcraft

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African Food Fellowship offers essential platform for food systems leaders to discuss regional food crisis

The first Kenya cohort to come out of the African Food Fellowship’s food systems leadership programme will this year hold a series of dialogues to exchange and amplify ideas around the biggest food systems issues of the day.

Recognising the current profound uncertainty and insecurity across food systems globally and in the region, the fellows zeroed in on coming together to examine the impacts of the food crisis and how this was being experienced across East Africa as well as discussing the various ways that are emerging of responding to this crisis.

The inaugural dialogue was held virtually on 24 June 2022 and was off to a promising start with an encouraging turnout, reinforcing the commitment of the pioneering cohort; ever at the forefront of food systems transformation discourse.

The session’s primary objective was met; to have the fellows draw from their respective work and share practical and timely insights and ideas to inform their food systems leadership in the context of the regional food crisis, and how they can apply them in their capacity as food systems leaders.

“The session was insightful and highlighted the importance of shifting focus to ourselves by first being a food-secure country through homegrown solutions,” said Horticulture Fellow Tele Boit.

The Fellowship’s knowledge agenda lead Herman Brouwer was also in attendance, shared recent research co-authored by Wageningen University and Research (WUR) on the impacts of the Ukraine war on food security in vulnerable countries and into likely scenarios and outcomes of the crisis.

These dialogues will facilitate knowledge building and sharing, allowing Fellows to
inform the ‘Transform Food Kenya’ festival, slated for later in the year. This national event will offer an important forum for leaders to come together for more effective, collective action to tackle the crisis.

The next dialogue is scheduled for August.

The food systems leadership programme is a flagship programme of the African Food Fellowship, an initiative facilitated by the Wageningen University & Research and Wasafiri Consulting & Institute, with support from IKEA Foundation.

Learn more by subscribing to the African Food Fellowship social media pages:

Photo courtesy of Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation

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Systems doing – lessons from Social Innovators on doing differently to achieve change

Wasafiri cocreated the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship’s Transforming through Trust report, which we are excited to announce was shared at Davos this week as the Foundation celebrates the values and achievements of three cohorts of awardees from 2019 to 2022.

What stood out for us was not just the impact that these change leaders have achieved, despite being amid a pandemic, but their ongoing commitment to supporting their organisations and others to work collectively, or differently, to tackle systemic issues.

I spoke with Dr François Bonnici, Director of the Schwab Foundation about his learnings from this period and, drawing also on insights from research writing his book The Systems Work of Social Change, his advice for organisations looking to lean into wider social change.

Reflecting on our conversation, and thinking about what we see in our work at Wasafiri, I’d suggest that organisations looking to contribute to achieving real change should consider the following:

Generate the change in the here and now

Social Innovation is generating new forms of what’s possible. In doing so, contributes to wider change through directly engaging with and unlocking one piece of the system it seeks to change.

Recognising social innovation as a form of activism means we can counter our frustration with the extent to which actors on the front lines are needed to fill gaps left by social inequality.

While social innovators are often delivering a service or specific intervention, this generation of alternatives coupled with a shifting of power dynamics and an increase in the agency of marginalised groups shifts the system at a deeper level.

Catalysing is more important than leading

Thinking like a movement while deploying the strengths of an organisation opens up the aims and methods by which organisations can contribute to wider change.

This can be especially helpful when trying to find the mode of working together and the value and contribution from different partners.

Through the work that we have done with the Schwab Foundation, we can see how relatively small organisations can be catalytic for larger organisations.

Perhaps thinking about smaller actors as distinct elements of a movement, and therefore more loosely aligned might more easily create a commonality of approach. It is certainly a way of grounding the well-known idea of thinking bigger than your own or clients’ success.

Pay attention to your current role

Organisations who want to bring about change must first consider how they benefit from the current system in order to engage wholeheartedly with the issues and collaborate successfully.

It is early in the journey to taking a systemic change approach. The institutional challenges of evolving from the twin lure of scale and a technical “silver bullet” fix remain.

However, the positive traction in ideas over the last three years, piqued by the pandemic, has invited more questioning by organisations about how they should contribute and what their best role is.

Building on this evolution in thought is one of the key contributions of organisations such as the Schwab Foundation and Wasafiri who benefit from working with diverse organisations and thinking practitioners.

The big change won’t come from any single partnership

Embrace the mindset that this is a learning and building period and is an essential phase to enable greater systems change. This will allow for the risks necessary to get traction now.

Being prepared for a partnership to fail is hugely important for all parties when looking outside organisation boundaries to form unusual collaborations for systemic change.

Taking the view that the specific partnership is not the win can be very freeing when saying yes to different partners and lessening the need for a ‘senior’ partner (often a larger organisation) to take control.

Beyond the specific partnership, two big gains can be found; the lessons learned about working for change with different organisations and an increase in the agency of local organisations, building their position and voice across a range of actors and interventions. Both will shift the system in which the organisations exist, beyond the current engagement.

Further information

If your organisation wants to maximise its contribution to people and planet and is thinking of collaborating and forming unusual partnerships, please get in touch!

Read this report for more on the impact of the Schwab Foundation’s 2019-22 awardees.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

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Wading into new waters to accelerate ocean-related solutions to climate change at the Blue Climate Summit

As 70% of the planet, the oceans remain vastly underappreciated in the world’s response to climate change.

The inaugural high-profile Summit taking place on May 14 – 20 2022, is convening leaders, experts, and activists to accelerate twenty projects that offer ocean-related solutions to climate issues.

Together, these projects promise a transformative impact on people, the ocean, and the planet. Many are mutually dependent on each other.

We cannot scale mangrove restoration without functioning carbon markets. The monitoring of deep-sea mining is empty without legal protections for the high seas. Island tourism will struggle to be net-zero without transitioning energy, food, and transport systems.

The Challenges

In recognition of these co-dependencies, the Summit will gather participants around three collective challenges. Each challenge asks how projects might together drive much larger transitions in favour of people, the planet, and the ocean.

  • Marine Governance for Healthier Oceans and Communities: How to better monitor and regulate against the unjust exploitation and pollution that damages both ocean health and human health?
  • Equitable Blue Carbon Finance: How to accelerate flows of capital into ocean-related mitigation and sequestration while accounting for co-benefits and trade-offs?
  • Blue Pathways to Net Zero Islands: How can islands pioneer the transition to net-zero economies?

A Wasafiri first; helping spearhead action on ocean and climate issues

Wasafiri’s own Ian Randall will be providing strategic support as Strategy Lead for the Blue Climate Initiative. Helping to ensure the collaboration across all the projects and partners delivers a greater impact than any could alone.

We are excited to be aboard for this bold journey into a healthier relationship between people, the planet, and the ocean.

Polynesia is a novel context for Wasafiri. Polynesian culture has a profound relationship with the Ocean, relating to it as a relative or ancestor, with all the reverence and respect that this implies. It is a striking contrast to Western culture’s relationship with nature as a resource for exploitation.

Donella Meadows, the matriarch of systems thinking, pushes us to ask deep questions about the mindset or paradigm out of which the system arises.

Listening to Polynesians it is clear we need to go beyond technical solutions to the damage that humans are doing to climate, land, and oceans; and seek a cultural renaissance that reconnects us to our interdependence with natural systems and their fundamental right to exist.

Tahiti may seem a long way to go for a climate conference, but we have so much to learn by being here.

Blue Climate Summit

The Summit is a program of the Blue Climate Initiative and is an endorsed action of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development

Images courtesy of Tetiaroa Society/Blue Climate Initiative

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