Engagement tools for transforming food systems - The four phases

Transforming food systems is a bit like cultivating an orchard; it demands an understanding of existing conditions, meticulous planning for each season, setting up best practices through trial and error, and a commitment to the enduring success of the endeavour. From agroecology experts and permaculture designers to local communities with knowledge about the region’s biodiversity, a number of different parties need to be engaged in the venture for it to truly flourish. It’s hard work but the rewards are bounteous! Now, we’re no orchardists with pruning shears and ploughs, but if you’re someone who is looking to make systemic changes to the way our food system works and engage relevant actors in the process, we might have some tools to help you.

While there is no blueprint for engaging stakeholders in food system transformation, we can offer tools that can help you chart your own course. These have been developed, tested, and calibrated over time by researchers and practitioners involved in such endeavours. Below, you can learn more about each phase and the tools connected to them.

But this will likely not be the end of it! Transformation is often a non-linear process, and you might need to revisit various phases and try out a couple of different things before you achieve your goals.

What is food system transformation?

Food system transformation entails wide ranging and radical changes to the existing food systems. These include implementation of transformative food system governance models, supporting radical innovation towards more regenerative, resilient, and plant-based food production and consumption, and enabling a broad and sustained engagement of citizens and other stakeholders in the food system.

Why public engagement and multi-stakeholder collaboration?

Food systems intersect with various aspects of our society and economy, involving a wide array of actors in their functioning and development. Transforming such intricate systems requires active involvement and collaboration from these stakeholders. Thus, advancing public engagement and multi-stakeholder cooperation in the transformation process becomes essential in order to uphold a democratic process, benefit from diverse expertise and viewpoints, and ensure tenable outcomes.

Who is this toolkit for?

With a focus on public engagement and stakeholder collaboration, this toolkit gathers relevant tools for engagement in food system transformation and makes them available in user-friendly formats. The tools within this toolkit are curated to support the processes within various living labs, policy labs, food policy councils, and other similar organisations; in other words – transformative spaces, which attempt to engage stakeholders as a part of food system transformation. The tools offered are diverse in format and can, in some cases, be adjusted to specific contexts.

How to use this toolkit?

As you can see below, the (often complex) governance process of food system transformation is broken down into four distinct phases. By clicking on each phase, you can find a few curated tools for each phase. If you’re not sure how to how to find tools that are most relevant to your work, this section might be a good starting point. Via the advanced tool search option, you can find tools based on various filters (target group, tool format etc.). In order to offer additional context, most tools are connected with case stories from real organisations making use of them.


System awareness and Analysis

The initial step in any transformative initiative involves comprehending the current system. This entails acquiring information about local contexts, identifying key challenges and knowledge gaps among stakeholders, mapping pertinent research agendas, programs, and regulations, and ensuring the inclusion of diverse stakeholder perspectives in the analysis.

Visioning and Pathways

The second phase involves creating a collective vision for the future and developing workable pathways to achieve this vision. At this stage, you may need to analyse the barriers to transformation and create a roadmap that allows you to achieve your vision.

Experimentation and Innovation

The third phase focuses on experimentation and innovation, involving bold decision-making and testing promising ideas. Establishing a shared understanding of success criteria and creating a monitoring system for experiments is crucial. Continuous reflection on the process and progress during experimentation enables adjustments to plans based on emerging needs or opportunities.

Continuity and Legacy

In the fourth (but not last) stage, you are looking to ensure scaling up and continuity. You are likely to spend your time evaluating the outcome of your experiments, discussing plans for scaling it up or implementing its results, and communicating long-term plans with stakeholders.