Unleashing Innovation to Transform Local Food Systems – Dialogue Takeaways

By Laurie Goodwin, Vice-President Public Affairs and Communications, CropLife International

The UN Food Systems Summit Dialogues have provided an important mechanism to create an inclusive process for stakeholders to engage with the Summit.  To date there have been over 700 Dialogues held independently and by member states. In May, CropLife International helped organize an Independent Dialogue to better understand the role that innovation can play in delivering future food systems that continue to meet society’s expectations while sustaining the livelihoods of agri-food chain actors and respecting planetary boundaries.

It was expected that the Dialogue would help to identify some common global priorities for food systems innovation while also encouraging various regional nuances to come to the surface. With this in mind, the Dialogue’s breakout sessions were organized around six major regions: North America, Latin America, Europe, Africa and the Middle East, North Asia and South Asia. This dynamic recognizes the complexity both within and between different systems while also allowing for the possibility of a common path forward–based on shared goals, beliefs and experiences.

In terms of embracing multi-stakeholder inclusivity, CropLife International partnered with five organizations (representing diverse stakeholder groups and regions) to enhance the convening power of the Dialogue. These included the Agriculture and Food Systems Institute, Cornell Alliance for Science, Global Farmer Network, Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture (IICA), and Thought for Food. Each of the partners acted as a facilitator for the regional breakout sessions. Having a strong farmer voice in the Dialogue was also very important for the discussion. Conclusions from the Dialogue were officially submitted via an official feedback form to the Food Systems Summit organizers.

There were some common overarching takeaways around innovation success stories and future opportunities at the global level, but also some important nuances at the regional and local levels.  Some key areas of consensus included:

  • There is an urgent need for more innovation to help future food systems meet the ever more complex set of expectations that society places on them – from food security and nutrition to livelihoods, ecosystem services and climate mitigation.
  • Farmers are the foundation of our food systems and have demonstrated time and again that they can rise to the challenge if they are equipped and supported to do so.
  • Innovation can take many forms – from researching new technologies, to scaling up of existing approaches and applying new ways of working, partnerships and practices.

The UN Food Systems Summit Secretariat has recently published a synthesis report based on insights from more than 100 of these Independent Dialogues featuring 10,000 participants globally. Of the top 10 common criteria across Dialogues three really resonated with what we heard during our Dialogue:

  • Integrating what is already working into innovations
  • Applying systems thinking
  • Adapting solutions to diverse local contexts

These themes will provide guidance as countries set out to create pathways towards national food systems transformation and constitute a tangible opportunity to influence the future of our global agri-food systems, and we are pleased to see that other dialogues came to similar conclusions.

It’s important moving forward that we think beyond just technology when we consider innovation and solutions for sustainable food systems. We need to think innovatively around approaches to partnering together; or even at the farm field level applying existing knowledge in new ways as we consider agronomic practices to overcome new challenges.

To learn more about our efforts around the Food Systems Summit and the Independent Dialogue, please visit our UN Food Systems Summit landing page, where you can view blogs, summary cards, quotes, and video interviews from participants and moderators.