Workshop 2018 – Day Two

Wednesday 23rd May 2018

Scene-setting Presentations

David Nabarro

Joining remotely, David Nabarro offered his perspectives on foresight, how he has used it in his career, and examined key characteristics he considered important in moving the Initiative forward. He emphasised the importance of defining and articulating the problem being addressed while recognizing the difficulty in approaching the ‘totality’ of the problem. Using the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to examine foresight, Mr Nabarro acknowledged that despite the complexity of the plan, it is the first real effort on a universal plan recognizing the interconnections of the human endeavour; it is people-centric, and designed to leave no one behind. Achieving the future indicated by the 2030 Agenda would require transformational change with consent and mutual understanding between all involved parties, people working together towards a shared narrative, and to ‘nudge’ systems into a better way of working. The presentation ended with the recognition of the complexity and messiness of the system and a call to tidying up the food system foresight landscape to an acceptable degree of unification and governability.

Melissa Wood (ACIAR) & Mark Holderness (GFAR)

Presenting their interest and commitment to the Foresight4Food Initiative, Melissa Wood explained ACIAR’s background, its cross-scale and cross-sectoral partnerships and their use of foresight in programming, policy and in designing a broader and ambitious future-looking program. Reiterating the objectives for this workshop, she emphasised how the shared commonalities and the richness and diversity represented during the workshop will be valuable in drafting the future steps for the Initiative.

Mark Holderness started with GFAR’s focus on foresight in recent years, and discussed how the fragmentation and under-resourcing of global food systems are driving a need for global connectivity, empowerment of communities for their futures, and a need to work through our communities to get access to the relevant networks for creating a more desirable future for our food system.

Irene Annor-Frempong, FARA

Dr Annor-Frempong presented an overview of the initiatives and projects in Africa, such as FARA, CAADP, and the Malabo commitments. While there are significant transformations needed in Africa to help with yield improvements and market access, there is comparatively little investment in resolving these issues. However, the networks and initiatives she discussed are attempting to address them, particularly through working with farmers in order to achieve the SDGs, improve their livelihoods, and ensure that the markets are working for their benefit as well. Referring to Martin Bwalya’s talk on Day 3, she pointed to the importance of CAADP in this space and discussed how the framework is encouraging countries to work towards a common agenda and priorities and linking people and institutions up in an effort to fast-track the progress towards Agenda 2063. In this scenario, foresight would be a useful process to complement the existing processes and initiatives, achieving the SDGs, and the Malabo commitments.

Marco Cantillo, FAO

Presenting virtually, Mr Cantillo spoke on the systemic risks and challenges for food and agriculture. Systemic risks to the food system have the potential for challenging different aspects of food security by disrupting sustainable supply of food and services. Global trends inflict systemic risks on the food system, e.g. population increase with income growth drives agricultural demand, agricultural investment favours high income countries, and GHG emissions stress natural resources that agri-food systems depend on. Using data from FAOSTAT, these trends were projected over time and their severity in relation to food systems was discussed. In this context, it will be challenging to sustainably improve productivity to meet the global food demand, ensure a sustainable resource base, and prevent transboundary and emerging food system threats. Overall, some of the critical challenges facing the global food system include reducing inequality, building resilience against natural disasters and conflict, addressing governance needs, and ending hunger and malnutrition in all its forms. FAO’s foresight exercises therefore examine possible pathways of transformative development, help identify critical and uncertain trends, and provide insight into the feasibility of alternative pathways.

The Foresight Proposition

Presenting on the need for the Foresight4Food Initiative, Professor Tim Benton began with contextualizing the issues within the food system. With significant differences in what the world is and should be eating and producing there are clear problems within the food system that need to be resolved for current and future populations. Focusing on food system transformations also have the added benefit of influencing all the SDGs, and the need for transformation has been acknowledged by key organizations within the field. Therefore, ‘business as usual’ cannot be the path for the future.

Reiterating the foresight framework as presented by Dr Woodhill on Day 1, Professor Benton said that enhanced foresight is critical for all decisions regarding food systems transformations. The existing foresight work is fragmented with a varying range of assumptions driving different conclusions and with limited connection, communication, and synthesis for the foresight community. The Initiative is meant to support food system transformation through brokering optimal use of foresight processes and methodologies and strengthening interdisciplinary capacities for collaboration and research. Connecting the Initiative’s activities to five key areas of future work, Professor Benton prepared the session for the upcoming working group consultations.

