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Co- Inquiry for Food Systems Transformation

A Co-Inquiry to Chart a Faster Course to Food Systems Transformation

Agriculture and food systems face multiple challenges, such as land degradation and deforestation, climate change and deterioration of farmers’ livelihoods. To respond to these, the UNDP Green Commodities Programme has been facilitating a co-inquiry with leading systems thinkers and practitioners to explore how to accelerate systemic change in food and agricultural systems.

The co-inquiry originally convened 40 participants around the question “how can we work more systemically to accelerate progress towards a more sustainable food system.” The insights from the four sessions were included in the report How can we work more systemically to accelerate progress toward a more sustainable food system? A Co-Inquiry Process.

A second cycle of the co-inquiry took place in 2021 around three sub-themes:

i) Systems change in practice: “How can we apply systems change in practice in the field of food, agriculture and commodities? What do we identify as the enablers and scale factors from positive experiences of systems change?”

ii) Systems leadership: “How can we support the emergence of systems leadership in the field? How can we identify, engage and uplift change agents, local to global?”

iii) Documenting systems change: “How can we capture and share the results and impact of systems change approaches?”

The insights from cycle 2 were synthesised into ten key recommendations  for international development programmes working on systemic change in global food and agriculture:

1.  Programme design: use adaptive and participatory processes that are more effective in conditions of complexity and uncertainty

2.  Stakeholder participation: shift from telling to listening, using collaborative approaches to designing and implementing solutions

3. Trust and relationships: focus on building stronger trust and relationships as the foundation of effective collaboration

4. Hearts as well as minds: pay greater attention to the psychological and behavioural dimensions of change

5. Politics, power and conflict: acknowledge and work with the realities of power, politics and conflicting perspectives

6. Institutional change: identify and remove institutional barriers to systemic ways of working

7. Systems leadership: identify, connect and build the leadership capacity of leaders and champions from across the system

8. Learning: put deep learning at the heart of programmes to enable improved sense-making and adaptation

9. Facilitation: build and strengthen local facilitation capacity to support effective collaborative action in the longer term

10. Measurement: measure indicators and enablers of systemic change and engage stakeholders in participatory evaluation processes

In 2022, these recommendations will serve to further proceed with a third cycle of the co-inquiry around the following themes:

i)  Programme Design for Systems Change: “How can we design international development programmes to be more effective in accelerating systemic change in food and agriculture?”

ii) Working with Power and Conflict: “How can we work more effectively with power and conflict in multi-stakeholder processes for changing food and agriculture systems?”

In addition, we will be convening peer learning groups for practitioners working on systemic change initiatives in food and agriculture and we intend to launch national level co-inquiries.

Kindly contact us if you are interested in the initiative and in future opportunities

Charles O’Malley, UNDP Senior Systems Change Advisor