Food System Transformation #1: Why this blogpost series

In the last few months, we’ve been approached by academic institutions to ‘partner’ them on applications to funding bodies for two large projects, Both are about ‘food system transformation’.

One is the Global Food Security UK Call made this autumn, and the other is FOOD 2030: Empowering cities as agents of food system transformation under the EU Horizon 2020 programme.

This wasn’t the first time we’d been asked to be a ‘partner’ on a large scale research project.

Our responses this time round were informed upon our earlier experience when we learned the hard way (that is, after a lot of time and effort on our part) that the potential academic partners didn’t understand what our role could be. From our perspective, they seemed entirely focussed on their (yup, considerable) expertise.

We were a kind of add-on, a “case study” in which we would somehow apply the fruits of their research.

Did this happen again? Perhaps inevitably, yes. And we’re not alone with this kind of experience.

note: Business involvement is a qualitatively different issue, one which I will return to later.


A desire to involve other players in the food system is right on the mark. How can researchers change the food system on their own? Of course they can’t.

But how can they involve other players as genuine partners?

How can ‘community’ players, such as ourselves or, indeed, much larger civic bodies such as City Councils or Public Health, involve academic researchers?

Just being a tick in a box won’t do it. Rather, who might do what, how, when and why?

That is what this blogpost series sets out to answer.


And how urgent is the need to make a difference?

Let the image at the top of this blogpost of the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, and this tweet about a Reuters article from yesterday’s Guardian, in combination with this marketing blurb Best time to visit Victoria Falls, answer the question of how urgent it all is.

In the next blogpost #2: Close to the planet’s carrying capacity, I outline the factors contributing to this urgency.

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