Emerging Food System Issues

Providing an overview of the CFS and the HLPE, Professor Rami Zurayk explained the process by which the HLPE engages with and produces its series of expert reports. He then explained the critical and emerging issues the panel is currently engaging with:

  • Anticipating interconnecting futures of urbanization and rural transformation – in order to explore how the increasing urban populations can be fed alongside rapid rural transformation and how urban diets are changing in response
  • Conflict, food security, and nutrition – as conflict has a major effect on food security, it is important to add resilience to a food system before conflict takes place. It is also necessary to examine the role of women in food security during conflicts. These findings draw on and will be relevant to the current situation in Syria
  • Inequality – addressing vulnerability and the needs of marginalized groups in these areas of concern. While power relations are a significant factor in this emerging issue, it is vital recognize that power is a constant running thread through all of these
  • Impact of international trade – on food security and nutrition
  • Agroecology – the status and role of agroecology in the context of uncertainty and change
  • Agrobiodiversity and genetic diversity – in addressing food security and nutrition for a transforming future population
  • Food safety – a significant problem now, which will continue to be a major food security and safety issue in the future
  • New technology – what does innovative and developing technology have to offer for the future of food and how can we forecast this?
  • Governance – who are the people and institutions making the decisions and how is (and should) the food system be governed


Tracking Change in Food Systems

John Ingram (ECI) provided a refresher for the food systems concept, examining food system ‘activities’, carried out by food system ‘actors’, influencing and influenced by a range of ‘drivers’, resulting in ‘outcomes’. These outcomes are then connected with a range of environmental and health problems, such as antimicrobial resistance in livestock and humans.

Connecting the food systems with foresight, Dr Ingram highlighted the importance of stresses and weak signals, reflecting on Dr Woodhill’s earlier talk on the foresight approach. He explained that in food systems foresight, it is necessary to differentiate between a ‘stress’ and a ‘shock’, or an ‘interruption’ and a ‘disruption’, as both situations occur over different time scales. He highlighted that while many problems are discussed in the food system foresight world, it is important to note that there are many positive avenues that have not been adequately explored, such as the potential of multiple options for cooperation, which once mapped and governed, offer multiple plausible futures.

Reiterating the value of identifying drivers and big issues in the food system, Dr Ingram asked the workshop participants to self-organize into groups, examine the infographics put up on the walls and think about the information provided in terms of the aspects of the food system and their implications for foresight.

Some of the key themes emerging from these discussions are listed below:

  • Increasing crop losses and waste, alongside increasing yields – is the food system becoming less efficient? How can foresight help optimize it?
  • Micronutrient deficiencies and bio-fortification in relation with food prices and markets for poor and nutritionally deficient populations
  • How can foresight help us think about technology and value-chains methods in terms of food affordability and availability?
  • How can foresight help us explain and avoid the mismatch between food production and consumption?
  • Cultural diversity of diets
  • Understanding the implications of shocks for food system actors
  • Which levers and choices can be emphasised on because of their potential for amplification
  • How to re-orient agri-food business and current investments to arrive at desired futures?
  • How can foresight help us short-cut impacts like obesity and diabetes in efforts to achieve zero hunger?
  • How can you best use the marketing machinery of the private sector in a positive way for building a positive food future?

Perspectives from Key Stakeholder Groups

Sean deCleene – Private Sector, WEF

Reflecting on his career within the private sector, Mr deCleene focused on the value of creating ‘tipping points’ linked to foresight within the food system instead of trying to achieve incremental changes. While large and small private enterprises may differ in their timeframes of response, they still need tipping points in order to make major ideological and operational shifts. Given these realities, it becomes important to identify the critical nodes of change in the systems, the linkages between the critical areas of interest, and what champions and critical actors need to be brought into the discussion to create the tipping point. It will be important to create a game changing space with a major player within the field (e.g. ICT companies) and cultivate their ability with a foresight-oriented approach to create an obvious tipping point.

Agnes Martin - Private Sector, Danone

Representing Danone, Ms Martin highlighted that as a key player in the food field discussions around food and foresight are critical, particularly around the identification of big trends. She explained the importance of their participation in the FReSH Initiative, which is a platform of 40 companies trying to achieve sustainable diets through a variety of ways. She highlighted the four key priorities that Danone would be working on in the future, besides their work with FReSH:

  1. Food loss and waste
  2. Dietary shifts
  3. Food supply chains
  4. True value of food

She explained that Danone recognizes their role in bringing about change in the above-mentioned priorities, but as a big company are fairly less flexible in the magnitude of change they can make, particularly because of pressure from retailers. In spite of this, they are moving towards a more consumer-centric approach. She closed her talk on the importance of moving from punishment towards incentive in driving transformative change.

Achmad Suryana – Policy, ICASEPS

Professor Suryana briefly explained the current food system development mechanisms in Indonesia, which involves eleven ministries (each with their own differing priorities) at the national level. With a decentralized system that gives significant autonomy at district levels, the system makes coordinating and integrating food systems policies extremely challenging and with a major underlying political aspect. In this particular context, he saw the Foresight4Food Initiative serving the following functions:

  • Introducing the foresight approach to top management of food system actors, e.g. ministers
  • Empowering planning units in each related ministry with the foresight approach
  • Transferring knowledge to selected research and academic institutions
  • Easy access to sources of knowledge on foresight and food system issues
  • Exchange of information and experience of the Initiative through workshops and training

Paula Chalinder – Donor, DFID

Ms Chalinder emphasised that the actors in this field often have multiple roles. DFID for example, is a donor while also being a user of foresight data and analysis. She highlighted that while further work on developing foresight analysis is an uncontested and valuable need, it is important to evaluate who is using this information right now. Being mindful about bringing together and activating foresight analysis with a theory of change, and deciding how stakeholder groups use their collective time and commit to a deliberate process to make that change happen is going to be an enormous success in this area. She reflected Sean deCleene on the importance of leadership, governance, and representativeness going forward, and the need of making these decisions as early in the process as possible.

Ivan Kent – Global platform, GLOPAN

Giving an introduction to GLOPAN, Mr Kent explained how the panel is interested in using foresight analysis at country levels, using their recent foresight report as an example. He discussed how GLOPAN uses their convening power to communicate the results of their reports to the countries in question by engaging with local leaders and decision-makers to connect with their own interests. They focus on communicating their findings in ways that answer key questions like how the big issues influence the local stakeholders, the situation and data in their country and region, what solutions have worked in other parts of the world, and what recommendations are suggested.

Kimberly Pfeifer – Civil Society, Oxfam

Reflecting on her experience at bridging Oxfam and their civil society partners with the research community in the agriculture and food space, Dr Pfeifer gave an overview of some of Oxfam’s activities: trend and horizon scanning for strategy planning, global web-based dialogue platform on the future of agriculture, scenario and foresight activities with stakeholders, a scan of promising innovations in Africa, and global mapping of food systems. She finds that while the efforts are rewarding, ‘bridging’ is a very difficult process requiring persistence and humility. Unlike other sectors, the civil society is behind in embracing foresight, and would need a strong evidence base for understanding its value for them. Data transparency and accessibility is a crucial barrier for them in engaging with the field, demonstrating the value of foresight as a viable mechanism in engaging with government and private sectors, and to adapt and respond to the shifting and shrinking space available to them would be the most important role the Initiative could play in the field.

Sébastien Treyer IDDRI

Reflecting on the learnings from the six foresight workshops held for the GCARD 2010 and 2012, the key messages on foresight producers emerged around the necessity of community of practice (through structured and organized discussions among foresight producers that increases capacity of anticipation), rely on a pluralism of approaches, and ensure that existing and future foresight frameworks are challenged and questioned by the community. He highlighted the foresight is not just about producing scenarios, but also how the discussion is organized. The implicit assumptions must be challenged, which is why a pluralistic debate is necessary – a key role for the Foresight4Food Initiative.

Developing the Initiative – Initial Feedback and Working Group Session

Day two ended with an introduction to the working groups for Day 3 and a plenary discussion on the relevance of the Forsight4Food proposition.

Initially five focus areas for Foresight4Food were proposed:

  1. Communities of practice for food system foresight users and providers
  2. Synthesis and analysis of existing foresight work
  3. Foresight resource portal, dashboard and communication materials
  4. Bridging hub for linking foresight users and providers to support global, regional, and national foresight and dialogue processes
  5. Identifying and brokering new foresight work on gaps and emerging issues

Following discussion it was agreed that these were the appropriate priorities but that a sixth area should be added, that was initially conceived as cross cutting:

  1. Capacity development for enhanced foresight

Feedback on the key areas of focus for the Initiative were charted out in a mind map following feedback from the room, reproduced below in Figure 18. Note that the numbers indicate the Initiative’s activities as described in the Concept Note.

Figure 18 Key focus areas for the Initiative

Feedback on the on the Foresight4Food proposition and concept note was overall positive with clear support for taking the initiative forward around the focus areas identified. Within this context additional feedback was:

  • Foresight needs to be seen not as an endpoint but a tool for broader objectives and so Foreisght4Food needs to make its wider purpose very explicit.
  • There is a need to provide a synthesis of foresight works and information in ways that are of value and interest for ‘end-users’. A smart and transparent way is needed to explain where and why foresight studies arrive at different conclusions or perspectives and controversies (organise controversies, analyse it and be transparent about it).
  • Foresight4Food can help ensure that researchers are asking the right questions and with linking them and end-users.
  • It will be critical to focus on national and regional scales as well as the global and important to work on foresight that is relevant to local and national scales.
  • It is crucial for foresight to be a process of engaging stakeholders in how problems are framed and understood, rather than just focus on problem solving.
  • It is important to emphasize the whole story about food systems including both risk and opportunities.
  • While capacity building for foresight is a cross cutting need it also needs to be emphasised as a key focus area on its own, otherwise there is a risk it will be neglected.
  • Foresight4Food needs to recognise that developing foresight will be an iterative and “circular” process rather than a linear one.
  • Important to look at how foresight help to bring about change so need to focus on “theory of change” for foresight with clear pathways indicators related to drivers, actors, activities, and outcomes.
  • Community of practice is important but need to carefully understand what is needed to keep the Community of Practice together? Important to explore ways of setting up a citizen community of practice and not just having purely organizational community of practice.
  • Important issues to include in the Initiative: energy, micronutrients, the how of managing demand, fisheries, etc.
  • Be aware of private sector actors’ involvement. Identify tipping points, game changers (also outside food sector: ICTs and Insurance), and build leadership roles to attract private sector players.
  • Create “safe spaces” within the pathways in which innovators and entrepreneurs could work together with other actors to find opportunities and reduce risks.

The key aspects of the feedback were also charted out in a mind map reproduced below in Figure 19:

Figure 19 Feedback on concept note


Professor Andrew Campbell, ACIAR presented the closing comments for Day 2, reflecting on the inputs and discussions thus far. The richness and diversity within food systems foresight was acknowledged, and the organizing team, particularly the efforts of Dr Woodhill, Dr Benton, and Dr Caron was thanked for the effort put in the development of the conceptual framework. While there may be a tension between those within the foresight field who are skilled at examining and adding to the depths of methodologies, tools, and models, and those who ‘want to save the world’, it is vital to acknowledge that both schools of practice are necessary and important. Expressing his pleasure at the evidence of memory in workshops like this, he said that it is essential that new initiatives build on past events, instead of duplicating and reinventing.

Comparisons with the IPCC presented a useful heuristic device, particularly in terms of common goals: while the IPCC collective may have diversity in ways of achieving the goal around concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, there is clear consensus on the goal. This may not be true for the foresight in food systems community. However, that may not be a drawback, because the initiative can help humanity identify the kind of food system they want, and ways of achieving it. This would be particularly important in creating a healthy and sustainable food system, where foresight will play a crucial role in illuminating trends for transformation.

Touching on the discussions around synthesis, he said that synthesis exercises must be driven by user needs and that such exercises can and should take multiple forms beyond a publication, i.e. events or training courses. In ACIAR’s experience, a good synthesis product is rarely a publication, and usually a product with a strong participatory dimension. He said that it would be vital to contribute to the knowledge seeking behaviour of policy makers, by understanding the knowledge products they need, and by becoming a well-respected and well-connected trusted source they can draw upon. He closed with emphasising that the messiness and plurality within this field is a strength and he would be keen in seeing how the Initiative will leverage their knowledge and skills in managing and coordinating the food systems foresight field.

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